Tag Archive: Louis Greenwald

Shehecheyanu

That’s the Jewish blessing of thanks that is said on special occasions, and the message that Steven Goldstein, Chair of Garden State Equality, sent to his co-religionist opponents of marriage equality at a press conference this afternoon in Trenton.

It was a joyous occasion, after several hours of “debate” in the Assembly chamber – dominated by supporters of marriage equality with their touching stories of family, civil rights, and equality – peppered with contrived rationalization of the status quo from marriage discrimination proponents.

Whether you give thanks with the Jewish prayer, or in some other way, today was an historic day for New Jersey, affirming the tenets of our Constitution.

In the end, the vote was 42-33. We’ll post some of the amazing floor speeches later, but here’s the press conference:



Blue Jersey Focus: Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt

Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt of Cherry Hill has recently been chosen to chair a new committee to address women’s and children’s issues. I visited her in her Voorhees office today to learn about the goals of that committee as well as her opinions on other important issues. We discussed marriage equality, state education policy, the problems in nearby Camden, the setback for anti-bullying initiatives, and property tax reform. Also discussed was the slow pace of implementation of the medical marijuana law, where she proposed in interesting solution to the problem of finding dispensary sites.





How the Democrats and NJTV Can Improve

Watching the NJTV coverage of Governor Christie’s State of the State Address was like watching a train wreck. It’s no surprise that the station, run by Christie’s Adubato clan, made this broadcast just the opening salvo in the governor’s re-election campaign.

Of course, Christie is an excellent orator. That’s part of his appeal to the average voter. But it’s NJTV’s job to inform the average voter, not to provide an unchecked platform for the governor. And the Democrats are just abettors in this process.

Troy Singleton Sworn Into the General Assembly

It was as if the General Assembly chamber in Trenton had a mechitza down the middle. But instead of separating the genders, it separated the festive atmosphere on the Democratic side from the mostly empty Republican side.

The occasion was the opening of the lame duck session, highlighted by the swearing in of the newest member of the body, Troy Singleton.

Video below. More text after the fold.



What will happen if Steve Sweeney does not win the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 2013?

Contested statewide Democratic primary elections do not happen very often here in New Jersey.  Since I started paying close attention to New Jersey politics in 1997, there have only been four seriously contested statewide Democratic primary elections.  In 1997, then-Woodbridge Mayor Jim McGreevey defeated Congressman Rob Andrews and Morris County Prosecutor Michael Murphy for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination.  In 2000, Jon Corzine bought more votes than his senatorial opponent, former Governor Jim Florio, was able to earn.  In February 2008, Hillary Clinton defeated Barack Obama in the Presidential primary election.  In June of that year, Andrews lost his second statewide primary election when he challenged the incumbent U.S. Senator, Frank Lautenberg.

It appears as if we will have a hotly contested Democratic gubernatorial primary election in 2013.  The most likely candidates at the moment are State Senators Barbara Buono, Dick Codey, and Steve Sweeney.  It is possible that other candidates could come out of the woodwork over the next year or so, but for the sake of this discussion, the names are less important than the questions that the current political dynamic in the state, which has Democratic Party bosses, including but not limited to Steve Adubato and George Norcross, closely aligned with Republican Governor Chris Christie, raises about how serious these bosses are about defeating Christie.

These bosses and their acolytes in the State legislature have enabled Christie to get more of his agenda passed than our last Democratic Governor, Corzine, and have never even come close to a government shutdown like the one which occurred as a result of the conflict between Corzine and then-Assembly Speaker, Joe Roberts, a Norcross minion, over whether the state sales tax should be increased, and if so, how the additional revenue should be spent.  So it stands to reason that Adubato, Norcross et al would probably prefer to have one of their own (Steve Sweeney being the most likely candidate, but Assemblyman Louis Greenwald is another possibility) as Governor than Christie, but in lieu of that, it would not be safe to assume that they would prefer someone else, like Buono or Codey, over Christie.

Will the Congressional Redistricting Commission give Joe Cryan a golden parachute to Washington?

Unless a miracle takes place this Tuesday and Republicans in LD1, LD3, and LD4 pull off major upsets, South Jersey party boss, George Norcross, will have more than enough votes to replace his primary adversary in the Assembly, Majority Leader Joe Cryan, with his top ally in the legislative body, Louis Greenwald, sending Cryan to the back bench.

What remains to be seen, however, is what Cryan will do once he is sent there.  Will he unite with his fellow back bencher in the Senate, Dick Codey, to build an opposition movement that will contend not only for the Governor’s office in 2013, but also all 120 legislative seats?  As much as I would love to see this, I do not expect that this will happen.  It is very possible that Dick Codey will run for Governor in 2013, but it is also possible that Cory Booker, Barbara Buono, and Steve Sweeney will run as well and it is unlikely that any of them will run opposition slates against the party lines that they do not win, which means that regardless of who wins the gubernatorial primary, there will not be much change in the legislative roster or its leadership.

If I am right about this, then Cryan will most likely remain on the back bench for most of the next decade.  That is, unless he finds a new office for which to run or that office finds him.  There have been times in the past decade when Cryan expressed an interest in running for Congress in the 7th district, but admitted that the current configuration of the district made it extremely difficult for a Democrat to win.

This is very true.  Our best chance to win this district came in 2006 when a very popular Assemblywoman, Linda Stender, challenged a very unpopular Congressman Mike Ferguson in a year that Democrats were trending up and Republicans were trending down.  However, despite these trends, Stender came a few thousand votes short of victory.  Two years later, Stender did not run as strong of a campaign as she did in 2006 and faced a very popular State Senator, Leonard Lance.  Despite huge turnout increases inspired by Barack Obama’s candidacy, it was not enough for a Democrat to win the 7th and Lance defeated Stender by a much wider margin than Ferguson did two years earlier.

Cheer Up. Things Could be Worse

Last week was depressing. On Thursday night, I sat in the New Jersey State Assembly chamber for over 12 hours to witness Chris Christie’s greatest political victory in his disastrous reign as our governor.

No doubt, he will continue to brag about his “leadership” ability and the “bipartisan” support he got for the stripping of collective bargaining rights from state workers.

I watched as assembly members I like and admire, people like Lou Greenwald, Pam Lampitt, and Herb Conaway, voted to affirm the path taken not only by Chris Christie, but also Scott Walker, Rick Scott, Rick Snyder, and others of their ilk.

Once Again: Balancing the Budget on the Backs of the Poor

Once again, the less fortunate among us are being asked by the Christie administration to do more than their fair share in the governor’s “shared sacrifice” approach to the budget crisis. This time it is lower income Medicaid recipients who are the victims of Christie’s draconian axe.

On the day when the New Jersey Supreme Court rebuked Governor Christie’s refusal to carry out the legislature’s education mandates, the Assembly Budget Committee heard testimony from the governor’s health leadership team – Mary O’Dowd, Commissioner of Health, and Jennifer Velez, Commissioner of Human Services.

The primary purpose of the hearing, chaired by Assemblyman Louis Greenwald (D-Camden), was to discuss the administration’s proposal for a waiver to certain federal Medicaid requirements. The impetus for the waiver is a savings of $300 million.

What Would You Do with $409 Million?

That figure is the difference between the two year income projections from the State Treasurer and from the Office of Legislative Services. At a hearing before the Assembly Budget Committee, State Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff called the difference “insignificant” while not answering Chairman Louis Greenwald’s question about how to reconcile that difference.

Even though the income estimates have improved, the treasurer admitted that his office has not done any contingency planning in the event of what he calls an “unfavorable” decision by the Supreme Court in the pending school funding case.

While both Sidamon-Eristoff and Greenwald touted the need for property tax relief, the Treasurer’s approach depends on further sacrifices by public workers in their health benefits. Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-Paulsboro) contended that as the economy improves, the poor and middle class that have assumed the “shared” sacrifice in the past few years should be at the front of the line for relief as the state’s economy improves.

Burzichelli and Sidamon-Eristoff debated the assertion that New Jersey’s taxes are driving the wealthy from the state. The treasurer cited some anecdotal evidence and pointed out that the difference between the highest and lowest tax rates is a factor of five. Yet, he didn’t mention the income ratio between the highest and lowest of the state’s wage earners, which is undoubedtly greater.

Sidamon-Eristoff said the Governor has recommended increasing the contribution to the pension fund, but interestingly his rationale had to do with the state’s credit rating rather than out of any apparent concern for pension holders.

In response to a question from Chairman Greenwald, the treasurer explained that New Jersey’s lag in following the national employment recovery is due to the fact that we are about a year ahead of other states in reducing public sector employment, a “good thing” in his world. He is projecting New Jersey’s unemployment rate will be 8.4% by the end of next year as the private sector starts hiring.

Assemblyman Albert Coutinho (D-Newark) questined the treasurer on the slow pace of jobs recovery in New Jersey. Coutinho pointed out that employers are not hiring because the economy is soft, and we need to do more to stimulate job creation.

The Treasurer cautioned that the improvement of our financial news does not indicate that we should increase state spending. Like Dr. Rosen this morning, Sidamon-Eristoff pointed out the huge structural deficit that still needs to be addressed.

Chairman Greenwald pointed out that today’s session concludes the hearing phase of the budget process. But I’m sure we will be hearing more about the budget between now and November.

Our Fate – Tied to our “Friends” on Wall Street

Is our fate determined by the vagaries of Wall Street? That’s the message delivered by David Rosen, Legislative Budget and Finance Officer in his testimony this morning before the Assembly Budget Committee.

While revenue from corporate business taxes is down, this is more than offset by an increase in gross income tax revenues. And the majority of that increase is from state taxpayers with income over $1 million.

Rosen presented a chart showing a strong correlation between the Standards and Poors 500 index and the gross income garnered by the state from income tax on millionaires.

more below…