Author Archive: Martin

Should Federal Tax Dollars Returned to N.J. Be a Senate Primary Issue?

Before reading this diary, consider what role you think a U.S. senator should have in securing federal money for her or his state. Should senators act as passive conduits for federal dollars and only allocate what is necessary for their state, or should they actively lobby for federal dollars for their state, using influence, power, and committee positions to secure this money — especially when their state receives disproportionate amount of tax dollars in return from tax dollars sent to the federal government?  No matter your political philosophy on this question, the fact is that New Jersey receives the least amount of federal tax dollars returned (scroll to New Jersey) from money sent to the federal government.

Currently, New Jersey is dead last in terms of tax dollar expenditures to the federal government vs. tax dollars returned. In other words, as The Tax Foundation states

New Jersey taxpayers receive less federal funding per dollar of federal taxes paid than any other state.

On one hand, this is somewhat understandable. The federal income tax relies on progressive system of taxation, which means those with higher income pay a higher percentage of net income, in turn, to the government. New Jersey consistently ranks as one of the richest states in the country, so there would be some structural fiscal reasons why a state with such high income residents would pay more to the government; that said, Maryland, one of the richest states in the country, is consistently in the top 20 for federal dollars returned on taxes, and Alaska, another rich state, also receives very high returns on taxes spent versus taxes returned.

This disproportionate amount of tax money returned to N.J. is a major reason why the state has such a problem with high property taxes. Many a policy expert and economist have stated that, if N.J. received more tax dollars back from the federal government, our property taxes and fiscal health could be bettered. According to one award-winning journalist

Even a small bump in federal money could help close an estimated $2 billion budget deficit for the upcoming fiscal year, giving the legislature a potential source for property tax relief.

One could say, and there have been analysts who claim this, that the Republicans in Washington, when they were in power, were punishing N.J. for being such a Democratic state by not sending us federal money; but the disparity existed during the Clinton years into the Bush years, putting a hole in this theory of deliberate malfeasance. Both during the Clinton and the Bush years, the Fiscal Year Budget (FYB), which is then sent to the Senate Appropriations Committee, has been incredibly unkind to our state.

Lautenberg Refuses to Debate at Stockton College

Are you disappointed that there have been no debates yet between Andrews and Lautenberg? So am I. And if the Lautenberg camp gets its way, there may be no debates whatsoever, judging from Lautenberg’s recent refusal to debate Andrews at Richard Stockton College. With an excuse that we should get used to hearing, the Lautenberg folks (again, it’s his media handlers, who seemingly control his campaign, speaking for him) have made “senate business” a repeated excuse for not scheduling any debates

“He won’t skip Senate votes to campaign,” Lautenberg spokeswoman Julie Roginsky said

When was the last time Lautenberg was in your part of N.J.?

First, to lay it out on the table, I support Andrews for senate and think that he should be our nominee come November. Before coming to that decision, however, I supported Lautenberg (and will do so if he is the nominee) and did as much research on him as I could. What I found in that time and subsequently is that Lautenberg doesn?t spend much time in New Jersey, doesn?t do much work for local Democratic committees and the state party, and hasn?t visited many counties in the state for quite some time, let alone talk to the voters in these counties about their concerns.

The following list represents the last-known appearance by Lautenberg in every county in the state. I used a variety of sources, all electronic, to compile it, ranging from Lautenberg?s own press releases to his own senate gallery to basic google search results to my own personal knowledge of his work. I encourage others who have knowledge of when and where Lautenberg visited these counties and towns in those counties to post such information; if your local or county Democratic committee has met with Lautenberg or he has worked with you recently, please do post such information. In short, I?m not trying to be dishonest towards Lautenberg in the least in the information below.

If you don?t feel like reading further, then let me summarize: according to my research, Lautenberg hasn?t been to a dozen or so N.J. counties, most South Jersey and Republican-leaning ones, in months, if not years; he only makes quick media appearances (Monmouth, Ocean) in other counties; and spends the majority of his time in the state in Essex, Hudson, and Bergen counties, if he is in the state at all.

LoBiondo’s Credible Challenger

One notable news story that happened during the Andrews announcement and subsequent Lautenberg-Andrews fallout was that a somewhat unknown, but possibly formidable, opponent emerged at the last moment for Frank LoBiondo in NJ-02. David Kurkowski, a Cape May councilman, has made a late bid for LoBiondo’s congressional seat, and Democrats are clearing the slate for him to go mano-a-mano with the person who once pledged a six-term limit, then reneged. Kurkowsi has deep roots in Cape May, judging from his resume, his company, and his personal webpage, and he credits his environmental and preservation efforts as councilman as some of his best accomplishments:

In Cape May, Kurkowski has been a strong supporter of saving the historic Beach Theatre, refurbishing the Washington Street Mall, building a new convention center and getting wireless Internet.

In his first comments to the Press of Atlantic City, Kurkowski lays out a general strategy for the November election:

“I’m committed to peace and prosperity. I believe the wartime economy has had a tragic effect on our country. I lay a lot of blame on LoBiondo and his support of Bush and the war. I will be attacking him on many issues,”

This will work if voters pay close attention to LoBiondo’s actual stand and record on Iraq, stem cell research, and immigration – and if independent publications like Blue Jersey pick up the slack and force the press and papers to cover LoBiondo’s problematic record, as with what happened, for example when Blue Jersey began covering LoBiondo’s role in the Deepwater scandal in 2006.

Cumberland County, and other NJ-02 counties such as Atlantic Co., have cleared their party lines for Kurkowski, and CC Chair Lou Magazzu, who once ran unsuccessfully against LoBiondo, seems to be an unofficial advisor to Kurkowski. The two other candidates, Viola Thomas-Hughes, who ran a spirited, but resource-deficient, campaign in 2006, and another candidate, Bridgeton schoolteacher Celeste Riley, have both apparently cleared the way for Kurkowski.

Blue Jersey: You’re Voting Andrews, and Here’s Why

Before mentioning why I consider Rob Andrews to be a superior candidate to Frank Lautenberg for our U.S. senate seat, I first want to emphasize that, no matter what happens, we would be privileged to have either one of these persons serving us in Washington and that Democratic unity, after this primary war, is paramount.

But, Blue Jersey, I am compelled to vote for Rob Andrews for U.S. senate and do everything possible to ensure his victory in the June primary, and my conviction about Andrews’ qualities is firm. First, Blue Jersey is about the anti-Democratic establishment, and we’ve forced the establishment leftward in their legislation and candidate choices (Zeitz, etc.). Though I admire the Party’s strength, it is detrimental to the concept of democratic choice to have one standard-bearer (Lautenberg) serve in the senate for decades while the rest of the candidates wait decades to run against the “Old Boys’ Club” of the New Jersey Democratic establishment. Andrews is taking on this establishment mentality head-on and forcing Lautenberg to defend his right to serve in the U.S. senate; surely, this is a good thing and will only further the idea that the senate slot shouldn’t be decided by party insiders in the hierarchy.

EPA Report: N.J. Air too Dirty to Breathe

Promoted from the diaries — Juan

Do you live in Sussex, Warren, Burlington, Somerset, Salem, Cape May, Union or Essex county? If so, thankfully, you aren’t breathing air that is too polluted for human beings to breathe safely, according to a new EPA report. But for every other county in N.J. and much of the Eastern seaboard, and several more state’s counties (345) in total, there are too many carcinogens and hazardous materials in the air to make it safe to breathe.

Lautenberg Rising

Sen. Lautenberg is not someone who comes immediately to mind when thinking of prominent Democratic senators in Washington, at least to me. From Kennedy’s prominence in major debates to Biden’s questioning of supreme court nominees — Lautenberg is not such a posturing figure for the limelight.

But to say that Lautenberg does important work for the state and the country would be an understatement: His work on transportation funding, the environment, FISA and constitutional rights, among other measures. Lautenberg has received an “A” from the Drum Major Policy Institute for his attention to middle class legislative concerns, and he is unapologetically pro-choice. Recently, Lautenberg has been given more committee assignments, and he is ranked as the 44th most influential U.S. senator.

Will Van Drew Run against LoBiondo?

Almost two weeks ago, The Atlantic City Press ran http://www.pressofatlanticcity… a story that has had me giddy: Citing unnamed sources, they say that popular state senator Jeff Van Drew is “seriously” considering running against Frank LoBiondo in district -02.

The article states:

It had appeared the Democrats’ top prospect, state Sen. Jeff Van Drew, would not run for LoBiondo’s House seat. Insiders said the party was ready to concede the district, which covers all or parts of six southern counties.But Van Drew can’t be counted out just yet. Why? On Feb. 5, 1.1 million New Jersey Democrats turned out for the presidential primary. That number shattered records for voting in a state primary.

In other words, the massive Democratic turnout for our 5 February primary, a turnout of 2-1 over Republicans, has Van Drew considering whether this is his time to run. At the end of last year, Blue Jersey posters… chimed in on candidates whom they would like to see run against LoBiondo (Alisa Cooper, an Atlantic County freeholder, is a person I forgot to add to the list) — but this was when it looked like Van Drew, a newly-minted state senator, wasn’t running.

There are reasons for Van Drew not to run: He was just elected to the state senate and could look like he is too ambitious or neglecting his district if he runs for congress, LoBiondo has a massive war chest saved for his campaigns and would be tough to beat anyway, two races in N.J. are already top 10 pick-up chances for Dems, and 2010 or 2012 may be a better year in terms of timing and a possible LoBiondo retirement.

One unnamed reporter with whom I spoke suggested that Van Drew may bet waiting until the 4 March primaries to see if Obama is indeed the nominee. If Obama wins both those major states, he suggested, Van Drew may jump in. In the past, Van Drew voiced support for Richardson or Biden to be the nominee; but since that didn’t materialize, he seems to be waiting to see if the more-electable Obama is at the top of the ticket.

As of right now, there isn’t a single Democrat who has filed to run against LoBiondo, from what I’ve researched, and Sen. Whelan, a top-tier candidate, has ruled out running. But there comes a time to throw caution to the wind. Though I voiced concerns about Van Drew running so soon for Congress, I think that he is talented enough to serve as state senator and run for national office, and I encourage him to go after LoBiondo. If I’m reading the tea leaves correctly, then, with Obama at the top of the ticket, much of the country will go Democratic in the upcoming election, and district 02 is the most Democratic district out of any Republican-held district in the state. Let’s make it three remaining GOPers (at the most) left representing N.J. in Congress after November. Run for Congress, Senator Van Drew!

Moorestown Presidential Forum/Caucus Results (unofficial)

Last night, the Moorestown Democratic Club and the Burlington County Dems held a presidential forum in a community house in that gorgeous South Jersey town. Three speakers from each campaign talked last night: possible congressional candidate Amy Vazquez for Clinton, a Navy veteran (whose name escapes me) for Obama, and yours truly for Edwards. The atmosphere during the talks was electric, and the q and a session afterward allowed a chance for audience members to contribute and interact with the surrogates.

Though there was supposed to be a caucus and caucus count last night, there was no official tally given; there were some conspiracy theories going around about why this happened, but I’m not going to speculate. Anyway, Obama was clearly the winner.  For a crowd of about 100 to 125,  my estimate of the results is:

1). Obama (60%)

2). Clinton (25%) and

3). Edwards (15%)

Last night was a good night for several reason. Democrats were able to galvanize and get excited before the 5 Feb primary, several of us Blue Jersey bloggers got to meet (njdem and SJBrian were also there), and we got a preview of a possible congressional candidate and the local BurlCo races that we Dems can win in 2008. I hope I made a good case for supporting Edwards, too.

Stacking the Deck in Camden County

Is this part of a trend?. Promoted from the diaries — Juan

Many of us who read Blue Jersey and favor transparency and an end to pay-to-play, even in our own party, have problems with what has been happening in Camden County; but this post is only tangentially related to the Norcross machine. Instead, I took Juan’s challenge and decided to see in person whether the Camden County Democratic Committee would allow use of their headquarters for a presidential campaign other than Hillary Clinton’s.

Upon walking into the headquarters in the Garden State Pavillion, one might mistake the building for a Clinton campaign office. Hillary signs dot the doors outside, and only, you guessed it, Hillary literature is available inside. One wouldn’t know that John Edwards, Dennis Kucinich or Barack Obama even existed in this Democratic office because of the lack of material available on any other candidate than Clinton.

And here’s the kicker: According to the municipal chair with whom I spoke, the Committee hasn’t even voted on endorsing Clinton. Instead, the Committee hasn’t voted on any candidate, but some members have endorsed Clinton personally.  

Hence, I asked a Camden County Democratic Committee representative whether the Edwards campaign could use the offices for phonebanking, access to voter rolls, etc. Well, you would have thought I was asking whether the Huckabee campaign could use the offices. The person mentioned that she would ask, but that she didn’t think it would be possible since Hillary had been endorsed (of course, she hasn’t been voted on). Blue Jersey has noted that activists from campaigns other than the Clinton campaign had the same problems in BurlCo, even though the BurlCo Chair has supposedly taken steps to rectify the exclusion there. Will the Camden County Democratic Committee do the same?

The representative told me that since the Committee was a private organization, that they could endorse whomever they wanted and use their space to support whomever they wanted. County campaign offices and resources were used for the Clinton presidency campaign; at the very least, the Committee’s decision to exclude the Edwards campaign from its headquarters and resources smacks of elitism and behavior that doesn’t encourage Democratic consensus and unity.