Tag Archive: Sen. President Sweeney

Sen. President Sweeney’s Budget Excuses

Senate President Steve Sweeney has just made several excuses for our current “Go Along To Get Along” Budget.

Sen. Sweeney has said:

  •  “There’s no money.”

    Well there is $32.9 bilion in the budget which is not chicken feed and should provide opportunities to maneuver.

  •  “There are no other programs we can cut.”

    For starters there is the the bloated Governor’s Office budget, corporate tax breaks such as those for companies that only move a few blocks away (Prudential in Newark), incarceration costs for minor drug violations, ending over-payments to halfway houses, reigning in absurdly high hospital charges, reducing duplication of expensive medical equipment in the same vicinity, medical tort reform, and reducing pay to play which increases government costs. (Feel free to add your preferred cost cuts.)

    For the Governor it’s all about cuts. For the Senate President it should be about increasing State revenue. The $7.5 million legislature request for family planning will probably be vetoed by the Governor but for every dollar the State spends here the federal government contributes nine dollars. The Governor is selectively averse to accepting federal funds (ARC tunnel), but the Senate President should be seeking such funds. NJ traditionally receives less each year from the  Federal government that what it sends to Washington. Let’s not forget that a tax surcharge on millionaires not only raises revenue but is a burden the wealthy can carry. Our poverty and income disparities are burdens we should not have to carry.

  •  “When it came to negotiating this year’s budget, there just wasn’t enough money to fight over, and there won’t be for the next several years either. Our pension obligation will eat up most of the expected revenue growth.”

    Pension obligations will indeed be a necessary drag on the budget. All the more reason to re-examine appropriations and push for more ways to increase revenue. And all the more reason to review and set new priorities, instead of whining that there will be no money. Governor Christie is good at finding money. (He will need to find $24 million just for the current Special Election, which is not in the budget.) Sen. Sweeney should hone his skills, discuss priorities publicly, appropriate accordingly, and go about finding the money.  


  • Trenton On My Mind

        “Even though I can’t see you all the time,

        Gotta let you know you’re on my mind “
     – Donovan Frankenreiter

    MEDICAL MARIJUANA DEADLINE – The legislature’s joint resolution provided the Health Department with 30 days to amend or withdraw their proposed regulations. If this Friday’s deadline is not met the legislature may invalidate the regs in whole or in part. Even the changes demanded in the resolution only partly meet the needs for a viable program. Christie’s micromanagement meddling has severely harmed this project. Thoughts of a cockeyed optimist: One can only hope that wiser minds in the Health Department will prevail.

    BACK TO WORK NJ – Both the Senate (2:00 PM) and Assembly (1:00 PM) will vote today on more bills designed to increase jobs and strengthen our economy. The bills include an unusual mix – some of which are liked more by Republicans than Democrats, and vice versa. Some lack sufficient information regarding their fiscal impact in that they might increase jobs but also reduce tax revenue. Taken together, however, they show our legislature more responsive to the needs of constituents in these tough economic times than Governor Christie.

    CUTS TO MEDICAID – Following Governor Christie’s stated plan to seek cuts in Medicaid, a program for which the federal government pays over 50% of the cost, Assemblyman Herb Conaway M.D. (D-7 and Assembly Health Co. Chair) says, “to cut deeper into what we all know to be a successful health care program for the poor lacks common sense. Having more people with health insurance is both smart social and fiscal policy. It costs a lot more to treat people in an emergency room than it does to provide them with health coverage.” ChrIstie all too frequently seems hell-bent on saving money even when it will cost us more in the long run.

    PENSION/HEALTH PLAN –  Christie has called for raising the retirement age, increasing employee pension contributions and a structural change in funding health plans. Senate President Stephen Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver have outlined their own better plan. It calls for  giving public employee unions more say in how their pensions are administered while making workers give concessions. Facing severe problems, such as the underfunded pension plan, our Democratic legislature has increasingly shown its ability to negotiate with the governor and find a better path.

    Trenton will also be on our mind tomorrow when Governor Christie presents his “State of the State” Address at 2:00 PM., which you can listen to here.


    What’s Up Legislators?

    The legislature, which for good reasons does not like Governor Christie’s “tool kit” solution to deal with the 2.0% property tax cap, has made a number of missteps, failed to enunciate early and get support for its own proposal, and is now running out of time as the January 1 start date is looming. The legislature is correct in promoting shared services but such will not address the immediate problem. The legislature will be left holding the bag.

    more below the fold

    Quinnipiac Poll

    New Jersey Gov. Christopher Christie gets decent grades from voters as he nears the end of his first year in office, with a 51 – 38 percent approval rating, higher than President Barack Obama or any other statewide leader, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.

    Christie’s approval rating remains unchanged from Q’s August poll and has increased from a 44% rating in June. With a current 51% approval rating, in contrast to a 46% rating for President Obama, Christie might well feel emboldened to provide us with more of the same. However, there are some chinks in his armor.

    more findings below the fold.

    For Progressives There Is a Path to Escape the Curse

    Republicans: “Their bumper sticker . . . it’s one word: ‘No.’ . . . Our bumper sticker has – it’s just way too many words. And it says, ‘Continued on next bumper ­sticker.’ “ – Senator Al Franken

    Governor Christie can enunciate his position on ARC in a few words, “We can’t afford the cost overruns,” but progressives list many reasons why ARC is essential. He can dismiss women’s healthcare clinics with five words, “We don’t have the money,” whereas, progressives offer five reasons to the contrary. No doubts nor nuances in his mind, Christie just executes a quick visceral punch – a sound bite – that captures support. Senate President Sweeney can also get right to the point as when he said regarding the millionaire’s tax, “Seniors and the disabled are worth fighting for.”

    In a recent study in the Journal of Politics researchers from Harvard and UC San Diego hypothesized, “Indivuduals with a genetic predisposition toward seeking out new experiences will tend to be more liberal, but only if they are embedded in a social context that provides them with multiple points of view.” After genetically testing and studying 2,574 people, the researchers determined that it is the interaction of two factors – a dopamine gene variant and the environmental condition of having many friends in adolescence – that is associated with being more liberal. Learning about the genetic aspect is interesting. But it is the co-factor of “multiple points of view” which can often be our curse.

    In the current election cycle Tea Party activists reduce the federal healthcare legislation to “socialism.” Obama struggles too hard to emphasize its many advantages, and liberals with multiple points of view mull over its many aspects and bemoan it did not go far enough. In addition to tough economic times, it is our own flailing, complaints and inaction that are leading us toward disappointing midterm results and into next year’s legislative elections.  

    The liberal in me may want to talk about poverty in NJ and its many causes and solutions, but the realist in me says I have to connect viscerally, not complain, organize others, speak succinctly, and go for the jugular. A friend of mine who years ago used to sell encyclopedias door-to-door loved the idea of his product’s ability to provide people with a vast array of information. However, he was paid on a commission basis, so he quickly learned that information and ideas would only succeed if he could sell them.  

    Senator Buono Issues RTTT Subpoenas

    The Senate Legislative Oversight Committee yesterday was granted the power through a Senate vote (21-14) to subpoena two key individuals in the state’s failed Race to the Top (RTT) federal education grant application. The committee met following the Senate session and formally issued subpoenas to former state Education Commissioner Bret Schundler and Larry Berger, CEO of Wireless Generation, the vendor chosen by the state to compile its application.

    Senate Majority Leader and the committee chair Barbara Buono (D-Middlesex) called the action “extraordinary but necessary,” because of the administrative roadblocks that have allowed officials to keep vital documents out of lawmakers’ hands, despite an extensive request for information under the state’s Open Public Records Act. Sen. Buono added, “As people hide behind OPRA, the more it raises the question of what they are hiding. Residents deserve answers, plain and simple.”

    There had been an earlier agreement brokered between Governor Christie and Sen. President Sweeney that permitted release of partial OPRA material. However, to her credit, Sen. Buono has been persistent. Now with two key participants in the grant process under subpoena, more useful information should become available.

    The Senate Legislative Oversight Committee will convene its RTTT hearing on Thursday, October 7. The committee’s subpoenas will seek testimony from the two individuals and demand they release all correspondence and documents related to the application. According to PolitickerNJ Sen. Buono told the Senate, “If the testimony taken and the documents produced at this hearing open an area of inquiry that suggests that we need broader subpoena power I’ll be back.”