Author Archive: Juan Melli

Budget hearing at 9:30am

Uh oh. Will the Associated Press sue us for doing this?

The public gets its say Wednesday on New Jersey’s $32.8 billion cost-cutting budget plan, but there’s a good chance they won’t know what to talk about.

The Assembly Budget Committee has slated a 9:30 a.m. public hearing on the spending plan that looks to cut $2.9 billion from government services.

But the hearing will come after budget details were released at 6 p.m. Tuesday, giving the public scant time to review the plan.

The 316 page budget bill (A-2800) contains about 130,000 words. If you download it right now and read about 270 words per minute for the next 8 hours while you drive to Trenton, you’re good to go.

Quote of the Day

NJ Sierra Club director Jeff Tittle responds to John McCain’s call for oil drilling off the eastern seaboard:

“The only oil we ever want to see on New Jersey’s beaches is suntan oil.”

How they voted on fair housing legislation

How they voted on A-500, which among other things, eliminates Regional Contribution Agreements:

The Assembly passed the bill 45-33. All Republicans voted no. All Democrats voted yes, except Assemblywoman Linda Stender, D-Union, who voted no. Two Democrats — Linda Greenstein, D-Middlesex, and Vincent Prieto, D-Hudson — voted to abstain.

The true cost of oil

Senators Menendez and Lautenberg will hold a press conference this afternoon with Congressman Pascrell and Paterson Mayor Joey Torres to discuss their “plan to lower gas prices”.

Menendez and Lautenberg will discuss how the Senate Democratic bill, The Consumer-First Energy Act of 2008, would help solve the root causes of artificially-high gas prices by protecting New Jersey consumers from price gouging and forcing oil companies to change their ways so consumers can save money when purchasing gas.

Even accounting for market speculation, gas prices are not artificially high. I’d argue the exact opposite has always been the case. The true cost of gas is much higher than the what we pay at the pump. Every time we fill up the tank we’re being subsidized by the next generation that will have to pay for all the hidden costs that we’re ignoring today. Lowering the price of gas only exacerbates the problem.

Those costs include the spoiling of the environment caused by drilling and spills, climate change from greenhouse gases (and the damaging storms, drought, flooding and starvation that accompany the climate change) and the human and financial costs of wars we fight for access to oil, natural gas and other energy resources. There are probably plenty of other direct and indirect costs associated with our dependence on dirty fossil fuels — including health costs associated with obesity due to an overdependence on private cars. State and federal gas taxes are an attempt to capture some of the costs like the creation and maintenance of infrastructure such as roads and bridges, but they miss many, many others.

If you’re going to pump greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, you should pay for the true costs of that through a carbon tax. If you’re going to send money to the Middle East where it can reach extremists who preach hate, you should be willing to pay a terrorism tax. How much is the cost of another 9/11 or a war for oil worth? I don’t think most people even want to think about those consequences, let alone put a dollar amount on them.

Though people are hurting economically, the solution isn’t to make an already expensive addiction seem even cheaper than it really is. It’s to offer incentives and investments so that the alternatives become more attractive.

Corzine statement on Tim Russert

Gov Corzine:

“Like many in New Jersey — certainly those interested in American politics — I was deeply saddened to learn of the untimely death of Tim Russert. He was absolutely the best in his field, unquestionably at the height of his profession, and exemplified a level of fairness and integrity that sets a standard for all journalists.

“I am sure all New Jerseyans join with me in sending our condolences. Our prayers are with his family and loved ones.”

Menendez speech on immigration

On Wednesday Senator Menendez gave a really good speech on the floor of the Senate on immigration. He’s got Kennedy-like passion, and he knows how to articulate his values. I wish I had seen this earlier and I hate to post this on a Friday afternoon because fewer people will see it, but trust me, this is worth watching.

You can watch part 2 here.

Choo choo! Straight talk express derails

Straight-talking Maverick McCain tells a New Jersey audience that he’s against privatizing Social Security, even though he used to be for it. He then goes on to explain how he would partially privatize Social Security.

November 18, 2004: “Without privatization, I don’t see how you can possibly, over time make sure that young Americans are able to receive Social Security benefits.”

June 13, 2008: “I do not and will not privatize Social Security.”