Tag Archive: legislature

The budget: “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade”

The Democrats on the senate and assembly budget committee meetings this week were less confrontational than in the past toward the State Treasurer who represents Gov. Christie’s interests. That was because in part the governor’s revenue estimate was more realistic and several important large-ticket items crowd out other unmet needs. So it might seem there is little to argue over, but such is not the case.

More so than in recent years there is insufficient revenue to meet the state’s required needs. The fact that our economic recovery during the Christie years has been poor only exacerbates the problem. Furthermore Christie’s presidential pandering to the far right makes reasonable solutions all the more difficult.

Billions of additional dollars are seemingly unavailable to meet state Pen/Ben contributions, to create a self-sustaining Transportation Trust Fund, and to support essential programs which are being starved. It would also help if there were billions more in the upcoming or succeeding years from Exxon-Mobile instead of the paltry  $225 million settlement. All of us would like lower property taxes, and those in Atlantic County desperately need more state assistance, which if not forthcoming could lead to bankruptcy and endanger the credit of other struggling municipalities.

What’s a Democratic legislator to do in this quandary? Make lemonade. All assemblypersons are up for re-election this year and increasing taxes is never popular. Nonetheless, hard decisions will have to be made by June 30. There are options available.  

Judge Jacobson: Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Judge Mary Jacobson, a highly respected jurist, has received written briefs from the unions and the state, she has heard oral arguments, and now she must render a decision. The State contribution to the pension plan this fiscal year ending in June was originally agreed upon and enacted by the governor and legislature in a 2011 law. It calls for a payment of $2.25 billion, but Christie reneged on the agreement and only budgeted $681 million, taking about $1.569 billion off the table. The judge in oral hearings expressed considerable sympathy toward the position of the unions, but if she rules that the full $2.25 billion must be paid into the retirement plan this year (between now and June 30) where is the money to do so? It’s a near-impossible feat.  

New Jersey’s Bridge to Nowhere Arises in That Congested Supercenter Known as Cape May County

Every month there seems to be another spending scandal emerging out of the Christie Administration, or some other level or branch of the State Government. Well, this one can’t be pinned on the governor (I think), but it is equally as scandalous and irresponsible. Today the Star-Ledger reported that the State is spending $125 million on the construction of a parallel roadway to the Garden State Parkway at the end of Cape May. The roadway is aimed at either replacing or supplementing the existing roadway, which is multi-lane but has three traffic lights.

I’m a frequent Shore visitor, and have been to Cape May County several times this summer. I’ve seen this construction and have driven on the present portion of the Garden State Parkway on many occasions, in light traffic and heavy, at all hours of the day and night. And if there was ever a piece of construction that was absolutely not necessary, it is this one.

In a time where our state’s infrastructure, from our school buildings to our existing roadways are fragmenting and deteriorating before our eyes, where the Hudson River audibly groans each morning under the weight of commuter traffic, where NJ Transit fares soar, this parallel roadway ought to provoke outrage. It’s a no brainer. It’s New Jersey’s equivalent of the Bridge to Nowhere, but worse, because there’s already a bridge, it just has some traffic lights.

I’m sure the Turnpike Authority, which runs the Garden State Parkway, can produce road studies and the like that would probably back up the notion that this parallel roadway is the modern-day counterpart to the cure for cancer, but this just laughable. It’s an embarrassingly wasteful, misdirected way to spend a titanic fortune of taxpayer funds.

Yes, I understand that perhaps these funds were already in possession of the Turnpike Authority, and that it may or may not have been also been raised through toll fares and the like. But that really doesn’t matter, because in the end it’s all the state’s money.

What am I calling for? Really, not much at this point except to express my sadness over this. I mean, we can’t tear it up; hell, it would probably cost as much money to demolish it as it did to build it – or even more. But it stands as a concrete (no pun intended) example of how completely mismanaged our state is in terms of its spending and infrastructure.  

Christie’s Summer of Failure – And Ours

Promoted by Rosi, who is not as convinced as the writer or the first commenter, of the eventual outcome.

As the dog days of Summer set in (actually, it’s pretty cool out today, now that I think about it), the nearly unbelievable extent of the failures of our strong-willed governor have clearly emerged. Here is a man who was elected to one of the most powerful governorships in the nation, yet, after a full term and then some, he’s achieved nothing.

In infrastructure, he failed us. He vetoed the construction of a long-overdue Trans-Hudson link in his first term. Now he’s illegally shuffling around millions to fund repairs on the Pulaski Highway. Public transit fares remain astronomical, especially for those commuting into New York City. I’d say that all of this is due to his “small government” philosophy, but that’s really the philosophy of the Republican Party. Christie has no philosophy, no guiding set of ideas, no overall goals, at least none that do not relate to his national political career. He does like to yell at people who ask him tough questions  

Getting New Jersey’s Urban Residents Organized is in Everyone’s Interests

promoted by Rosi

In a blog published earlier this month, I introduced an important but little-appreciated topic that is at the core of what is ailing our troubled inner cities, that being, a lack of empowered community organizations. As crime and poverty continue to stifle New Jersey’s urban areas, it must be noted that if we expect the residents of places like Camden, Newark and Paterson to help themselves, they have to have a place to meet. Literally, there are little if any places to gather, talk about issues, prioritize, network and plan, plan, plan. So often we hear from the residents of the Garden State’s wealthier suburbs and rural areas (such as Sussex County) that the first step in solving the problems of our inner cities is getting the people who live there to work together. Or more cynically, we’ll read posted snippets like “We’ve been throwing money at these places for years and things just keep getting worse,” and even “if more of this crime continues we’ll have to call in the National Guard.”  

Poverty’s Terrifying Specter Haunts 600,000 of Jersey’s Children

Like Marie Antoinette entertaining at Versailles, our state policymakers continue to debate and propose a myriad of new laws and regulations that, as usual, address rather marginal issues. Smoking on the beach? Sure, Trenton’s debating on it. Animal cruelty? We’ve got loads of proposed bills on that one. Internet decency and bullying? Absolutely…the Garden State’s reps are all over that. But in the midst of all of this legislative excellence came really big news. News, of course, that after its initial reporting was tucked away, forgotten, marginalized, even by a so-called “Progressive” Democratic majority in the Legislature.

The shocking informationemerged earlier this month from the yearly “Kids Count” report of the highly respected Advocates for Children of New Jersey. The raw number, one that is hard to hide, is shameful and highly indicative of our state’s inexorable slide into a Third World status. One third of New Jersey’s Children – over 600,000 – are living in a de facto state of poverty. And more than half of those children – some 300,000 – are living in a state of extreme poverty.

We’re not talking about adults here. We’re not examining the numbers of New Jerseyans who, in fine right-wing fashion, are expected to resolve their own poverty through the magic of full-time employment. We are talking about kids. Remember them? They are the people that we, as a state, are collectively responsible for. No, this isn’t a socialistic jibe. I’m not proposing a Communist nirvana. I’m simply stating that the children of our state – well over a half million of them – are in desperate crisis.

Six Hundred Thousand. The number needs to be fleshed out. What does 600,000 look like? Try imagining a sold out Yankee stadium. Then stretch that thought to embrace 10 or 11 of them, all filled to capacity, with every seat, from the prime locales along the first base line to the seats in the distant rafters, occupied by a child. And all kids, nothing but kids. This isn’t Rio de Janiero, Mumbai, Damascus or some other Third World city. This is New Jersey, right now.

As an educator/blogger with a profound interest in our state’s fascinating history, I think this present level of poverty can only be described as Dickensian. Charles Dickens remains famous for his descriptive and touching stories concerning those who were desperately poor in an era of declining social mobility, insecure employment and a callous, uncaring state. From this mid-19th century British writer we get such classics as A Christmas Carol, Oliver Twist and A Tale of Two Cities. His stories are filled with such terrors as urban starvation, brutal bosses and environmental degradation. With no meaningful social safety net to depend on, Dickens characters, regardless of class, were continually filled with the terror of sliding into hapless poverty. Doubtless to say 600,000 of our state’s children would probably fit into one or two of Dickens’ novels, and neatly at that.

Just like today, during Dickens’ era of the mid-1800’s, New Jersey had an abysmal record in caring for its poor. During that era there was a so-called ‘answer’ to poverty, and one that is still hinted at by politicians on the right today. It went by many names – the poorhouse, the workhouse, the almshouse. But in all its manifestations it was a ghastly place where the poor were forced to work for their bread and shelter, frequently under the supervision of municipally-appointed masters or bosses that amply represented a state that so despised the unfortunate. The workhouse was a destination of last resort – much like our homeless shelters of today. It was a place of utter humiliation.

One of the worst examples emerged out of Paterson in September 1867. The city’s so-called Almshouse was at the center of a well-publicized scandal involving its city-appointed Steward, a man by the name of Sigler.

During the course of the state’s investigation of him, Sigler’s victims testified to the horrific conditions of the almshouse. Current and former residents reported that Sigler had repeatedly abused those under his care. He routinely whipped people who were clearly mentally ill, banishing some of them to rooms where they subsequently froze to death. Additionally, many children were under his supervision placed there by the state and parents who could not afford to care for them. Kids who gave him trouble were routinely lashed by an instrument of torture that can only be described as a smaller version of a cat o’ nine tails. Bed-wetters and other young “troublemakers” were regularly deprived of meals and punished in other cruel ways.

It is interesting to note that even during his trial, the authorities made no move to separate Sigler from the residents, a fact that at least one publication stated was “for political reasons.” Sigler was under the protection of a higher authority.

Through my research I was unable to find out if Sigler was ultimately convicted and punished. But that’s not really the point. The point is that in this age of wireless Internet and email, our state, by allowing such a huge number of children – 600,000 – to remain and fester in poverty, is committing a moral outrage – a sin – equal in every way to Sigler’s.

Helping these kids is something that is going to take bold leadership, big ideas and yes, money. This problem is so huge that it makes the debate over abolishing reality transfer fees rather laughable. These kids need help, now. We’ve got to get them out of this modern-day version of the poorhouse.  

Posted on: http://kurzglobe.blogspot.com/…

Here are the Democratic Legislators’ Twitter Handles

Here’s a list of the Democratic NJ legislators on Twitter (on the jump page).

TwitterThere are a lot of reasons you might want to follow some of these folks. Follow your own reps. Follow people who are advocating (or working against) bills you care about. Follow committee chairs. Follow Wiz and Loretta, the co-chairs of the SCI investigating the GWB scandal. Follow Steve Sweeney. That guy wants to be your governor. And every Thursday, he answers a handful of questions people tweet him with hashtag #AskSenPres. Gun advocates and right-wingers have dominated those questions since he started that. You might have other things to engage him on. Some of these folks – Norcross, Watson Coleman, Greenstein, Chivukula – are running for Congress. That’s a reason to watch what they say.

Personally, I find it fun to speculate who’s maintaining their own Twitter feed and who might be passing that on to a staffer (tipoff might be more formal, distant language, staff-like language, but maybe not).

There’s a lot of variety in how robust these accounts are. You’ll see. Maybe if you tweet at some of these folks they’ll perk up and realize somebody’s reading them. I noticed some of these accounts need profiles, and some others could benefit with a website link.

Next up, soon as I can do it, will be the GOP legislators. Below – whose Twitter feeds do you think are the most interesting?

Here are the Democratic Legislators’ Twitter Handles

Steve Sweeney answers a few questions via Twitter every Thursday. Use hashtag #AskSenPres anytime during the week; he answers a handful of issues on Thursdays. Gun advocates and right wingers have dominated those questions since he started that; you might have other things to ask him.

Some of them are not kept very current, and some legislators really need to add profiles and website links to those profiles

Who doesn’t tweet, speculate whose social media staff is written & posted by staff (the tipoff might be more formal, distant language, but maybe not). You can follow your own legislators (yes, I’m working on a list of GOP legislators next). But you might also want to follow or tweet to somebody advocating (or working against) legislation you care about. And there are non-legislative reasons to follow some people. SSome of these folks are running for Congress – Don Norcross, Linda Greenstein, Bonnie Watson Coleman, Upendra Chivukula.