Weekend News Roundup for Feb. 20-21, 2009

Hey, Hopeful posted a great blog roundup on budget issues, and is looking for additional blogs to bookmark. Got ideas? Hit us up in comments.

Senator Lautenberg’s first chemo was this weekend

  • He may be out of the hospital by tomorrow, is doing well, and plans to finish out his term and run for another one: “My contract goes to 2014. I want to finish this term doing things that count for the public.”
  • First chemo “capped a week from hell,” says Lautenberg.
  • His cancer was caught early.
  • The less-important reason to wish him well.

    “I’m not a wallflower.”

  • Christie is getting the national Republican love and sunshine.
  • And goes to the National Governors Association winter meeting – his first such meeting – and takes a potshot at Corzine.

    Open antagonism

  • “Most politicians and political experts agree the war between Christie and the unions is unique in Statehouse history. No previous governor ever opposed the unions so directly and with such gusto, and the unions never fought back so readily.”

    Middlesex tries to balance budget

  • Middlesex County will cut its open space tax by 1 cent for 2010, one of several steps to balance its $405 million budget without increasing taxes. Morris County did something similar last year, cutting open space preservation tax from 3 to 2 cents, the third year in a row where Morris used the open space budget line to cut taxes.

    Raiding NJ’s surplus is not the answer

  • Star Ledger opines that Democrats need to come up with something better than drawing down the state’s surplus to restore funding.

    Gov. Chris Christie ready to play ‘Let’s make a deal’

  • Tom Moran: It was a whirlwind day in Trenton and at the end of it all, the furniture had been rearranged. Democrats were suddenly relevant again.

    Church of the Holy Izod

  • Maybe the Izod will be sold to a televangelist for a mega-church, or maybe it can be a casino. Maybe the NJSEA, losing $$$ by the day, will be disbanded. Maybe the Prudential Center can lure another NBA team to NJ …

    The Auditor

  • State Police sergeant who helped save Corzine’s life is demoted. Jerry Zaro stays on, and more.

    Star Ledger: Open the books on NJ Assn. of Counties

  • Track the finances, track how the Executive Director salary ballooned up to $205,000, track why she’s driving a Lexus leased by NJAC, and how the head of the taxpayer-funded lobbyist group got into the pension system.

    Okay, now THIS is cool.

  • Can City Apps bring transparent data to Jersey City’s citizens?
  • Comments (5)

    1. Helios

      Interesting that the Star Ledger condemns legislators’ ideas of using some of the $500 million state surplus to offset Christie’s spending cuts at the same time it defends Christie’s attack on the surpluses of local school districts, calling it a “sensible approach” (2/14). Is a surplus sacrosanct or not?

    2. Bill Orr

      The Senate State Government Committee reported the 2nd reading of Bill S2 which makes significant changes to different State-administered retirement systems. S2 includes a large list of 23 cosponsors with a wide, bipartisan mix of Stephen Sweeney, Richard Codey, Barbara Buono, Nia Gill, Ray Lesniak, Thomas Kean, Gerald Cardinale and Chris Bateman.

      There is a brief five page summary of the bill, and below is a simplified version of some of the proposed changes:

      – Eligibility: bans part-time workers from participating

      – Retirement allowance formula: returns the multiplier for members from1/55 to 1/60 and the other benefits to their pre-2001 level

      -Compensation definition: impose a maximum compensation upon which contributions will be made

      – Positions eligible for service credit: provide that a person would be eligible for membership in the retirement system based upon only one position

      – Employer contribution: requires the State, beginning July 1, 2011, to make in full the annual employer’s contribution, as computed by the actuaries.

      So the Senate is moving forward with its proposals. The Assembly, perhaps less supportive of pension reform, has yet to weigh into the fray.  Governor Christie, of course, has entered the fray with gusto.

      Democrats DO have to address this issue, engage with the Governor and Republican legislators, and recommend solutions.  Let the dialogue begin.


    3. Jason Springer

      about the growing scandal with the Camden police that has widespread implications.

    4. Helios

      I attended the NJEA’s Legislative Action Conference yesterday where we had representatives from both Senate and Assembly present. (Of note: Sen. Sweeney ended up canceling and did not even bother to send a representative – yet again demonstrating his courage and leadership. Sen. Tom Kean, Jr. was there). The speed with which these bills are being pushed through is infuriating. While the Republicans claim there is a budget crisis, nothing in these bills would make any difference in the current fiscal year, so why not take time to get it right?

      I think most teachers know that there will be changes to the system, the issue is whether these changes are fair and whether they address the long-term health of the fund. Right now, SCR 1 calls for a Constitutional Amendment to make state contributions to the pension fund a necessity – but it needs to be passed by NJ voters. Is Christie going to go on 101.5 and campaign for this? Also, the current bill allows for seven more years of underfunding of the pension system.

      Bottom line, the legislature has not shared with NJEA its actuarial analysis on which it is basing these proposals. Right now we have no idea what assumptions they are making and how much they really expect to save. A Democratic legislature should consult all its stakeholders in such important changes. Let’s have a real dialogue with all information on the table and then we can have a REAL solution.

    5. Bill W


      The one titled “Christie Sellout on Clean Energy”. The writer sums up, “Instead of seeing bills go down, consumers will now be forced to spend $800 million to subsidize a dirty power line. Being governor is a dirty job; we just didn’t realize how dirty it has become.”

      The author? Jeff Tittle of the Sierra Club.

      Does that mean that Jon Corzine no longer has the worst environmental record of any governor in NJ history?  Or do we need to give Christie a few more weeks?


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