Tag Archive: Vincent Prieto

Christie Leaves: So What Would Happen Next?

There has been a lot of speculation that Gov. Christie will resign as early as February next year. Senate President Steve Sweeney recently said, he has “no idea” whether Christie will leave office early, but his guess is Christie will leave before the next budget has to be passed in June 2015. So what would happen next?

According to our constitution (see the relevant paragraphs below the fold) the Lieutenant Governor becomes Governor. Elections then are set to be held at the next general election for a Governor and LG to fill the unexpired term. They assume office immediately upon their election. In effect, if Christie were to resign in February, 2015, LG Kim Guadagno would become governor for about nine months until November. Then the governor and LG winners in the General Election would serve about 26 months until a new term begins in January 2018.

Below are possible unfolding scenarios.  

This Was the Week That Was

Governor Christie this week tore asunder a pension bargain, decided to delay the Homestead Rebate, remained mum on the latest gun bill sitting on his desk, and reiterated his pledge (like Bush Senior) “Read my lips. No new taxes,” (although fees of course will be increased.) He raised “the white flag of surrender” and disappointed his right flank by renominating Chief Justice Rabner, but pleased the rest of us. In spite of his failure to create a New Jersey health exchange and to promote enrollment, there is good news. Then as if there was little that merited his attention in New Jersey he went to Florida yesterday to campaign for Gov. Rick Scott.  

Gov. Christie: Going Strong?

He will spend the start of the Memorial Day holiday weekend on the boardwalk promoting the summer tourism season with stops today at the Belmar boardwalk at  9:30 a.m., an Asbury Park ribbon cutting at 1:30 p.m. and a Seaside Heights boardwalk stroll at 3:30 p.m. He ceased using his Sandy recovery “Stronger than the Storm” slogan and is now saying “Going Strong.” This is an opportunity to let him know what you think about his failing and flailing administration.

NJ Democrats push millionaires tax Christie has vetoed

At a rally outside the Statehouse with more than 100 union members and supporters, Senate President Stephen Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto again called on the Republican governor to raise taxes on the state’s wealthiest earners. In spite of Christie’s opposition, this plan is a must. It reduces income inequality, makes a Homestead Rebate more secure, and brings more cash to our treasury which Christie has mismanaged and plundered.

Our current and now future head of the NJ Judiciary

Chief Justice Stuart Rabner gives the keynote address at the grand reopening ceremony for the Passaic County Historic Court House, 10:30 a.m. in Paterson. The independence of our judiciary is now more secure.

“Gov. Christie has officially driven New Jersey into a ditch.” Reaction Roundup to Christie

Response from around the state to Gov. Christie’s announcement today that he intends to remedy a budget shortfall in large part of his own making, by drastically reducing two pension payments that NJ owes – see Bill Orr’s post

Christie’s Terrible Budget Solution to Meet the Shortfall
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“Someone needs to call 911. Gov. Christie has officially driven New Jersey into a ditch.

“Gov. Christie’s reckless policies have left him with no viable solution to his budget crisis. Gov. Christie’s plan will make our fiscal situation even bleaker, with more credit downgrades likely and future deficits worsened. Gov. Christie built a house of cards that is now collapsing upon New Jersey’s taxpayers.

“It’s notable that Gov. Christie is once again targeting the middle-class by delaying pension payments, while continuing to protect millionaires. It’s time for Gov. Christie to put his catchphrases aside and get a grasp on reality. He has no plan for funding needs such as transportation, education, open space and college affordability, and now he is pushing costs onto future generations while proposing more than 30 tax and fee hikes. Gov. Christie, quite simply, has concocted an economic disaster for New Jersey.”

                  – Lou Greenwald, NJ Assembly Majority Leader

“Governor Christie said he fixed the state pension. He said our economy was the New Jersey Comeback, and he’d stop relying on one-shot gimmicks.  He said record-breaking tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy would create jobs. After five years of Christie at the helm, it turns out every single thing he’s promised has failed miserably – with a record sixth credit-downgrade by Wall Street to show for all his failures. It’s time Christie realizes what everyone else knows: cutting taxes for the super-wealthy, while stealing money from pensions hasn’t worked yet. And it wont work this time. At every turn, Governor Christie has chosen the path of economic instability, due to his wrong priorities and callous actions towards New Jersey’s working families. Since Christie is clearly unwilling to be a responsible actor, we call on the state legislature to step up and be the adults in the room.”

                  – Hetty Rosenstein, CWA NJ State Director

What’s Happening Today 12/10/2013

ON THE PORTFRONT (Continued…)

As with most investigations, including those of political corruption, the culprits do not make it easy to unearth the truth. Typically they act slowly or not at all in response to requests for public information. They select an individual lower down the chain of command to be fired in hopes of saving the scalps of those higher up who also were at fault.

Were laws violated?: It appears that the failure to notify local and State authorities was a violation of the law. There appear to be other inappropriate actions in play.

Who did it? Not clear: David Wildstein ordered the lane closures, but did he act alone? He reported to Bill Baroni (who tried to defend the action as a “traffic study” and bears direct responsibility), and both individuals were appointed to their positions by Governor Christie.

Why? Not clear: As others testified, a traffic study could have been conducted without closing the lanes and causing the ensued chaos. Was Wildstein ignorant of the procedures to carry out a study or did he (and possibly Baroni) have other intentions, such as retribution against the Fort Lee mayor?

How:  It appears Wildstein ordered the closure against the recommendation of other staffers and he falsely told them he would inform the Authority’s Executive Director and other officials of what was happening.

What punishment is appropriate? It would seem that rather than accepting Wildstein’s resignation, they should have fired him and possibly subjected him to criminal charges. (By Baroni not firing him, assuring his silence, and possibly offering him a job when the uproar subsides other potentially guilty parties could escape punishment.)

What will prevent it from happening again? The Port Authority is too big for its own britches. It acts in defiance of others by ignoring freedom of information requests and doing as it pleases. Such should be stopped. The importance of its work and the amount of money it collects should not allow it to act outside legal norms and escape scrutiny. While each governor should continue to appoint individuals to the Board, there should be independent members who are not aligned with a governor and who understand the broader mission of the authority. Furthermore, governors should be severely restricted in the number of political appointees they can make. The authority needs professionals on its staff not political hacks.

Congratulations to Senator Loretta Weinberg and Assemblyman John Wisniewski who have vigorously pursued this matter. Unfortunately, there is still more to learn.

EVENTS TODAY

Clergy women, religious activists and community members brave the weather today to say “Not One More person in detention or deportation.” Join them at the Elizabeth Detention Center starting at 7 am For more info on this event already in progress go here.

NJ Business & Industry Association Forum: 8;45am – 2:00pm, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno is the keynote speaker, and receives an award. Other speakers include former U.S. Sen. Jeffrey Chiesa, Assembly Speaker-elect Vincent Prieto, Senate Minority Leader Thomas Kean Jr., Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick and Sen. Paul Sarlo, at the Renaissance Woodbridge Hotel in Iselin.  

What Happened The Week of 10/21/2013

October 21 12:01am: Proud moment for equality in New Jersey!

Despite obstacles, Tom Kean Jr. says GOP will claim the senate on November 5. Dream on Senator Kean.

10 days until General Election: If you haven’t already, it’s time to help the GOTV effort.

WATCH: Pallone blasts Obamacare hearing as a ‘Monkey Court”: So true Rep. Pallone.

Poll: Should N.J. keep fighting to bring sports betting to Atlantic City, horse racing tracks? Poll says Yes. Is it really that important?  

Poll: Should N.J. voters approve the ballot question to raise the minimum wage? Poll says Yes. Right on!

Environmental groups’ report card on Sandy recovery: gives Christie and his Office of Recovery and Rebuilding a D, the state Legislature a C-, the state departments of Community Affairs and Environmental Protection an F, and President Obama and three of his federal agencies most heavily involved in Sandy recovery a C+. Seems about right.

Frank Argote-Freyre, president of Latino Action Network: “Chris Christie during the final gubernatorial debate seemed to come out in favor of tuition equality for all students, including those who were brought over as undocumented immigrants at a young age … Its time for our plain-speaking governor to provide greater clarity on the subject. A few passing phrases simply won’t do.” Get on with it Governor.

ACA website vs. ACA: Former stinks but latter does not. Give it time.

Executive Director of the League of American Families John Tomicki: “Allowance of same-sex marriage will cause polygamy in NJ.” A sore loser.

Sheila Oliver appears to be out and Vince Prieto in as Assembly Speaker in next session starting in January. Que sera sera. The bosses and leaders have spoken.

The Budget Ritual

As part of the annual state budget ritual, the Assembly Budget Committee takes testimony from the public (i.e. lobbyists and other special interests). They hold three sessions – one each in North, Central, and South Jersey.

Today’s session in Trenton was the first of the three. Groups scheduled to testify represented interests as varied as mental health, families, the environment, and the OU. Everyone realizes the strain on the budgets, and most groups lobby for token increases in state aid.

Among those testifying was Janice Mironov. She’s the mayor of East Windsor and President of the New Jersey League of Municipalities. Those municipalities are caught in the crosshairs of budget cuts. They are restricted in how much they may raise taxes by the 2% cap while at the same time being asked to assume the burden of services that are being cut back by the state. Property assessments have gone down due to the recession and many communities lost a significant portion of their ratables in Hurricane Sandy.

Part of the problem that these municipalities face is the fact that Governor Christie has taken funds earmarked for municipalities and used those funds to balance the state budget. One such fund is the Energy Tax Credit. This is money paid by the utility companies for property they occupy within towns (such as substations). The state collects this money and is supposed to pass it through to the municipalities – but doesn’t. Last year, Governor Christie vetoed a bill that would require the money to go directly to the municipalities. In response, a revised bill (A3571), co-sponsored by an unlikely bipartisan alliance between Assemblymen Troy Singleton and Jay Webber has been introduced that addresses the governor’s concerns and if passed and signed, will provide local governments with those funds.

I spoke with Mayor Mironov about this and other topics after she testified to the Committee:



The remaining two Assembly Budget Committee public hearings will be on March 19 in Camden and on April 9 in Newark.

When Will We Learn?

If there’s one thing that the Republicans excel at (besides their reverse Robin Hood programs), it’s communications. They are the ones who named a program that eviscerates Constitutional rights the Patriot Act. They came up with the term “pro-life” as if those of us who support a woman’s right to choose are “pro-death.”

On the other hand, Democrats are not as adept in the communications arts. This was profoundly evident today in how they handled the response to Governor Christie’s budget address.

As is the custom, following the Governor’s address, Democratic leadership gathered in a conference room adjacent to the Assembly chamber to deliver their “rebuttal.” Right after today’s budget address, Speaker Sheila Oliver, Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald, and Assembly Budget Chair Vincent Prieto all took to the microphone to deliver nearly identical pro forma statements on what they heard. They were given air time on NJTV, and as soon as they were done, the station cut back to cartoon programming.

All of the Democratic leaders are up for re-election this year, and they undoubtedly covet the free air time. But what they fail to understand is that there is also a statewide election this year which is more important than any single legislative seat. The outcome of the gubernatorial race will have a profound impact, especially on lower and middle class New Jerseyans.

When I questioned a Democratic state party official as to why Senator Barbara Buono was not behind the podium, I was told that this was the Assembly response and that Buono would deliver the Senate response. If so, then I applaud Senate President Sweeney for relinquishing the podium, but the Democrats’ approach is still festering like an open sore.

I don’t know if Senator Buono had the opportunity to deliver that rebuttal because NJTV resumed its cartoon programming immediately after the Assembly members spoke. (NJTV didn’t even have the courtesy to carry the Q&A from that session).

What the Democratic establishment needs to realize is that as the nominee of the party, Senator Buono is now the de facto leader and spokesperson for the party. The Democratic leadership should be smart enough to realize that NJTV’s coverage of live political events is woefully inadequate, and if they wanted to have separate Senate and Assembly responses, they should have put Senator Buono behind the podium first, while NJTV was still on the air.

Better yet, the legislative leadership should have put their egos and re-election campaigns on the back burner and given Senator Buono prominence in the response to the Governor. I have many well-informed liberal friends who are not political junkies, and many have not yet heard of Senator Buono or don’t know what she stands for. Governor Christie will have millions of dollars of out-of-state special interest money to spread his half-truths. Senator Buono won’t have the same magnitude of resources. Any “free” air time that becomes available, like today’s rebuttal, must be ceded to our gubernatorial candidate to help her get her message out. And the Democratic leadership should understand that their political fortunes depend on this, too.

Update: I was just informed by an NJTV producer that Senator Buono’s response will be carried on tonight’s 6PM NJTV program, too late to be included in the commercial stations’ early evening newscasts. Hopefully it will be more than a 3 minute segment.

“If it Ain’t Broke, Break it!”

“If it ain’t broke, break it.” That seems to be the mantra of the Christie administration when it comes to the running of the New Jersey State Lottery.

Today, the Assembly Budget Committee convened to discuss the administration’s plan to wrest the sales and marketing for the lottery from state workers and give those functions to a consortium of three for-profit companies, one of which is American, and none of which are located in New Jersey. The three firms submitted the only bid in response to the RFP. As Seth Hahn of CWA remarked in his testimony,


One has to wonder if there was any competition at all, or if the … companies planned from the outset to come together to stop competition. Other questions arise about whether this is competition or collusion.

These same companies are in a partnership to run the Illinois lottery, and the performance of that consortium has been unblemished by success, with multi-million dollar lawsuits flying around, and the citizens of the Land of Lincoln suffering from revenue shortfalls from that lottery. Back here in New Jersey, in the late 1990’s a young prosecutor named Kim Guadagno prosecuted a principal in one of the bidding companies for money laundering and political kickbacks. How times have changed!

It’s not that the New Jersey lottery is underperforming. According to Hahn, a report from an independent entity showed that sales have increased in the last decade, we are fifth in the nation in per capita sales, and gross margins are at the top of the list, “making New Jersey’s lottery the most efficient lottery in the country.”

The Assembly panel heard only one side of the story. State Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff and Lottery Executive Director Carole Hedinger refused to testify. Their claim that it would be inappropriate during the negotiations with the private entity is a red herring since they could certainly keep the legislature informed in a closed session or answer questions not directly related to the negotiations.

Of course, it’s no surprise that Governor Christie eschews transparency and does not treat the legislature as a co-equal branch of government. This is ARC Tunnel déjà vu.

The bill requiring legislative approval for privatization of the lottery passed in the Budget Committee on party lines. If it passes in the full Assembly and then in the Senate, I’m sure Governor Christie will veto it faster than you can scratch off the numbers on a lottery card.

The lottery is one of only two of fourteen major revenue streams that is meeting their numbers this fiscal year. But the administration’s actions and lack of transparency put that in jeopardy. The legislature should put the brakes on this initiative until all the facts are known.

State Budget Crisis Task Force Releases its Report

State and local budgets are arguably the toughest challenge that citizens and politicians need to face. After all, unlike the Federal government, the state cannot run a deficit, nor can it print money. So it was with great interest and anticipation that I attended the release of a report from the State Budget Crisis Task Force earlier today.

As the presentation started in a ballroom at the Trenton Marriott, the panelists took to the stage and one thing hit me in the head like a falling anvil. Everyone on the stage was a white male. And with the exception of the moderator, John Mooney of NJ Spotlight, all had gray hair. To me, this was is hardly an approach that instills confidence that the interests of all of the citizens of one of the most diverse states in the nation are accounted for in the report.

Nevertheless, there were some big names on that platform. Representing the umbrella organization, the State Budget Crisis Task Force were Paul Volcker and Richard Ravitch.  Among the VIPs in the audience was former Governor Jim Florio.

Volcker, a New Jersey native, is a former chair of the Federal Reserve. Ravitch, is a former Lieutenant Governor of New York (and ex-husband of education advocate Diane Ravitch).  The Task Force has done similar analyses in several other states. Here in New Jersey, the leader of the group is Richard Keevey of the Rutgers School of Public Affairs and Administration in Newark.

 

(L to R) Paul Volcker, Richard Ravitch, Richard Keevey

 

News Roundup & Open Thread for Thursday, December 6, 2012

Boardwalk Empire season finale ends with gangster mayhem, but Sopranos’ alumni are back in New Jersey with a quieter new movie. For further entertainment Governor Christie is scheduled to appear on Jon Stewart’s Daily Show tonight.

Post Sandy Hurricane

  • At Senate panel testimony yesterday from utility industry executives, lawmakers and a top Christie administration official ripped into Jersey Central Power & Electric’s response to the superstorm.
  • The head of the state Board of Public Utilities said, “Power companies need to provide more useful information to customers.”
  • According to the NY Times, “President Obama plans to ask Congress for about $50 billion in emergency spending to help rebuild the states ravaged by Hurricane Sandy,” but passage in Congress is not a sure thing.
  • The Star-Ledger reports Gov. Chris Christie will travel to Washington today to lobby White House officials and congressional leaders for emergency funds.
  • A Duke University professor says, “If I was king, we would restore dunes, we wouldn’t rebuild destroyed homes close to the beach, we’d move some buildings back, and we would put in regulations prohibiting intensification and development.”
  • At a PNC Arts Center meeting utility executives said, “The state needs to build more redundancy into the power grid and get serious about aggressive tree-trimming efforts.”

    Privatizing

  • At the Assembly Budget Committee hearing Democrats challenged Christie’s plan to privatize New Jersey Lottery. Assemblyman Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson) said he “is talking with legal counsel to try to find a way to stop the privatization.”

    Jerseynomics

  • Newark will be one of the national testing grounds for a new initiative to keep homeowners facing foreclosure under their own roofs. A nonprofit housing group acquired troubled mortgages on 150 properties with the goal of offering favorable modifications to the owners.
  • An investment to improve our infrastructure, benefit business and stimulate our economy: Fix Trenton.

    Local

  • Paulsboro: Frustration among Paulsboro residents boiled over Wednesday evening at a raucous town hall meeting. A South Jersey Times editorial asks “Who’s in charge?” and says, “The public has faced a bewildering set of confusing and contradictory directives.” And a philly.com article asks, “Did the rail crew in Paulsboro crash bend the rules?”
  • Jersey City: Ward F Democratic Committeeman Omar Perez will run for an at-large Council seat on the Healy 2013 ticket.
  • Newark: Amidst heavy police presence Mayor Cory Booker voted to re-affirm Shanique Davis Speight as a replacement for U.S. Rep. Donald Payne (D-10) on City Council. Opponents were angry and are awaiting their day in court.

    After almost three years

  • Finally, the first N.J. medical marijuana facility will open today in Montclair.