Category: Clips

Stalemate Continues Over 23-Cent Gas Tax Increase; Ciattarelli Critical of Latest Proposal

Source: Tapinto South Brunswick-Cranbury – The stalemate between Gov. Chris Christie and state legislators over the beleaguered Transportation Trust Fund continues as the latest compromise proposal cobbled together by lawmakers was rejected by Christie on Monday.

The latest plan would increase the state’s gas tax 23 cents per gallon; in return, residents would receive a series of tax cuts/breaks demanded by Christie — elimination of the state’s estate tax, an increase in the ceiling for retirement income taxes; an increase in the Earned Income Tax for the working poor and new tax breaks for commuters and veterans.

Jack Ciattarelli

But, Christie said the plan is a no go, saying it was “dead on arrival.”

An earlier plan also rejected by Christie included those cuts, as well as a three-year reduction in the state income tax from 7 to 6 percent.

State Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli, R-16th, also criticized the latest proposal.

“While we absolutely need a reliable, pay-as-you-go funding source for the TTF, most in Trenton still willfully ignore the other side of the equation – innovative and fair approaches to better control and prioritize spending. Until we get serious about both, we will not fix the state’s fiscal crisis” Ciattarelli said.

“Certainly, there is something in this new TTF deal for everyone – the poor (EITC), the well-off (estate tax), retirees, veterans, etc. However, what we really need is comprehensive tax reform that is revenue neutral and economy stimulating. Yes, eliminating estate taxes and increasing retirement income exclusions are a good start. A great finish would be allowing for the carry forward of capital losses, never taxing the gain on the sale of a primary residence (or second home if it has never been used for commercial purposes) and making the first $1 to $5 million of gain on the sale of a small/family business tax-free,” he continued…

“These tax cuts can be paid for by restructuring our tax rates and closing the combined reporting loophole for corporations. We should then look to phase out the corporate business tax over a 10-year period.

“In addition, we need reform school funding, modify post-retirement healthcare benefits for public employees and make our pension system solvent. This would ultimately reduce property taxes, which is everyone’s No. 1 concern,” he said.

Ciattarelli, a resident of Hillsborough and former Somerset County freeholder, characterized the proposal “more seductive than compelling.”

“I cannot bring myself to solve the TTF, which is in crisis due to the irresponsibility of Trenton politicians, by now increasing the gas tax 23 cents. That is 164 percent. This increase will also significantly raise the cost of numerous products and services New Jerseyans buy every single day,” Ciattarelli said.

“The new TTF deal is also terribly flawed,” he continued. “For example, a retired couple making $100,000 in annual retirement income will pay no income tax, but a middle class couple with two kids making $80,000 annually will pay income tax? Where’s the social and economic justice in that? Only in Trenton.”

Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson) on Friday delivered the latest proposal to Christie.

Lawmakers are under pressure to produce a new funding plan for the Transportation Trust Fund, which will run out of money in a few weeks. Christie ordered a halt to all construction projects statewide two weeks ago, shutting down $3.5 billion in projects; there is about $3.5 billion available available for emergency repairs.

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Bramnick on gas tax hike: ‘We need compromise that includes a broad-based tax reduction’

Source: NJ 101.5 -

Gov. Chris Christie said the Democrats’ latest plan for replenishing the Transportation Trust Fund is “dead on arrival,” deeming the package of tax cuts as insufficiently fair to green-light a 23-cent per gallon hike in the gas tax.

That’s not surprising, given that Christie has demanded a broad-based tax cut, such as the sales tax reduction the Assembly passed in late June that stalled in the Senate.

Senate President Stephen Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto are hoping to pass the bill with the two-thirds majority that would be needed to overcome a Christie veto. But that would require Republican votes, and the Assembly GOP’s leader, Jon Bramnick, said Monday evening that the support isn’t there.

Jon Bramnick

“There are not enough votes to pass the Prieto-Sweeney bill,” said Bramnick, R-Union. “We need compromise that includes a broad-based tax reduction for all New Jerseyans.”

Months of behind-the-scenes had led to a proposal in June for targeted tax cuts benefiting estates, retirement income, charitable donations and the working poor, in exchange for the first hike in the gas tax since 1988.

A Senate committee advanced that plan, but Christie and Prieto then struck a surprise deal to instead cut the sales tax from 7 percent to 6 percent. That plan would have cost around twice as much in projected revenue to the state once fully implemented — $2 billion a year, as opposed to $1.1 billion. Sweeney and other senators balked.

When the state entered the new fiscal year without a way to pay for road, bridge and rail projects, the state shut down state-funded projects, prompting layoffs that could grow in numbers as the stalemate drags on.

Sweeney offered a compromise to Christie that the governor rejected. Christie made a counteroffer last week that the Democratic legislative leaders found unacceptable, so the lawmakers opted for a new approach — a modified version of their original plan, scrapping the charitable deduction tax break, adding breaks for veterans and commuters and speeding up the phase out of the estate tax.

Christie said he reviewed the latest plan over the weekend and can’t support it.

The Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee is scheduled to meet at 11 a.m. Friday to consider the revised plan. It could then get a vote in the full Senate on Monday, Aug. 1.
The Assembly has not yet scheduled a date to consider the bill.

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Dancer bill protects student privacy

Source: Asbury Park Press -

A New Jersey legislator is pushing back against federal guidelines governing bathroom and locker room access for transgender students in schools, calling the measures an “overreach” by the executive branch.

Ron Dancer

Assemblyman Ron Dancer, R-Ocean, has introduced legislation that would empower the state Attorney General’s Office to protect schools from losing federal funding if they violate the federal guidelines on transgender students’ access issues.

Title IX of the federal Civil Rights Act prohibits sex discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance, such as athletics, career training, access to higher education, or math and science programs.

In May, the federal Department of Education released a statement saying that prohibiting transgender students from using bathrooms, locker rooms, showers, housing or sports teams of the gender with which they identify qualifies as a violation of Title IX.

A school that receives federal funds must agree not to “exclude, separate, deny benefits to, or otherwise treat differently on the basis of sex any person in its educational programs or activities unless expressly authorized to do so under Title IX,” the statement read.

Dancer said he opposes the threat of removing federal funding from schools that comply with state anti-discrimination laws but fail to comply with federal guidelines.

“No student should be accessing same-sex facilities, such as bathrooms, showers and locker rooms as a thrill seeker for the sole purpose of violating the privacy rights of another student,” Dancer said in a news release. “This legislation will not only further New Jersey’s public policy on protecting all students against discrimination, but at the same time, recognize and protect the privacy rights of all students as well.”

Dancer said New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination, which recognizes gender identity as a class protected against discrimination, already provides protections to students, but his bill would help safeguard schools from a new president’s executive orders.

Dancer’s bill, A3976, would enable the Attorney General’s Office to defend New Jersey schools that would be at risk of losing federal funding if they were found to be in violation of Title IX, assuming the schools comply with the state’s Law Against Discrimination.

“We are witnessing an unprecedented overreach by the federal government,” Dancer said. “Schools in New Jersey have educated students of all races, religions and genders, without discrimination, for decades.”

Dancer’s measure is pending before the Assembly Education Committee.

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Wolfe weighs in on dueling school funding plans


Dave Wolfe

Source: NJSpotlight  - Since Gov. Chris Christie and state Sen. Steve Sweeney proposed competing plans for remaking school funding in New Jersey, it’s been more talk than action.

Both Christie and Sweeney have gone on public campaigns to muster support for their proposals, each winning their share of endorsements for what are radically different paths.

But there has been little to no legislative action on either plan. That’s partly because some heavyweight topics like pensions and transportation are under debate, but also because there are questions as to whether either proposal has the political legs to get enacted.

Christie’s plan to equalize funding across the state took one step forward last week, when Assembly Republicans filed the legislation that would put his proposal on the ballot as a constitutional amendment.

One of the prime sponsors of the proposed resolution, state Assemblyman David Wolfe (R-Ocean), said he knows the proposal is a “long shot” when it comes to winning support — or even progressing much — in either the Assembly or Senate, both controlled by Democrats.

“I can do the math of how many Democrats there are,” Wolfe said yesterday.

But since it is also sponsored by state Assemblyman Jon Bramnick (R-Union), the Assembly minority leader, the Republican proposal is at least meant to continue the debate in the Legislature, Wolfe said.

“We are really looking to provoke a discussion,” he said. “This is a different alternative.”

There has been no shortage of such debate, as both Christie and Sweeney have been barnstorming the state to promote their plans…

Wolfe also said yesterday that his and other Republicans’ aim is to keep the topic on the front burner. He cited other long-running Republican proposals to remake funding that should be considered as well.

“Let’s look at all the proposals out there, and not just assume we can continue to keep getting what we got last year,” he said.

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Bramnick can’t support TTF gas tax agreement without broad-based tax relief

Source: Politico New Jersey -

The state Legislature appears yet again to be headed toward a collision with Gov. Chris Christie after the Democratic leaders cut a new deal on Friday to raise the state’s gasoline tax and replenish the Transportation Trust Fund, throwing out a sales cut the Republican chief executive had been seeking.

The agreement ends an odd, month-old alliance between Christie and Democratic Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto, both of whom supported the sales tax cut even as Senate Democrats balked at the idea, calling it too expensive.

Jon Bramnick


“The Senate president and speaker never discussed this plan with me,” Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick said. “The fact that it doesn’t include Republican input does not make any sense to me.”


Before Christie swept in at the last minute in June and reached the agreement with Prieto for a one-penny reduction in the sales tax and a 23-cent hike in the gas tax, both houses were preparing to move legislation that Christie was expected to veto. Democrats — and, privately, even some Republicans — said it was going to be the first time the Legislature successfully voted to override the powerful governor.

But the discussion ended with the Prieto-Christie alliance. The speaker has repeatedly said since then that Senate President Stephen Sweeney needed to work out his differences with Christie. That never happened.

With the Democrats united again, they say Christie needs to play ball.

Several people in the governor’s press office did not respond to a message seeking comment on the new proposal, which makes several changes to the earlier legislation that was supported by both houses in June.

The governor had already said that plan didn’t include enough tax cuts to meet his definition of “tax fairness” — an undefined threshold that, he said, must be reached before he’ll agree to new taxes. This latest plan includes $897 million in tax cuts, but the legislation Christie had been supporting included about $1.7 billion in cuts.

Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick said on Friday he was not consulted before the Democratic leaders announced their new agreement. He said he was aware the Senate had planned to put a plan forward, but did not know Prieto was involved.

Bramnick said there is no way he would support it without broad-based tax relief.

“The Senate president and speaker never discussed this plan with me,” he said. “The fact that it doesn’t include Republican input does not make any sense to me.”

The new plan includes a new income tax deduction of up to $500 for all taxes paid on gas, available to those making less than $100,000 annually, and a $3,000 personal income tax exemption for veterans. It also includes some cuts that were included in the earlier legislation: A phase out the estate tax in 3 1/2 years; new exemptions on retirement income as high $100,000 and partial exemptions up to $150,000; and an increase in the earned income tax credit from 30 percent of the federal level to 40 percent.

Bramnick said he still likes the idea of a sales tax cut, and said it is “the only plan that not only has Republican votes but has the blessing of the governor.”

When asked if he could support this plan with amendments, he said, “I’m not going to get into the actual negotiations. I am willing to have further talks as well as we have broad, across the board, tax cuts.”

He added, “I think we need a lot more discussion — bipartisan discussion.”

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Christie Talks up Bramnick’s Leadership Skills at RNC

Source: PoliticerNJ -

Jon Bramnick

At a breakfast meeting of the GOP delegation to the Republican National Convention, Gov. Chris Christie “threw a bouquet,” in the words of NJTV Chief Political Correspondent Michael Aron, to Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-21).

“There is no more effective leader in our party than Jon Bramnick,” said Christie, pointing at the minority leader in the crowd, while Acting Governor Kim Guadagno pulled back home duty.

Guadagno has shown every indication that she means to succeed Christie as governor.

For Michael Aron’s full report, including the clip of Christie giving Bramnick a shout-out, click here.

To see the comedy routine Bramnick performed in Cleveland, click here.

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Ciattarelli blasts Jersey City mayor over school funding

Source: Jersey Journal -

A Republican lawmaker from Somerset County is again taking aim at Mayor Steve Fulop, saying the mayor’s recent boast about the city’s tax rate demonstrates the need for school funding reform statewide.

At issue is an email Fulop’s campaign sent to supporters yesterday about the 2016 city budget, which comes for the third year in a row with no municipal tax increase. Flat taxes are proof the Fulop administration can “make government work well,” the Democratic mayor said in the email.

Jack Ciattarelli

Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli, R-Somerville, in a statement this afternoon linked Fulop’s crowing about the city budget to the heavy subsidies Jersey City’s public schools receive from state taxpayers. The school district in 2016-17 will receive $420 million in state aid for its $673 million annual budget, a fact that irks Republican and even some suburban Democratic lawmakers statewide.

“The mayor’s boasts, which only add insult to injury to taxpayers across the state, call attention to just how terribly flawed and blatantly unfair the current distribution of state school aid is,” Ciattarelli said. “And it is exactly the reason we desperately need school funding reforms that are fair to taxpayers across the state.”

Ciattarelli called out Fulop last year on the city’s tax abatement policy. Both men are considered possible gubernatorial candidates next year.


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Brown lauds passage of anti-BDS bill


Chris A. Brown

Source: Jewish Community Voice“We have no greater ally in the Middle East than Israel, and it’s in America’s economic and security interest to make sure Israel remains strong and stable,” said Assemblyman Chris Brown, (R-Atlantic) sponsor of a bill preventing the state of New Jersey from investing in companies that boycott, divest or sanction Israel. That bill—S- 1923/A-925, was passed by the Senate in May and approved by the General Assembly on June 27.

“From what I‘ve learned, the BDS movement is rooted in hate, and not truly motivated to help the peace effort,” said Brown, who participated in a Federation Mission to Israel for legislators earlier this year. “An economically strong Israel is the only way to ensure stability and peace for both Israelis and Palestinians.”

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement seeks to de-stabilize Israel by punishing it economically. S- 1923/A-925 would counter that effort by prohibiting the state of New Jersey from investing its pension and annuity funds in companies that boycott, divest from or sanction Israel or Israeli businesses. The Senate version had previously been approved. It was anticipated at press time that Gov. Chris Christie would sign the proposed legislation into law. s

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Jon Bramnick’s guide to surviving Cleveland

Source: Politico New Jersey -

Jon Bramnick

New Jersey Republican delegates, used to the gruff ways of their fellow Garden State residents, needed a lesson in mid-western etiquette during their stay in Ohio, and Assembly minority leader Jon Bramnick was on hand to give them one.

“If a Clevelander says hello to you, say hello back,” Bramnick told about 75 people gathered in a steak house on the outskirts of Cleveland.

Bramnick — who once won a contest to be named the “Funniest Lawyer in New Jersey” — showed off nearly half an hour of his comedy material to New Jersey Republicans on Tuesday afternoon, before the night’s session at the Quicken Loans Arena.

The routine included what Bramnick said was a manual for the New Jersey delegation from the Republican State Committee on “what they should expect and do in Cleveland.”

“When in a restaurant, do not ask ‘where is my food.’ There is a midwest 8-10 minute delay on everything,” said Bramnick, who does some stand-up in his spare time.

“Speak slowly and enunciate, especially if you’re from Hudson or Bergen County,” Bramnick said.

The assemblyman and potential 2017 gubernatorial candidate took shots at everything from himself to his family to fellow Republicans and the quality of pizza in Cleveland.

“Under no circumstances do you eat or order pizza. Just wait until Friday when you get back to New Jersey,” he said.

Bramnick also said Bill Palatucci, Gov. Chris Christie’s friend and adviser, is such a prolific fundraiser because he has few expenses.

“A Palatucci breakfast is a half a muffin per person, and you pay for coffee,” he said.

The material was mostly clean, although Bramnick did get blue for an instant.

“I send texts out, and sometimes I misspell my last name, but I’m too lazy to change it,” Bramnick said. “Last week a guy comes up to me and says ‘I’ve known you for 30 years. I had no idea that you’re Jon Browndick.’”

He’ll be here all week.

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Brown says state broke promise on bail reform costs

Source: Press of Atlantic City – A law that will allow New Jersey judges the right to deny bail to high-risk defendants accused of first-degree crimes next year will cost counties — and likely taxpayers — millions of dollars to enforce, local county officials say.

Chris A. Brown

While the officials laud the legislation’s intentions — to keep violent defendants in jail before trial and to allow nonviolent defendants charged with third- and fourth-degree offenses quicker bail hearings — they worry about how they’ll pay for it.

New Jersey residents voted in favor of the Bail Reform/Speedy Trial Act in a 2014 referendum to amend the state constitution. The law goes into effect Jan. 1…

The costs to implement the reforms came as a surprise to some lawmakers. Assemblyman Chris Brown, R-Atlantic, said the amendment was presented as a way to cut costs throughout the state, not increase them.

“This is another example of the state breaking its promise to the public, who approved the ballot question because the state promised us bail reform would save county taxpayers money,” Brown said in a statement. “But instead, the state is adding another financial burden to Atlantic County’s families and retirees who are already struggling to pay their bills so they can keep their homes.”

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