Category: Clips

Food Fighting Fatigued Bramnick Wants to Force Trenton Leaders to Talk to One Another

Source: PolitickerNJ – If it feels a little like a sandbox in Trenton with communication consisting of sand getting kicked and thrown in fistfuls amid more lower primate howling than talking, Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-21) wants to activate mandatory high chairs, position them in a uniformly forward-facing position, and require collective engagement of that ever elusive mode of interaction called human speech.

Jon Bramnick

Tired of toxic food fighting at the state capitol and the segmented relationship between Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) and Governor Chris Christie on one side and Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-32) on the other, with himself presumably left to wander the halls in no man’s land, Bramnick wants to nudge people together with a bill that would require state leaders to meet every three months at a “board of directors” type meeting.

Being drafted right now by the Office of Legislative Services as a reaction to the chill among the top leaders in Trenton over the Atlantic City mess, the bill would force the state’s top dogs into the same close-proximity dog pen.

“The four leaders and governor must meet and discuss the State of the State and report jointly to the public,” Bramnick explained. “The purpose is to require leaders to meet face to face.” The initial part of the meeting would be private and then there would be a portion open to the public.

A longtime champion of more civil interaction in state politics, Bramnick has grown increasingly vexed by what he sees as rule by dueling press conferences, wherein the principals chest thump to make points but no longer interface in a meaningful way.

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Ciattarelli calls for changes to fire regulations after N.J. industrial park fire

Source: NJ Advance Media -

In the aftermath of the massive warehouse fire at Veterans Industrial Park in February, Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli (R-16th) has sent a letter to federal lawmakers asking that they reexamine “sovereign immunity” in an effort to make federal property used for commercial purposes subject to state and local fire regulations.

“Sovereign immunity” is a legal tenet by which the federal government cannot commit a legal wrong and is shielded from civil suit or criminal prosecution.

Ciattarelli, in a letter addressed to U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance (R-7th) dated April 28, wrote that the “sovereign immunity exemption is a contentious issue in the community.” He added that the fire in the four-building warehouse complex “brought to light federal regulations that run counter to state and local fire code regulations.”

The Veterans Industrial Park, located on Route 206, is owned by the Veterans Administration, which leases it to Quadro Realty, which in turn subleases the warehouse space.

Hillsborough fire officials have charged that an outdated sprinkler system and aging fire hydrants on the federally-owned property led to inadequate water pressure for firefighters trying to subdue the blaze that roared through the Hillsborough warehouse complex.

Jack Ciattarelli

“While a federally owned and operated property may be inspected and cited for fire code violations by local officials, it is not subject to enforcement/compliance due to sovereign immunity,” wrote Ciattarelli. “In the case of Veterans Industrial Park, this exemption extends to the private leasing company and commercial enterprise tenants.

“Said another way, no party is required to take corrective action for any violations cited by Hillsborough Fire Marshalls. Just as troubling, while Hillsborough Fire Marshalls are not necessarily required to inspect the federally-owned property, the federal government performs no inspections of its own.”

Hillsborough Chief Fire Marshal Chris Weniger has said that township had voiced its concerns on multiple occasions to Quadro, going back as far as 10 years. He has said if the township had jurisdiction, the sprinkler system and fire hydrants would have met fire code standards. He admitted the Quadro addressed some concerns.

“Regulations that exempt federal property used for governmental purposes from state and local fire codes are arguably bad. Regulations that exempt federal property used for commercial purposes from state and local fire codes are seemingly outrageous,” wrote Ciattarelli. “With this in mind, a change in federal regulations is warranted. Namely, at the very least, when federal property is leased to the private sector for commercial purposes, the lease agreements should state that tenants are subject to state and local fire codes, including complete compliance and citations for non-compliance.”

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Bramnick on ‘richest man’s’ departure: ‘How can you blame him?’

Source: Excerpt from the New York Times -

Our top-heavy economy has come to this: One man can move out of New Jersey and put the entire state budget at risk.

Other states are facing similar situations as a greater share of income — and tax revenue — becomes concentrated in the hands of a few.

Last month, during a routine review of New Jersey’s finances, one could sense the alarm. The state’s wealthiest resident had reportedly “shifted his personal and business domicile to another state,” Frank W. Haines III, New Jersey’s legislative budget and finance officer, told a state Senate committee. If the news were true, New Jersey would lose so much in tax revenue that “we may be facing an unusual degree of income tax forecast risk,” Haines said.

The New Jersey resident (unnamed by Haines) is hedge-fund billionaire David Tepper.

In December, Tepper declared himself a resident of Florida after living for more than 20 years in New Jersey. He later moved the official headquarters of his hedge fund, Appaloosa Management, to Miami. … Florida has no income tax.

New Jersey won’t say exactly how much Tepper paid in taxes. According to Institutional Investor’s Alpha, he earned more than $6 billion from 2012 to 2015. Tax experts say his move to Florida could cost New Jersey — which has a top tax rate of 8.97 percent — hundreds of millions of dollars in lost payments.

Jon Bramnick

“If you’re making hundreds of millions of dollars and you’re paying close to 10 percent to the state of New Jersey, you do the math,” said Jon Bramnick, the Republican leader in the New Jersey Assembly. “You can save millions a year by moving to Florida. How can you blame him?”

Beyond the debate on taxing the rich, Tepper’s move is a case study in how tax collections are affected when income becomes very highly concentrated. With the top tenth of 1 percent of the population reaping the largest income gains, states with the highest tax rates on the rich are growing increasingly dependent on a smaller group of superearners for tax revenue.

In New York, California, Connecticut, Maryland and New Jersey, the top 1 percent pay a third or more of total income taxes. Now a handful of billionaires or even a single individual like Tepper can have a noticeable impact on state revenues and budgets.

California had to account for a “Facebook effect” in 2012 and 2013 after that company’s 2012 initial public offering of stock. The offering generated more than $1 billion in revenue — much of that from the chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, and a small group of company shareholders.

Washington, D.C., had an unexpected $50 million gain in its fiscal 2012 — which helped create a budget surplus — after the death of a local billionaire increased its estate tax receipts.

Some academic research shows high taxes are chasing the rich to lower-tax states, and anecdotes of tax-fleeing billionaires abound. Other studies say there is little evidence showing the rich move solely for tax purposes. Millionaires and billionaires who move from the high-tax states in the Northeast to Florida, for instance, may be drawn by the sunshine, lifestyle and retirement culture, in addition to lower taxes.

Tepper regularly topped state wealth rankings as New Jersey’s richest resident. He also has homes in Miami Beach and the Hamptons. In 2012 and 2013, he also topped Alpha’s list of the highest-earning hedge fund managers, with estimated earnings of $2.2 billion in 2012 and $3.5 billion in 2013. His earnings fell to $400 million in 2014.

Tepper never publicly announced his move to Florida. It became public April 5, when Haines, citing a Bloomberg report, mentioned Tepper’s move in his remarks to the state Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee. In discussing the move, Haines said, “Even a 1 percent forecasting error in the income tax estimate is worth $140 million.”

Tepper’s payments may have even been higher. If Tepper earned $3.5 billion in 2013, his state tax bill could have been more than $300 million, according to New Jersey accountants. Granted, his actual payments were probably far lower because of deferred income, charitable deductions and other accounting treatments. Yet Haines’ comments are believed to be the first time a state official has warned of a budget risk because of one resident’s relocation.

 

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O’Scanlon criticized Democrat plan for constitutional amendment to fund public pensions

Source: Excerpt from the Star-Ledger -

State Senate President Stephen Sweeney defended his proposal to constitutionally mandate billions of dollars in public-sector pension contributions on Friday from a Republican budget officer who argued that without union concessions New Jersey would go bust.

The debate at the Public Employment Conference, hosted by the state bar, was a replay of the debate in the Legislature last session and a telegraph of disagreements to come as the summer deadline for putting constitutional amendments on the ballot approaches.

Support for the amendment, which requires the state to gradually increase its annual payments into the public retirement fund, has fallen on traditional partisan lines. Democrats say the state must pay now or pay more later, while Republicans’ opposition is rooted in protecting taxpayers from severe spending cuts or tax hikes if the state economy is too sluggish to generate the cash to make the payments.

Declan O'Scanlon

State Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon (R-Monmouth) argued Friday that the state will lose its leverage to negotiate benefits cuts if it gives away the constitutional amendment first.

The assemblyman said he believes New Jersey has a “moral obligation” to keep its retirement promises but that reforms are crucial.

“I favor a constitutional amendment to force us to make pension payments,” O’Scanlon said. “It’s just I don’t favor this one, and I don’t favor doing it without making sure we do it in conjunction with reforms that are absolutely essential, unless we want to face insolvency within a few years in New Jersey.”

His position reflects that in a proposal from Christie’s special pension commission, which suggested offering public employees the constitutional guarantee in exchange for an overhaul of pension and health benefits that would save the state and local governments billions of dollars.

O’Scanlon said the savings will never materialize if the amendment isn’t directly tied to reforms.

Democrats have enough votes to put the question on the November ballot without any Republican support. The Democratic-controlled Legislature needs only to approve the measure with a simple majority in back-to-back sessions.

The state and local unfunded liabilities reached $59 billion.

The constitutional amendment would create a guarantee public workers thought they had secured under a 2011 pension reform law that committed the state to incrementally paying more over seven years until it was making the full contribution recommended by actuaries. But Christie went back on that promise when the state ran into revenue problems, and the state Supreme Court ruled in June that he didn’t have to make the payments.

If the fund becomes insolvent, the state will have to come up with $8 billion out of pocket each year, he said. Under the proposed constitutional amendment, the annual payments will max out at about $5 billion and level off for a handful of years before dropping.

Sweeney said the state will pay for the rising bill with its natural revenue growth.

Christie’s proposed budget for the fiscal year that begins in July includes $1.9 billion for pensions.

While Sweeney said the amendment doesn’t prevent the state from making benefit cuts and that the unions were already burned once and need a show of good faith, O’Scanlon was more than a little skeptical.

“(Sweeney) may be an honorable man and intend to do that, but let me tell you, when you get the Legislature collectively together, occasionally we’re spineless,” he told the crowd. “If you’re going to try to get those reforms done after you’ve done the constitutional amendment guaranteeing the payments, I know several unions … will declare victory and will pound members of the Legislature into not coming back to the table to demand reforms. It simply will not happen unless you do the two things together.”

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Hillslborough Warehouse Fire Prompts Ciattarelli Call for Review of Sovereign Immunity

Source: Tap Into Hillsborough -

Jack Ciattarelli

The February warehouse fire in Hillsborough at Veterans Industrial Park has promoted Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli to ask federal lawmakers to revisit “sovereign immunity” so that federal property used for commercial purposes is subject to local fire regulations.

Sovereign immunity is a legal doctrine by which the federal government cannot commit a legal wrong and is immune from civil suit or criminal prosecution.

Ciattarelli’s request is in response to the fire at the Route 206 complex that is owned by the Veterans Administration (VA). The VA leases the property to a private company that subleases warehouse space to various commercial enterprises.

Although the federally owned and operated property may be inspected and cited for fire code violations by local officials, those local fire codes cannot be enforced due to sovereign immunity.

In a letter to U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker and U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance, Ciattarelli (R-Somerset), wrote:

“The sovereign immunity exemption is a contentious issue in the community. Reason being, it is the municipality and its emergency management service agencies that are responsible for the public health and safety in responding to any dangerous event.”

The letter continues:

“Regulations that exempt federal property used for governmental purposes from state and local fire codes are arguably bad. Regulations that exempt federal property used for commercial purposes from state and local fire codes are seemingly outrageous.

“With this in mind, a change in federal regulations is warranted. Namely, at the very least, when federal property is leased to the private sector for commercial purposes, the lease agreements should state that tenants are subject to state and local fire codes, including complete compliance and citations for non-compliance.”

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Webber sponsors annual NJ Reagan Day event

Source: NorthJersey.com – In the Republican Party’s annual fond and formal remembrance of President Reagan, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld praised Reagan’s leadership and criticized what he said was President Obama’s lack thereof before more than 700 people at Westmount Country Club on Wednesday evening.

“Don’t blame me for the leadership vacuum,” he said. “I didn’t vote for President Obama.”

Jay Webber

The fundraiser — tickets were about $50 per person — celebrated New Jersey Reagan Day, an annual tribute since 2004, and featured videos of the former president, memorabilia from his presidency arrayed on tables in the lobby and a recollections from Rumsfeld, who served as special envoy to the Middle East under Reagan…

New Jersey Reagan Day is organized by Assemblyman Jay Webber, a Morris County Republican, and sponsored by the Young America’s Foundation, a conservative youth organization. Webber said Reagan was “the president of my youth” and “his principles and his legacy are more relevant today than ever.”

Last year’s event was headlined by former Vice President Dick Cheney. Past keynote speakers include Reagan’s son, Michael Reagan, U.S. attorneys general John Ashcroft and Edwin Meese, and U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas.

“This is an organization that has made a lot of valuable contributions to the Republican Party, and I’ve been told a lot of my friends have spoken here at this dinner — Dick Cheney spoke here last year,” Rumsfeld said before the event. “When I was asked, I said, ‘By golly, this is an important year for the Republican Party and for the country and I’d be happy to come up here and meet with this wonderful group of people…’”

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Brown seeks changes to Atlantic City takeover bill

Source: Press of Atlantic City – Fearing a “non-transparent power grab,” Assemblyman Chris Brown said Wednesday that he’s seeking changes to the Atlantic City state takeover bill.

“I’m trying to get you an amended takeover bill,” Brown told The Press of Atlantic City editorial board. “The endgame is to get the best darn deal that I can for working families of Atlantic County.”

Chris A. Brown

Brown, R-Atlantic, acknowledged that city officials have mismanaged their finances for “decades.” But he said the solution shouldn’t be putting power in the hands of an unelected appointee.

“The patronage goes way beyond just (selling) property,” Brown said. “That designee can void every contract, fire everybody, hire whoever he or she wants, and there’s no oversight to that.”

Brown sponsors a bill that would create a five-person committee composed of three state officials and two city officials. The committee would be charged with making a binding plan to save the city, which is more than $400 million in debt and has budget deficits topping $100 million.

If the city failed to meet annual benchmarks, the committee’s powers expand to include selling assets and later terminating union contracts — actions a state official could take immediately under the takeover bill.

“Wouldn’t you rather have a plan that says ‘we’re going to monetize this land at this price and here’s why’?” Brown said.

Brown criticized the Senate bill for other reasons, including a provision allowing casinos to opt out of the so-called PILOT bill if casinos open in North Jersey.

“They voted for a bill to stop costly tax appeals that allows costly tax appeals,” Brown said…

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Bramnick says there’s a crisis in A.C. and council members should accept proposed salary cuts

Source: Excerpt from NJ.com -

So much for that idea.

Atlantic City council President Marty Small said the council won’t consider a proposal for the mayor, council members and other city officials to take a 20 percent pay cut as state and local leaders grapple with how to save the Jersey Shore gambling resort from bankruptcy.

On Tuesday, Councilman Kaleem Shabazz said he would introduce the resolution to make that reduction to Mayor Don Guardian’s $103,000 salary and the $28,000 salaries of the city’s nine council members. Shabazz told the Associated Press the cuts would be largely symbolic, showing local leaders can make “some sacrifices ourselves” at a time when the city is close to running out of money and fighting a possible state takeover.

But Small said council members were “caught off guard” by the proposal and noted the cuts would do very little to help reduce the city’s $100 million budget deficit and more than $550 million debt.

Small said, he has never seen a salary increase since he joined the council in 2004, and that the last time council members got a raise was before 2000.

Jon Bramnick

State Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick on Wednesday called on the council to pass the proposal.

“They should cut their salaries,” Bramnick (R-Union) said in a statement. “In a time of fiscal crisis, top leaders need to take some responsibility before expecting state taxpayers to make sacrifices to help.”

Guardian’s office said Tuesday that the mayor’s salary was already reduced $40,000 from the $143,000 that his predecessor, Lorenzo Langford, made.

Atlantic City has been hit by the closure of four of its 12 casinos in recent years, causing its taxbase to be cut by more than 70 percent. The city is expected to run out of money within weeks, and experts say the credit ratings of municipalities across the state could fall if the city defaults on its debt or goes bankrupt.

Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, and state Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) say they will provide aid only if the state is allowed to take over large parts of the city government for five years. Christie and Sweeney say that’s needed because city leaders have shown they are unable to curtail lavish spending.

But local officials said the takeover goes too far, and Guardian has noted the city has cut $25 million in spending. While the state Senate has passed the takeover, state Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson) says he is against it and has introduced his own plan to give the city more time to fix its problems.

Sweeney and Prieto met last week to discuss a possible compromise, but so far none has materialized.

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Clifton on Chesterfield compressor station: safety comes first

Source: Burlington County Times – Federal regulators have already given their approval for a utility company to construct a natural gas compressor station in the township, but opponents of the project continued to object Tuesday during a public hearing on the company’s request for a needed water permit.

Dozens of residents spoke against the project during the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection public hearing on the water diversion permit, which would allow Oklahoma-based Williams Transco to temporarily divert as much as 7 million gallons of groundwater a month from the proposed compressor site for about 10 months while the station is being built.

Rob Clifton

The planned compressor station site encompasses about 20 acres of land off the New Jersey Turnpike and Route 528. The site is along the Chesterfield-Bordentown Township border.

The compressor station is planned to connect and feed New Jersey Natural Gas’ planned Southern Reliability Link pipeline through Burlington, Monmouth and Ocean counties with Williams Transco’s existing Trenton-Woodbury transmission line between Mercer and Gloucester counties.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission authorized construction of the compressor station and adjacent metering station on the site earlier this month, but the project will be unable to proceed without several DEP permits, including the water diversion permit…

“Public safety needs to be a priority,” Assemblyman Robert Clifton, R-12th of Matawan, said at the hearing at the Chesterfield Elementary School. “We hope the DEP will consider the full impact.”

DEP officials announced at the hearing that the public comment period would be extended to May 17, a two-week extension from the original deadline of May 3.

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Webber pokes fun at “wimpy” Democrat gas tax trade-off

Source: Save Jersey Blog -

Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it, Save Jerseyans.

Those people would be Democrats. Last week they released ‘tax reform’ proposals to fund the state’s transportation trust fund – including borrowing and a preemptive promise (or threat?) to “pull the plug” on tax reductions. So not reform at all, really. The same old bull crap in fancy new packaging.

Jay Webber

Assemblyman Jay Webber (R-Morris) isn’t buying it.

“A classic bait-and-switch is built into this tax trade-off proposal,” our friend and conservative champion recently opined. “They would impose an immediate and permanent gas tax increase on New Jersey’s overtaxed residents in exchange for a phased-in estate tax reduction they already plan to revoke.

“How do we know this is a bad deal for taxpayers? Look no farther than the last raw ‘deal’ on the Transportation Trust Fund in 2011-12.”

What was the plan? As Webber correctly recollects, the 2011-12 TTF 5-year funding plan was slated to include no less than $4.37 billion in new borrowing and $1.82 billion in soc-called “pay as you go”cash financing … from the state’s general fund.

What happened? Check out the table post to the right. Pay-as-you-go was gone by the first year.

“Less borrowing, more PayGo – that was the plan pledged and touted by the Democrats last time around. What actually happened over the last five years? Borrowing boomed, and PayGo was a NoGo – the exact opposite of what they promised. So taxpayers incurred more debt but in return the Democrats showed no fiscal discipline,” added Webber. “Now that the Dems have run out of money, those same deal makers have a new ‘deal’ for us – an immediate and permanent gas tax increase for a phased-in and temporary tax reduction. Another Wimpy offer, gladly giving us tax relief on the proverbial Tuesday for a gas tax hike today.”

History … learn it! Or be ruled by the bad decisions that shaped it.

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