Morning Digest: June 19th

Budget Crisis: Sweeney, Senate Dems, propose tax hike for income earners over $500,000

TRENTON – In a backroom press conference at the statehouse earlier today, Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) and Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-37) stood side-by-side as they proposed their own budget plan to fix the state’s ailing pension system. (Brush/PolitickerNJ)



Budget collision course: Sweeney says he’s not backing down from his commitment to pension payments

PITTSGROVE – Although Gov. Chris Christie says there is no Plan B and means to press forward with his proposal to grab funds from the public pension system to plug a budget gap, state Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) refused to retreat from his own position. (Brush/PolitickerNJ)



CD3 Setpiece: MacArthur versus Belgard

Republican businessman Tom MacArthur swears he’s not taking anything for granted in his November general election CD3 showdown with Democrat Aimee Belgard, as both sides load up for what might be the only congressional race in the state. (Pizarro/PolitickerNJ)



The Greenwald gambit: Assembly Majority Leader negotiates tricky Trenton chessboard

TRENTON – State Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald (D-6) should have seemed satisfied by the end of Monday’s legislative day. Among the bills passed by the Assembly and sent on to the Senate on Monday was A2035. Approved by a wide 68-2-7 margin, the bill revises the law concerning the rights and responsibilities of motor vehicle franchisees and franchisers in a notably significant way. (Bonamo/PolitickerNJ)



Veteran Johnson leaving Rice’s office to take job as COS in Newark City Hall

Essex County Freeholder Rufus I. Johnson is leaving his longtime job as chief-of-staff to state Senator Ronald L. Rice (D-28), Newark, to become the chief-of-staff of West Ward Councilman-elect Joe McCallum. (Pizarro/PolitickerNJ)



N.J. Democrats want to tax wealthy to balance state budget, preserve pension fund

New Jersey’s wealthiest residents and corporations should pay higher taxes to balance the state budget, Senate Democrats said Wednesday, setting up a high-stakes conflict with Governor Christie less than two weeks before the state constitution requires them to reach a deal on spending. (Reitmeyer/The Bergen Record)



Pension payment cuts in response to fiscal emergency, Christie administration says in court papers

Governor Christie cut payments to the state pension fund because New Jersey is in a fiscal emergency, his administration claimed Wednesday in a challenge to unions trying to block the move. That fiscal emergency, which could not have been predicted, allowed Christie to take direct action and cut part of his planned pension payment, the Attorney General’s Office said in court papers filed as part of the union lawsuit. And if the courts do get involved, that would hinder a budgetary process that was assigned to the Legislature and executive branch and be an action beyond the court’s authority, the administration said. (Phillis/The Bergen Record)



Christie stresses addiction at groundbreaking

Governor Christie talked about drug policy and addiction for the third day in a row Wednesday, telling a group in South Jersey that there is “simply no more important issue” for him than helping addicts retake control of their lives. (Linhorst/The Bergen Record)



Contenders for Bergen executive woo service union

The two contenders for Bergen County executive disagreed over the county budget and the future of the county nursing home Wednesday in back-to-back appearances before the union that represents the county’s white-collar employees. County Executive Kathleen Donovan, a Republican seeking a second term, and Democratic Freeholder and challenger James Tedesco appeared separately before members of Local 75 of the United Service Workers Union, seeking their endorsement. (Ensslin/The Bergen Record)



Montclair deputy mayor to explore gubernatorial bid 

Sitting in for Mayor Robert Jackson during Tuesday’s Montclair Township Council meeting, Deputy Mayor Robert Russo ended the meeting on an interesting note: announcing his intention to run for governor. (The Montclair Times)



New Jersey Democrats Pitch Counterstrike To Chris Christie’s Pension Plan

NEW YORK – Leaders of New Jersey’s Democrat-run Senate on Wednesday proposed hiking taxes on the wealthy and on corporations, a counterstrike to Republican Governor Chris Christie’s plan to slash state pension contributions for two years. (Russ/Reuters)



N.J. Senate Democrats’ Budget Seeks Full Pension Payment

New Jersey Senate Democrats proposed a rival to Governor Chris Christie’s budget plan that would make a full pension payment while raising taxes on corporations and the wealthy. The proposal sets up a showdown between senate President Stephen Sweeney and Christie, a second-term Republican who has proposed cutting $2.5 billion of pension contributions this year and next to make up for a revenue shortfall. Christie, a potential presidential candidate in 2016, has rejected Democrats’ past efforts to increase taxes. (Dopp/Bloomberg News)



Menendez: Iran nuclear deal unlikely by deadline

The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said Tuesday he didn’t believe the U.S. would reach a deal on Iran’s nuclear program before a self-imposed deadline. “Personally, I am not optimistic that they will achieve an agreement by that date,” Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) told reporters. (Matishak/The Hill)



Change to Sandy aid mollifies Menendez

Sen. Bob Menendez said his protest over the possible diversion of Superstorm Sandy funds got results, even though it has not stopped the plan to send part of the money outside the region. To drive his point with the Obama administration, Menendez had been blocking one of the president’s nominees. He ended that action this week. (Jackson/The Bergen Record)



Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton alliance under strain

Hillary Clinton’s “Hard Choices” caused barely a ripple when her aides sent an early copy to the White House. Privately, President Barack Obama’s aides shrugged when asked what they thought about the book. Some didn’t even crack it open. But one anecdote showed the strains just below the surface. (Haberman, Brown/Politico)



Senate to Joe Biden: We want Hillary Clinton

This is Joe Biden’s reality after nearly four decades in the Senate, countless fundraisers for his party and endless ego-massaging of his colleagues: Not a single Democratic senator, including the two from his home state, are publicly urging him to run for president. And this is Hillary Clinton’s lot: A majority of current Democratic senators are calling on her to run in 2016, years before the election and months before she’s expected to even make up her mind whether to seek the White House again. That despite the fact that her eight years in the Senate ended with more than a dozen colleagues spurning her presidential campaign in favor of a younger upstart senator from Illinois. (Raju, Haberman/Politico)



Christie refrains from lauding Sweeney too much at drug treatment groundbreaking

When it comes to state Senate President Stephen Sweeney’s future in politics, Republican Gov. Chris Christie apparently has his back. The governor, who attended a groundbreaking ceremony with the top Democratic lawmaker today for a drug rehabilitation center in Salem County, lauded Sweeney (D-Gloucester) for putting partisan politics aside and working together with him for “the betterment of the people that we serve.” (Arco/



New Jersey is sixth most expensive state for nursing home care, survey found

New Jersey’s elderly and disabled paid the sixth-highest amount in the nation for nursing home care last year, although the state ranked in the middle as far as availability and quality of service, a survey released today said. (Livio/The Star Ledger)



Atlantic City Electric merger promises to limit job losses

Pepco Holdings Inc., parent of Atlantic City Electric, and energy giant Exelon asked New Jersey regulators on Wednesday to approve their proposed merger, the first regulatory step to cement a $6.8 billion deal. (Ianeri/The Press of Atlantic City)



State gambling regulators say they’re ready for talks with company buying PokerStars

New Jersey’s top casino regulator tells The Associated Press his agency will begin talks with the Canadian company that’s buying the PokerStars online gambling website. Talks beginning Thursday are aimed at getting the world’s largest Internet poker website licensed in the state. Amaya Gaming Group is buying PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker for $4.9 billion. Part of the deal involves PokerStars executives accused of fraud and money laundering stepping down from their posts. (AP)



Bayonne council members hands off ‘divided’ city to Davis team

The outgoing Bayonne City Council members said their goodbyes last night to a “divided” city after two elections that will usher in a new ayor and council. The five members of the Bayonne Council sat together for their last council meeting with less than two weeks before their terms are up. (D’Onofrio/The Jersey Journal)





DeMarco named head of Bayonne transition team

Bayonne Mayor-elect Jimmy Davis named Joe DeMarco, Davis’ campaign manager in his upset victory over incumbent Bayonne Mayor Mark Smith in the June 10 mayoral runoff election, as chair of his transition team. (Bonamo/PolitickerNJ)



Politifax names Brush a Winner of the Week

Politifax this week identified new PolitickerNJ reporter Chase Brush as a “Winner of the Week” in its political roundup. (PolitickerNJ Staff) Morning Digest: June 19th