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Show of hands. Who thinks gas prices are too low?
OK, I see Chris Christie. Anyone else?
Didn't think so.
So bend over New Jersey, because he just raised the price of gasoline by 23 cents a gallon, ostensibly to fund "road improvements." Which, of course, is politician-speak for more light rail boondoggles and useless bike lanes.
And there I was blissfully unaware while rocking out at the LBI Chowderfest all weekend. (It was a blast, thanks for asking!) But I probably won't be able to afford to attend next year because all the extra money I don't actually have will be siphoned off for gas taxes.
Thanks Chris. Thanks a lot.
Oh but golly gee, he's countering with a 1/8 percent cut in the sales tax! And a bigger pension income exclusion for the geezer set.
My cup runneth over... Not.
Then, because he hadn't given enough of the store away yet, he tacked on a big bump in the Earned Income Tax Credit, which as we all know is a "refund" on taxes that weren't actually paid. But as a wise man once said, if you rob Peter to pay Paul, Steve Sweeney can always count on Paul's vote.
There's something to look forward to. Governor Steve Sweeney, the mastermind
behind Christie's capitulation. Say goodbye to the rest of your money New
Jersey. This is only his first salvo, and he's got a lot of people counting
on him to fill their pockets. None of those people are taxpayers. But that's
OK. The takers outnumber us now and they can smell the Benjamins.
He's right, of course. The teachers union is far and away the most reactionary and destructive force in New Jersey, a cancer on the taxpaying citizens of the Garden State.
"This is a dreadful group of leaders and for the Senate president and others in the Democratic caucus to join that chorus, I welcome them — very late — to the amen chorus about the fact that the NJEA is the single most destructive political force in this building," Christie said, referring to the New Jersey Statehouse.
"It's not even close. There's not even a close second to these people," he said. "(They're) the most selfish, destructive people in this building — and everybody in both parties knows it."
Blue on Blue fratricide; man oh man, the schadenfreude is delicious.
Because for going on 50 years Steve Sweeney and NJ's Democrats have been a wholly-owned subsidiary of the NJEA. The union says "jump," and the Democrats say "how high?"
At least until the pension bubble bursted.
Because there isn't enough money in the universe for Humpty Dumpty to put that shit back together again.
Sweeney sees the writing on the wall.
"I'll care about the children when the children start paying union dues."
— Albert Shanker
The NJEA only cares about one thing, their gravy train.
And if kids don't actually learn, well hey, that's not their problem.
The 31 school districts that receive billions of dollars in extra court-ordered state education aid each year have not narrowed the gap with the rest of the state when it comes to test scores and college attendance, according to a Record analysis.
Do tell! Money can't buy progress? Who'da thunk it?
The Record assessed the performance of those 31 districts in three categories — elementary and middle school tests, the SATs and the percentage of college-bound students — and found that the achievement gaps generally stayed the same over 10 years.
So, where did all that money go?
Into the pockets of the NJEA and its members!
They're living high on the hog, and the kids in their classrooms are left high and dry.
But wait, because they've got excuses!
But advocates say the lower-income schools desperately need the financial boost, which provides students access to preschool, counseling and technology and helps them graduate on time. Those advocates argue that hunger, violence and the lack of family support can have a major impact on performance.
"Our kids start from such a different place and have so many more needs," said Peter Rosario, a school board member in Passaic, one of the districts that would lose aid under Christie's plan. "I think that's the No. 1 factor in this that doesn't get talked about enough."
More money for the NJEA won't fix the "family support" problem.
That's been demonstrated time and again, as test scores stagnate and kids keep dropping out.
So, let's move the goalposts!
"The 1997 New Jersey Supreme Court ruling to increase funding for the Abbott districts was not premised on the idea that more money would automatically equate to an increase in test scores," said David Sciarra, executive director of the Education Law Center, the Newark-based organization that brought the Abbott lawsuit.
"Rather," he continued, "the justices said fair and adequate funding is essential to give children in high-poverty schools the same opportunity to succeed that is afforded to their peers in more affluent districts."
"Opportunity to succeed?" Without measurable results? Who's to say the "opportunities" are sufficient? David Sciarra?
Well sure. The Education Law Center is a taxpayer-subsidized arm of the Rutgers Law School. David Sciarra is a state employee, essentially paid to sue his employer. The day he says his mission has succeeded he's out of a job.
So to almost no one's surprise, his mission has not, and never will, succeed.
So let's go back to what that "more money" was designed to accomplish.
Because the Abbott district schools are not "equal" to the schools in the so-called affluent districts. In many cases they're significantly better. Hoboken and Jersey City have facilities my small town of Caldwell could only dream about. Indoor swimming pools. Science labs to rival the Manhattan Project. Elementary schools with turf fields. Middle schools with auditoriums better than Carnegie Hall.
You get the idea. I'm envisioning the mad scientist from Jurassic Park extolling how he "spared no expense."
That's the legacy of the sainted Abbott districts. They spared no expense. They didn't have to. All their money was "free," air-lifted in out of the pockets of us beleaguered taxpayers.
Remember when Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg air-dropped $100 million into "fixing" Newark's public schools? How'd that work out?
1. Labor and contract costs: $89.2 million
That's right. The single biggest expenditure from his windfall ended up right in the pockets of the Newark Teachers Union.
One of the biggest failures in Zuckerberg's plan to reform Newark schools was the renegotiated teachers' contracts.
Zuckerberg envisioned the teacher contract reform to be a centerpiece of the reform and contributed $50 million — half of his total donation — to go to working on that cause.
Zuckerberg wanted to be able to create more flexibility in teacher contracts to reward high-performing teachers and to fire teachers with poor records of student achievement.
But those types of protections are determined by New Jersey law, and Zuckerberg couldn't simply come in and change the rules without going through the state Legislature to make the changes.
Instead, the opposite occurred. Chris Cerf, the New Jersey commissioner of education at the time, worked with the Legislature and was able to negotiate some new accountability measures in teacher contracts.
But the teachers' union only agreed upon those measures if the seniority protections remained intact.
The NJEA didn't look out for the children.
The NJEA protected its most inept members.
And who in the NJ legislature was the number one champion of teachers' union rights?
He blocked the necessary reforms.
He sealed the kids' fate when he stood up for retaining tenure, protecting teachers not on the merit of their achievements but rather on the longevity of their service.
Clock punchers won. And children lost.
So all of this recent Kabuki Theater is a charade.
Steve Sweeney is in the pocket of the NJEA.
And the NJEA calls the shots in Trenton.
Chris Christie will be gone in a little over 15 months.
And then? Steve Sweeney will probably be our next governor.
His first order of business?
Assuage the NJEA.
They'll get their pension guarantee. In spades.
But here's another guarantee.
Nothing Sweeney does while he's living in Drumthwacket will change the education status quo. Kids in the Abbott districts will keep on failing. And taxpayers will keep on getting hosed. But, and this is the key point, every NJEA member working in those districts will make out like a bandit.
Because that's how our tax dollars work in New Jersey.
Remember when Vinny Prieto promised us a sales tax cut next year if we'd just let him hike the gas tax this year? And remember how that turned out to be a big fat lie?
Well, Vinny's back, this time with Steve Sweeney in tow, and boy oh boy do they have a deal for us! Is it a good deal? Bwahahahahaha!
The joint proposal would gradually eliminate the estate tax, increase a popular tax credit for the working poor, raise the tax exemption for retirement and pension income, provide a small tax deduction for spending on gas taxes and create a tax exemption for veterans.
The tax cuts are designed to offset a new 23 cent per gallon increase on gasoline sold in New Jersey that would boost New Jersey's second-lowest in the nation gas tax, 14.5 cents per gallon, to 37.5 cents. According to lawmakers, that will fund a 10-year, $20 billion Transportation Trust Fund.
So we get boned up the gas tank in exchange for what? Crumbs?
I think I'll curb my enthusiasm.
The latest, bicameral offering phases out the estate tax, raising the threshold from $675,000 to $2 million on Jan. 1, to $5.4 million in 2018, and eliminating it entirely in 2020.
Lawmakers have said they expect the estate tax cut will be transformational for New Jersey, which has the lowest threshold in the U.S. It was also considered key for recruiting Republican support for the gas tax hike.
The deal will raise the Earned Income Tax Credit to 40 percent of the federal credit and increase fivefold the amount of retirement and pension income excluded from gross income taxes.
A tax deduction once included in the Senate bill is making a comeback. It will allow New Jerseyans making up to $100,000 to deduct up to $500 of their gas tax costs. And there's a brand new $3,000 personal exemption for honorably discharged veterans.
Their estate tax phaseout won't survive the next gubernatorial election, for the same reasons the sales tax cut was never going to be enacted. Any "Republican" whose vote is swayed by this charade is an idiot.
Raising the EITC is just more wealth redistribution, ie payments to poor inner-city Democrats to ensure their votes don't wander off in search of Donald Trump in November. Ditto for that handout to the AARP set.
And then in what's gotta be the biggest insult of all, they're flat out declaring that anyone earning more than $100K a year is rich and underserving of any tax cut at all. In other words, typical Democratic Party class warfare.
The only real cut in the list is the $3,000 personal exemption for veterans, and that's probably only in there because Prieto and Sweeney don't actually know any vets, and so they're thinking hardly anyone in the state will take them up on the offer.
No thanks fellas. Your plan stinks.
Cut spending. Use that to finance your transportation boondoggles. But then, as Glenn Reynolds is fond of saying, that would provide you guys with insufficient opportunities for graft.
UPDATE 22 Jul 2016 15:46:
Well, this is awkward.
Apparently this "deal" wasn't run by Chris Christie before being announced by Sweeney and Prieto.
Brian T. Murray, Governor Chris Christie's spokesman, told MMM in an email that Christie has not seen the Transportation Trust Fund legislation that Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto announced today.
It's a scene that's played out 6 times already. But that didn't stop Loretta Weinberg and her harridan caucus from again passing a budget bill that includes $7.5 million taxpayer dollars earmarked for the charnal houses of Planned Parenthood.
And with a stroke of his veto pen, Chris Christie nixed it for the 7th straight year.
Gov. Chris Christie rejected legislation Thursday [...] that would have restored $7.5 million in grants for women's clinics which he eliminated when he first took office in 2010.
In veto statements released just before 10 p.m. — two hours before the start of the new fiscal year — the governor said his actions "protected taxpayers" from the "irresponsible" spending by the Democrats who control the Legislature.
"Unfortunately, the Legislature has continued its annual ritual of attempting to pass additional unbudgeted spending for selected interests," according to Christie's veto statement.
The vetoes did not come as a surprise. This is the seventh time the governor rebuffed efforts to restore the $7.5 million that had been shared by more than 50 clinics providing health screenings, birth control and other heath services.
"Birth control" is of course their euphemism for abortion. Planned Parenthood is in the infanticide business. Period. All that other stuff is ancilliary, and ephemeral. Baby parts are profitable; condoms, not so much.
According to their audited financial statement, Planned Parenthood took in more than $230 million dollars last year. And they've got $284 million in net assets behind that. So they're not exactly poverty stricken. They don't need New Jersey's $7.5 million.
Or to put it another way, PP could easily cover that $7.5 million and restore those supposedly "vital" health services. That is, if they actually wanted to help women rather than play politics.
But politics it is, because to a virtue-signalling liberal the appearance of
"doing something" is always better than actually getting something done. So
we'll see you again next year Loretta. And you'll go 0 for 8.
Enjoy your Fourth of July weekend New Jersey. The impending 23 cent gas tax hike, scheduled to go into effect at midnight, is (temporarily) dead.
It's not for lack of trying. And it's not because State Senate Democrats have suddenly seen the light in our already overtaxed state.
Nope. It's because Steve Sweeney wants the tax hit to be bigger. Christie's fake sales tax cut has gotta go! To be replaced with, well, the Democrats are still working that out.
New Jersey's elected leaders failed to reach a compromise Thursday to fix the state's transportation funding crisis, Democratic leaders of the state Senate said Thursday afternoon.
The announcement that there would be no Senate vote came as a surprise to legions of lawmakers and lobbyists in Trenton, most of whom have spent the last two months warning that construction projects on the state's roads, bridges and rail lines will close at midnight if no funding fix is found. But leaders in the Senate said Thursday that there is enough money to carry the fund through July.
Asked whether the Assembly and Senate are close to agreement on funding the Transportation Trust Fund, Sweeney said simply, "No."
So the fund that was running on fumes suddenly has an extra month of life. It's a miracle!
"We're going to go talk to the Assembly because we don't feel there's enough support in the Senate to do the Assembly bill. So we have to go to the Assembly with what we feel is a bill that could pass," Sweeney, D-Gloucester, told reporters. "It's a negotiation, and we're going to try to negotiate with the Assembly when we leave here. But we're not going to take any action on either bill today."
The only part the 2 sides agree on is the immediate 23 cent hike in the gas tax.
Christie and the Assembly say they'll offset that with a one percent sales tax cut sometime after 2018.
Senate Democrats had cobbled together a hodge-podge of estate tax phaseouts, retirement income tax exclusions, and charitable contribution deductions for some "middle class" tax filers to maybe appease enough fence-sitters into backing the gas tax increase. Christie called that plan "unfair," which is how he came to be siding with the Assembly's proposal.
Meanwhile the Transportation Trust Fund is $30 billion in debt and every dime currently dedicated toward it now goes to interest payments, leaving nothing to pay for actual transportaton projects. Hence the zeal to more than double the gas tax.
And of course all of this plays out against the backdrop of Sweeney's 2017 gubernatorial ambitions. Which of course might get detoured if he's seen as the mastermind of a whopping gas tax hike.
Happy, uh, Independence Day.
Hanging around with Donald Trump seems to have given Chris Christie the idea that he's capable of cutting yuge deals. Except his idea of a deal is actually a complete sellout to the Democrats.
The state Assembly hastily approved a plan after midnight Tuesday to cut the sales tax by a penny in exchange for raising the gas tax by 23 cents a gallon to rescue the near-broke Transportation Trust Fund.
Most members of the Assembly began the day Monday expecting to vote on a bill that would raise the gas tax and soften the blow by abolishing the estate tax, granting a greater exemption for retirement income, increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit for low-income workers and creating a tax deduction for charitable giving.
But by late Monday, that bipartisan plan gave way to an alternative proposal that preserved only the gas tax and income tax cut for retirement income, and that for the first time included a cut to the sales tax from 7 percent to 6 percent by 2018.
Raise the gas tax now. Maybe cut the sales tax later. No estate tax cut. No income tax cut. Nothing upfront except Tax and Spend. It's such a great deal they had to sneak it through in the dark of night.
The deal was hashed out between Gov. Chris Christie, Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson) and Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-Union), who shuffled in and out of the governor's office from afternoon into the late night.
At 12:30 a.m. Tuesday, Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen) asked Prieto to post the Transportation Trust Fund bills for vote by emergency resolution. Within 14 minutes, the Assembly passed the governor's funding plan.
Fourteen minutes! That's gotta be some kind of World Record for deliberative scrutiny. Obviously no one actually read the bill, or bothered to care what the public might have to say about it. Too late peasants! It's a done deal, so bend over and take it like a man.
The whole thing is a sham. By 2018 Christie will be a memory in Trenton. And dollars to donuts whatever Democrat succeeds him will find enough budget "emergencies" to ensure this sales tax cut never sees the light of day.
But that didn't stop Governor Sellout from doing his Happy Dance.
In an impromptu press conference minutes before the vote, Christie took credit for the revised proposal. Prieto emerged from the governor's counsel's office across the hall minutes later and embraced the governor.
"Who said that we don't get along?" said the speaker, who had been Christie's bitter adversary over a plan to bail out Atlantic City last month.
"While you guys are in there working, I'm the entertainment out here," Christie added. Prieto and Christie exchanged a ceremonial handshake and the governor did what could only be described as a celebratory dance.
Screwing the public is bipartisan fun!
Prieto and his unionista buddies are salivating at getting their mitts on that projected $2 billion annual boost to the Transportation Slush Fund.
They say it'll be used to fix our crumbling roads and bridges. And at an average cost of $2 million per mile there'll be plenty of opportunity for sticky fingers to latch onto some loose cash. Especially when some projects top out at a whopping $27.3 million per mile. Go ahead, tell me that one wasn't padded by the usual assortment of shady characters.
Then again, a lot of it will probably be earmarked for utopian socialist boondoggles like light rail, bike lanes, and the urban planners' perennial favorite — Transit Villages, which they'll sell on the idea of, wait for it, cars being too expensive to operate.
And then like I said, any hope of a future sales tax cut will fade into oblivion when the Democrats decide to use that money to bail out the public employee pension fund.
For a guy who entered office on the promise of shaking up the Trenton
establishment, Chris Christie has now cemented his stature as the epitome
of Business As Usual. Thanks governor. Thanks a lot.
And, Chris Christie sells us out once again. Or folds like cheap suit. Take your pick.
NJ Democrats want to raise our state's gas tax by a whopping 23 cents a gallon to pay for more transportation boondoggles like Camden's light rail to nowhere and a new rail tunnel for people who work in Manhattan. Er, "to fix our crumbling roads and bridges," at the low, low price of $27.3 million dollars per mile. Or, so I'm told.
In exchange, they're going to "phase out" the Estate Tax. In theory, anyway.
And today Chris Christie signaled he's OK with that plan, if the tax-and-spend party pinky-swears they'll phase out the estate tax "faster."
State lawmakers have "got work to do" on a pair of transportation funding plans if they expect approval by Governor Christie, he said Monday.
Having spent the weekend reviewing the proposals, Christie determined there is "not nearly enough" of what he calls tax fairness — reductions in exchange for an increase in the gasoline tax. Both legislative plans call for increases of up to 23 cents per gallon likely to be passed on to motorists.
"Tax fairness!" Because tacking 23 cents a gallon onto the price of gas is "fair!"
Oh, but, we're going to get rid of one of our dueling death taxes. Maybe.
Both plans propose raising $2 billion a year for the Transportation Trust Fund over the next 10 years. A critical component to achieve tax fairness, Christie said, is the elimination of the estate tax, one of the two so-called "death taxes" that many critics say make New Jersey uncompetitive with other states and unpopular for retirees. But the legislative proposals would phase out the estate tax over four years. Christie wants it eliminated by the time he leaves office in two years because, he said, "I don't trust them."
Yeah, well, we don't trust you either Chief.
And we certainly don't trust your bureaucratic brain trust to wisely spend that new $2 billion in annual revenue you're squeezing out of us. Because their track record stinks. Where else but New Jersey could you find a 3½ mile roadway reconstruction project costing north of one billion dollars? I must be the only guy in the state whose palm isn't getting greased on that one…
If I've said it once, I've said it a hundred times. We don't have a revenue problem, we have spending problem. And Chris Christie's "solution" is to look the other way.
Thanks governor. Thanks a lot.
Verizon's unionized workers voluntarily walked off the job, to demand higher pay and more lavish benefits. Now they're earning zero, and crying poverty. So naturally New Jersey Democrats want to bail them out with our tax dollars.
Striking workers could be eligible to collect unemployment benefits in New Jersey under a bill approved by the state Senate Labor Committee on Monday.
The bill is aimed at assisting Verizon workers who've been on strike for a month, but would change the rules for receiving unemployment insurance for all during labor disputes.
The committee approved the bill (S2160) 3-1.
I wanna shake the hand of the person who voted "no."
"This legislation we obviously think is important for the thousands of workers who have really almost (been) forced to be off the job, walked off their job, because of the contract dispute and the way in which Verizon has negotiated this contract and what Verizon has asked their employees to do in order to maintain their employment," state Sen. Joe Vitale (D-Middlesex), who sponsored the bill along with state Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester).
Um, OK. Except Verizon didn't lock them out. They could be working right now, earning a paycheck, which as it happens, is already bigger than current telecom industry norms.
The unionistas voluntarily walked off the job.
Actions have consequences. And one consequence of walking off the job is that you no longer get paid.
Nicholas Sheola, a chief steward for CWA Local 1000, said that while CWA has a strike relief fund that pays out about $300 a week, IBEW members don't have the same benefit. To get by, he said, they're borrowing money from family and friends or "they're robbing Peter to pay Paul."
The IBEW doesn't have a strike fund?
Don't their members pay union dues? Where does that money go?
Oh, right, it goes toward campaign contributions to Democrats.
Which, of course, is why the Democrats are so eager to pander to them with our money.
"We don't know when we're going back to work. It's a big hit," he said. "A lot of us have families. We don't have medical anymore, so we may have to pay for Cobra or something like that. So another source of income would be good to have."
Yo, Chief, I know when you can go back to work.
Show up. Do your job. And amazingly Verizon will pay you!
But that's harder than taking a taxpayer-funded vacation, so it's obviously a non-starter with you wannabe socialists.
Fortunately Governor Chris Christie is almost certain to veto this insanity.
So it's merely grandstanding by bought-and-paid-for Democrats for their
gullible unionista donors. Vote Democrat, it's easier than showing up for
One of the few good things to come out of Chris Christie's quixotic quest for the presidency was his embrace of the Second Amendment. Earlier this month he issued an Executive Order relaxing gun permit and transport regulations. Because, when seconds count, the police are only minutes away. And New Jersey issues fewer than 500 carry permits annually, mostly to retired law enforcement officers. Which didn't help domestic violence victim Carol Bowne, whose application for a firearms permit was held up by red tape, allowing her stalker ex-boyfriend to murder her in cold blood in her own driveway.
Well, as much as it sounds incongruous, State Senator Loretta Weinberg is OK with Bowne's murder. How else to explain her opposition to Christie's attempt to make it easier for women like Carol Bowne to legally carry a gun?
Top Democratic leaders in the state Legislature said Monday they are acting to block Gov. Chris Christie's effort to issue gun permits to anyone in New Jersey who can prove a "serious threat" against their life, saying the move oversteps state gun control laws.
Speaking at the Statehouse, state Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen) assailed the newly relaxed regulations as expanding "the scope of the right-to-carry well beyond what is authorized under current law."
"To put it simply, if these regulations were adopted, it would allow every cab driver, pizza delivery driver, Uber driver and anyone else living or working in a high-crime neighborhood to qualify for a firearm permit," Weinberg said.
Woah. Loretta Weinberg only wants the criminals to have guns!
Hmm. The very definition of a "high-crime neighborhood" is where the bad guys have the upper hand. Meaning, they have guns, and we don't.
Seems to me that leveling the playing field ought to cut down on crime. And cutting down on crime is good, right?
Nope. Loretta Weinberg and the NJ Democrats would prefer that law-abiding NJ residents remain victims instead of standing up for our rights.
Because victims vote Democrat. Especially when they're dead.
Remember when the state Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) was investigating Essex County Executive For Life Joe DiVincenzo's blatant misuse of campaign funds?
And remember how that investigation suddenly ground to a screeching halt, which of course the media spun as a "victory" for Joe D?
Wanna know who swept the mess under the rug?
Walter Timpone, the Democrat
Steve Sweeney Chris Christie
just nominated to sit on our state supreme court.
Surprise, surprise, surprise!
The long and the short of it is this. Earlier in his career, Timpone reached out to Joe D for a favor, because his nephew needed a job. Joe D found the kid a spot, as a field representative in the Essex County Citizen Service Office at $45,000 a year.
Fast forward a dozen years, and Timpone is the lone Democrat on ELEC when Joe D's alleged misuse of campaign funds comes to light. Rather than move the investigation forward, Timpone recused himself, citing that favor Joe D did for his nephew.
State law says ELEC must have at least one member from each party, so no Timpone, no investigation. Which works out nicely for Joe D, seeing as how he and Timpone are both good friends with Chris Christie.
Now you may ask yourself, why are there only 2 people sitting on ELEC, one Democrat and one Republican, when there should be 4?
Ah, you can thank Chris Christie and Steve Sweeney for that one. Christie didn't appoint a second Democrat to the commission after the previous guy died in 2011. In retaliation, Sweeney is blocking Christie's second Republican nominee, which Christie then cites as his reason for not appointing a second Democrat.
Yeah, the whole thing stinks to high heaven. Because a cynical guy like me might see Timpone's nomination as a thank-you for him helping Joe D. And a cynical guy might further notice that once Timpone is confirmed, ELEC will be effectively defanged, right before a presidential election this year, and a gubernatorial election next year in which Sweeney hopes to prevail. Not to mention that whole Bridgegate thing…
Welcome to New Jersey. Please hold your nose.
Steve Sweeney is now officially the governor of New Jersey. In deed, if not in name.
And Chris Christie is exposed as the feckless, unprincipled hack his detractors told us he was.
Christie's six-year charade to "remake" New Jersey's activist Supreme Court ended with a whimper yesterday as he surrendered to Sweeney's demand that only a liberal democrat can be nominated to fill the court's last vacancy.
Gov. Chris Christie nominated a New Jersey Democrat to the state's Supreme Court on Monday, effectively ending his years-long battle to reshape the composition of the bench.
The GOP governor, flanked by state Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester), nominated former assistant U.S. Attorney Walter Timpone to fill a vacancy during a Statehouse news conference.
The surprise announcement came about a month after Christie said he would re-nominate a veteran Republican Monmouth County judge, David Bauman, he unsuccessfully pushed for the bench nearly four years ago. At the time, he vowed "ramifications" for Democrats who blocked his appointment.
But Christie, who called Bauman an "extraordinary individual," gave his nod to Timpone after it became clear the Democratic-controlled Senate would only approve a fellow Democrat.
"Ramifications?" Yeah, that's Christie-speak for "capitulation."
"I wanted to get something done. People of this state give us these jobs expecting us to get stuff done," Christie said.
Ye gads, what utter hogwash. We expected you to "get done" the stuff you promised you'd get done. Like reining in judicial activism, not ensconcing it. Like standing up to bullies instead of getting rolled. We expected you'd have principles. We expected you go be made of sterner stuff.
And you sold us out.
No wonder you're backing Democrat-turned-Republican-of-convenience Donald Trump for president. He's the only guy with fewer scruples than you.
Wait, I take that back. You and Trump are two peas in a pod.
Thanks for leaving New Jersey worse off than when you started.
It cost $34 million dollars to build. It was a white elephant before it ever opened. But at long last, Essex County is out of the baseball stadium business. And I suppose we should be grateful that County Executive For Life Joe DiVincenzo managed to only lose $11 million dollars on the deal.
Newark Bears and Eagles Riverfront Stadium has a new owner.
On Monday, city and Essex County officials announced that an agreement has been reached between the City of Newark, Essex County and the Essex County Improvement Authority to sell the Bears and Eagles Riverfront Stadium at 450 Broad Street to Lotus Equity Group for $23.5 million.
The sale includes the stadium and more than 7.5 acres of land, according to a news release.
Lotus plans to build a mixed-use high rise tower in its place, NJ.com reported.
Of course Joe D is patting himself on the back.
"We are very excited about the future development of the Broad Street site where the Bears and Eagles Stadium currently is located," said Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo Jr. "This dynamic project will contribute immensely to the economic revitalization of Essex County and Newark, and serve as a catalyst and anchor in the northern section of the city's downtown."
Gee, that's almost exactly what he said when he built this boondoggle back in 1999.
What makes anyone here think he'll be less wrong today?
I predict that within 10 years a place where you might once have heard the
crack of a bat will be a place where you can score some crack. Because Newark
is where dreams, and tax dollars, go to die.
Joe DiVincenzo will tell us he must raise taxes, to provide critically needed county services like housing.
On Sunday, Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo Jr. announced that two giraffes from Florida — Lincoln and Milo — arrived at Turtle Back Zoo in West Orange.
In July, Essex County officials announced plans to construct a $7 million giraffe exhibit, tentatively slated to open this spring.
The 200 by 100 foot exhibit area will feature a climate-controlled barn, three-acres of land designed to mimic the African Savannah and multiple public viewing areas, county officials previously stated.
Closed circuit cameras will also be installed in the barn so the giraffes can be viewed on a video screen in the Zoo Cafe.
Because giraffes come before the homeless. And the hungry. And the unemployed.
Unless all our other problems are already solved and nobody bothered to tell me.
Which could be the case.
But somehow I doubt it.
Members of the freeholder board said they will be reviewing the budget over the next month. Newly elected board president Britnee Timberlake said she hopes to focus on "everything dealing with social services" in the budget. "We need to service all people (in the county). I feel that the county is lacking in areas…to provide social services in the most effective way possible."
"We are not where we want to be yet," DiVincenzo said, pointing out that the county has high foreclosure and unemployment rates, and a high percentage of its population seeking government assistance.
Ah, but now we have giraffes.
Maybe the giraffes will eat cake.
When DC Republicans tell President Obama they won't hold hearings or vote on anyone he nominates to replace Antonin Scalia, that's obstructionism, and Democrats cry foul.
But, when NJ Democrats tell Governor Christie (for the sixth year in a row) they won't hold hearings or vote on his nominee to fill a vacant state Supreme Court seat, that "preserves judicial independence."
Governor Christie's pick to fill a longstanding vacancy on the state Supreme Court will not be considered by the Senate, whose job it is to approve judicial nominees, its leader said Tuesday morning.
The nominee, David F. Bauman, was put forth by Christie on Monday in a State House news conference in which he urged a quick hearing to "stop this six-year roadblock on filling this seat."
But Senate President Stephen Sweeney, who was out of state Monday, rejected the idea.
"This nominee will not have a hearing and the only way I will consider a Christie nominee is if the governor preserves judicial independence by submitting a Democrat for the Court," said Sweeney, who controls the Senate calendar and agenda.
Because only Democrats preserve judicial independence; Republicans are ideologues who hate puppies, babies, and apple pie. Or so Sweeney would have us believe.
The reality is that Democrats have politicized the judiciary in this state, demanding continuation of blatantly activist rulings that align with their progressive political ideals. They don't want an independent state Supreme Court, they want a court that always rules in their favor. They lack the votes to override Christie's vetoes so they need to push their agenda via judicial activism.
And that means blocking nominees who rely on the rule of law rather than the shibboleths of social justice.
So spare me the sanctimony of Washington Democrats. I find it funny that Obama is meeting with Mitch McConnell and Chuck Grassley this morning, just to whine about how they're "disrespecting" him, or something. And as if his team didn't make the rules in the first place.
If he really wants to break the logjam, Obama should haul Cory Booker and Bob Menendez and the lefty members of our state's House delegation into the Oval Office and tell them to get Steve Sweeney off the stick pronto. Then maybe his hypocrisy won't be so obvious.
Yeah, OK, you can stop laughing, because I'm not holding my breath either.
Memo to NJ public employee unions: You can't get blood from a stone.
The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to intervene in the multi-billion dollar pension dispute between Gov. Chris Christie and government worker unions.
The justices denied the unions' petition for review, leaving in place a June New Jersey Supreme Court ruling that said Christie didn't have to make scheduled pension payments into the declining public pension system.
The petition had asked the U.S. Supreme Court to apply federal contract protections to an agreement between the state and public employees that the state Supreme Court declared "unenforceable" in June.
Unions argued the agreement ostensibly created a contract entitling them to pension contributions, while the administration said that arrangement violated certain state constitutional principles dictating how the state appropriates money and accumulates debt.
The U.S. Supreme Court was the unions' last hope in trying to enforce the agreement.
Promises that can't be kept won't be kept.
And not to put too fine a point on it, but NJ is broke. We don't have the $55 billion the unionistas want. We're never gonna have the $55 billion either.
Oh, but we had it, once, they'll tell us! Give it back!
Sorry, it's gone. Spent. Borrowed. Lost on crummy investments. Or a combination of all 3. A parade of governors and legislatures, Democrat and Republican alike, repeatedly raided and / or failed to fund the pension system.
And the unions went along, for the most part, because they were promised even bigger payouts in "the future." Those payouts weren't funded, but hey, they were promises and we all know that politicians always keep their promises, right?
So now Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Ironworkers Union) wants to enshrine the pension payment into our state constitution. Ahead of everything else like schools and hospitals and police and snow plowing. Because what's important is protecting public workers' cushy retirement packages.
Unless you're a taxpayer, of course.
He'll probably get his wish. The legislature is overwhelmingly Democrat. And the Democrats believe in government of the unions, by the unions, and for the unions. The folks who pay the bills don't get a vote. At least until basic services stop being provided while unionista retirees live high on the hog.
Then the pitchforks are gonna come out...
I spent most of today in Trenton, because my daughter won an award for Catholic Schools Week and it was presented to her at the State House by a member of Governor Christie's staff. Yes, it was pretty cool.
But that's not why I'm writing this post.
As part of the festivities we were given a tour of the State House. While seated in the Senate chamber, the tour guide pointed out the beautiful paintings of Liberty and Prosperity adorning the window alcoves. And she took particular note of one which showed Lady Liberty holding a musket, saying it represented our state's role in fighting for freedom during the Revolutionary War.
That's Lady Liberty in red, and she is indeed holding a gun.
She's also perched directly above the Senate President's desk. The desk at which Steve Sweeney sits as he works tirelessly to eradicate the Second Amendment rights of New Jersey's citizens.
And who said irony is dead?
Maybe instead of looking down at the latest polls Senator Sweeney (and his evil henchwoman Loretta Weinberg) should look up. Because then he'll see Lady Liberty reminding him that Prosperity is nothing without the right to protect our basic freedoms.
If Sweeney and the Democrats had had their way in 1776, we'd still be a colony of Great Britain. Because muskets would have been as scarce back then as respect for Liberty seems to be now.
The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.
I think I'll suggest they mention that on the tour.
The mere act of running for president makes Chris Christie more conservative. It won't last, but I'll take what I can get.
So, on the last day of the legislative session, he pocket-vetoed a bunch of Democrat-sponsored impositions on our liberty.
First to go down — "Smart" Guns.
Gov. Chris Christie on Tuesday quashed a Democrat-backed roll back of a personalized handgun law the sponsor hoped would shake loose investment in smart gun technology.
The pocket veto, in which governors can allow legislation to die if it was passed at the end of the two-year session, was offered without commentary. The Legislature does not have an opportunity to override pocket vetoes.
Loretta Weinberg has The Sads. She desperately wants everyone, except her security detail of course, to use these inaptly named "smart guns." The technology is unproven, unreliable, and unavailable. But that doesn't stop her from demanding that the gun control fairies deliver one to every gun shop in New Jersey.
Not today Loretta.
Next he nixed mandatory recess for elementary school kids.
Most (almost all?) kids get recess already. For the few that don't, the decision should be made at the local level, not mandated by Trenton busybodies. If parents want their kids to have recess, the parents can exert pressure on the principal, or the school board.
And in his 3rd blow to the overarching Nanny State, Christie vetoed a bill that would have raised the smoking age from 19 to 21.
Amazingly, NJ Republicans sponsored this bill. Because you're old enough to vote, and old enough to die for their right to be wrong, but you're not old enough to buy beer or cigarettes. C'mon already; lower the drinking age and the smoking age back to 18. Treat adults like adults.
Finally, it's not a veto per se, but in a move that'll certainly help him impress my teenage daughter and her friends, Christie took a swipe at Michelle Obama's meddlesome school lunch requirements.
Siding with a boy who bemoaned the absence of "square pizza" and other favorite lunch foods since Michelle Obama became first lady, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said at an Iowa pancake house Monday that if he becomes president, students will eat "whatevever you want."
"The first lady has no business being involved in this," Christie said during a town-hall meeting at the Village Inn in Council Bluffs. "This intervention into our school system is just another example of how the Obamas believe they have a better answer for everything than you do."
Parents should decide what their children eat, Christie said. "I want people to eat more healthy - I've been trying to eat more healthy - but in the end it's your choice," he said.
Christie was responding to a boy who asked what he was "going to do about the lunches," declaring that "now that Mrs. Obama's the first lady, they've gone down." Michelle Obama had backed new nutrition standards for the federal school lunch program.
"I don't care what you're eating for lunch every day, I really don't," Christie said. "If I'm president, back to whatever you want to eat, OK?"
Because, really, it isn't the government's job to micromanage your life.
Because nothing says "freedom" quite like a mandatory retirement contribution automatically deducted from your paycheck, and invested by the same bozos who can't keep the public employee pension system solvent.
The state Senate budget committee has approved a bill creating a retirement program for private-sector workers without employer-sponsored plans.
The bill (S2831) would require companies with at least 25 employees that don't already offer retirement accounts to offer the "Secure Choice" retirement plan. Smaller companies with fewer than 25 employees can opt in.
The Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee on Monday cleared the bill with a 9-3-1 vote Monday. The legislation has already passed the state Assembly.
Like a 401(k), employers would set up a payroll deduction for employees, who automatically contribute 3 percent of their salaries, though they can adjust their contribution or opt out altogether, to an Individual Retirement Account (IRA). Employers do not have to match contributions.
A name that would make Orwell proud — Secure "Choice" — for a plan that is mandatory.
Thanks John Roberts. Now that the government can force us at gunpoint to buy health insurance, mandating a retirement savings plan is the next logical step for the perpetual nanny state. Why let people decide what's best for themselves when there are omnipotent bureaucrats ready to do our thinking for us?
The program, which would take effect within two years of its passage, would be administered by a seven-member board of officials from the governor's administration and appointees by the Senate president and Assembly speaker. Total investment and administrative fees could not exceed 0.6 percent of the fund balance, under the bill.
Anybody wanna lay odds on George Norcross being appointed by our esteemed Senate president?
Hello slush fund!
Although the fund would be state-administered, the money would not be guaranteed by the state. There would be no state contribution or employee match.
"The state shall have no duty to any party for the payment of any retirement savings benefits accrued by any individual under the program," according to the bill.
Translation? We're going to "invest" your money, and if we lose it all, tough.
The cynic in me says it's a backdoor way to funnel cash into the depleted public worker pension system. Steve Sweeney is desperate to make his unionista buddies whole and the allure of a 3% tax on every working resident seems too good to pass up.
All we'll need to seal the deal is Vinny Prieto saying, "If you like your 401(k) you can keep your 401(k)."
Because really, what employer is going to stick with the hassle of administering his own 401(k) plan when the state will do it for him? Fill out a form, check a box, and presto!, it's somebody else's problem. They'll be lining up to dump their employees into this thing.
Then as the cash rolls in, our bureaucratic betters will be sorely tempted to tap it for the "benefit" of all. And what recourse would we have when it gets sunk into Transportation Trust Fund bonds earmarked for light rail and a new Hudson River tunnel?
That's right, none. All your retirement money are belong to Steve
Sweeney. What could go wrong?
The farther they look ahead, the more bleak they think things will be.
The New Jersey Business & Industry Association's annual business outlook survey found about half of respondents anticipate increasing sales and profits in 2016. But more than 60 percent of respondents said they would not open another location in New Jersey if they were planning on expanding their business and two-thirds of those surveyed said they don't plan on living in New Jersey in retirement.
Michele Siekerka, president and CEO of the New Jersey Business & Industry Association, said the farther into the future the group's members look "the more caution they have and their caution significantly increases."
Well, sure. Short-term, Chris Christie is still governor. He's a putz, but, as the saying goes, he's our putz. Once one of The Steves takes over in Drumthwacket, it'll be All Tax And Regulate All The Time. And business will be Public Enemy #1 in Trenton.
Respondents named health benefit costs, the overall cost of doing business and property taxes as the main challenges for New Jersey businesses, according to the survey.
Can you imagine Steve Sweeney or Steve Fulop doing anything about any of those 3 things? Yeah, me neither.
Take Health benefits. Steve Fulop is the guy pushing mandatory sick time, which of course increases health benefit costs. What about property taxes? Steve Sweeney is the guy looking to pad the pension funds with ever higher municipal contributions, that will come directly out of our pockets. And as for the cost of doing business, both of 'em are on record proclaiming that business taxes are "too low."
So who are those 40% who aren't seeing the writing on the wall?
Probably lobbyists! (<Insert sarcasm emoticon here>)
Because unless by some miracle the NJ GOP gets its shit together and manages to put up a candidate who can capitalize on Chris Christie's electoral legacy, the "makers" in our fair state are in for a bumpy ride come January 2018. The "takers" are lining up, and they've got us in their sights.
There's only one thing left to do. Get out while the getting is good.
Second only to New York, the Garden State's tax burden almost reigns supreme.
New Jerseyans already know it to be true, but a Forbes analysis of state-by-state tax burdens places the Garden State near the top of its "Worst States for Taxes" list.
New Jersey lands in second place, behind New York, in the comparison of state and local taxes.
Connecticut, California, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Maryland, Rhode Island, Vermont and Pennsylvania round out the top 10, according to the Forbes report.
Notice anything remarkable about that Top Ten list?
Yup, they're "blue" states. Run by progressive Democrats. Imagine that!
The analysis compares local taxes and the effective tax rate for single people with $50,000 in reportable income, a figure Forbes said it based on the $53,046 median U.S. Household income from 2009 to 2013.
In New Jersey, which has one of the most progressive tax structures in the country, that income tax rate is 2.54 percent, which Forbes combined with local taxes to establish a 12.3 percent state and local tax burden.
So, how do we do it?
Crushing property taxes! We are the 0.2 percent!!!
While the report doesn't specify which local taxes are included (some states have local income taxes or local sales taxes), presumably New Jersey's steep property taxes had a hand in the state's ranking. Last year, the average property tax bill here was $8,161, while nationally only 0.2 percent of U.S. homeowners paid more than $8,000.
C'mon NJ Democrats, you know you want us to be Number 1. Raise that gas tax! We can't let New York have all the fun, can we?
Oh, and if anyone wants to know why Chris Christie's presidential campaign is
languishing in the doldrums, well this, this is why. Remember when he promised
to "do something" about NJ's onerous tax burden? Yeah, me neither.