Tag: Jay Webber

Republicans react to surprise pension resolution in Assembly

PolitickerNJ -

Launching lawmakers into last-minute debate prior to the close of an otherwise subdued budget season, Assembly Democrats introduced and voted up a resolution at their voting session today urging Gov. Chris Christie to make a an upfront $1.3 billion pension payment at the start of the coming fiscal year.

Leaders in the Senate and Assembly authored the surprise concurrent resolution this morning, announcing the measure in a press release prior to voting sessions in both houses. The measure calls on Christie to use the state’s line of credit to make that payment sooner than later — in July of this year rather than June of next year — in order to save some $90 million in additional investment income for the pension system.

At their 11 a.m. hearing, which was expected to see little more than the passage of a modified increase on the state Earned Income Tax Credit, the resolution fueled 11th hour debate over the budget, focusing largely on the $1.3 billion pension payment included in the $33.8 billion budget Christie signed last week. Lawmakers argued over the fiscal and economic merits of making that payment sooner, which would force the state to borrow more money now, rather than later, as is custom.

The debate also offered certain glimpses into the overall divisions among Republican and Democrats on the state’s fiscal future, with members of the former party opting for fiscal restraint and responsibility.

Caroline Casagrande

“Once again we’re here sticking our finger in a dam, when there is water already coming over the barricades,” said Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande (R-11), lamenting the legislature’s failure to come together on a long-term solution to the pension system.

Democratic sponsors of the bill, including Prieto but also Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3), say that the upfront payment would help assuage the retirement fund’s fiscal squeeze, which involves some $80 billion in unfunded liabilities. They say tapping the state’s line of credit to make the $1.3 billion pension payment early next month rather than waiting until next June is simply an extension of normal state Treasury practices — and that each year, the state borrows about $2.5 billion in July to cover an annual cash flow shortfall, and the cost of the interest payments is included in each year’s budget.

But Republicans in the Assembly today expressed skepticism over the veracity of those estimates, wondering aloud whether an upfront payment might cost the state more than it saves. Some argued that it would be more fiscally prudent to wait for projected taxes revenues to come in before funding the payment, while others slammed the surprise nature of the measure’s introduction, which they said was dropped by Democrats prior to the voting session with little notice.

Several Republicans at one point motioned to table the measure in favor of gleaning more information from the State Treasurer, though the Democratic majority easily defeated the move.

Jon Bramnick

“Keep in mind that this resolution did not come through a committee,” said Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-21), who sparred with Assembly Budget Officer Gary Schaer (D-36) over what savings an upfront payment might have. “This was, I am assuming, a last minute idea to borrow money. We did not ask to have this rushed through on the morning or afternoon of the budget.”

Still, others supported the potential to shore up the system and save taxpayer money in the short term — but stressed that such efforts must also be coupled with other, long-term reforms to the system. Republicans want Democrats to join them in working on a second overhaul to the fund, incorporating recommendations put forth by the governor’s bi-partisan pension commission.

Jay Webber

“This has to be part of a larger solution. Not how do we get to FY2016, but how are we going to do this for our kids,” added Assemblyman Jay Webber (R-26), who said he would abstain from a vote on the issue.

Declan O'Scanlon

“One thing that should have been embarrassingly clear from today’s debate is that the Democrats didn’t do their homework on this idea,” said Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon (R-13) in a statement following the vote. “The fact that the Democrats didn’t reach out to the treasurer to discuss the dynamics and ramifications of such a move make it abundantly clear that this is all about politics and nothing at all to do with thoughtful policy. It is outrageously irresponsible not to have done that essential homework.”

Ultimately, the resolution passed 45-6-18 in the Assembly; it later passed in the Senate as well.

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O’Scanlon, Webber on Democrat budget destined for reality-check by Governor

Source: Bergen Record -

The Democratic-controlled Legislature sent Governor Christie a $35.3 billion budget for the coming fiscal year on Thursday, along with some familiar tax increases that seemed destined for his veto pen.

Christie, a Republican, had proposed a leaner, $33.8 billion plan earlier in the year. Instead of going along, Democratic legislators included an extra $1.5 billion in spending that would be financed mostly through higher taxes on businesses and millionaires.

The Senate approved the budget by a 24-16 vote, with all Democrats in favor and all Republicans against. The Assembly vote was 47-31, also along party lines. The budget would take effect Wednesday.

Declan O'Scanlon

Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon, R-Monmouth, called the Democratic plan a “phony, unsustainable, economy-killing budget” built on one-shot sources of revenue. At one point, he compared the $35.3 billion plan to his cuff links. “They don’t do a damn thing, but they’re really cool, just like this budget,” he said.

Jay Webber

Not to be outdone, Assemblyman Jay Webber, R-Morris, said Democrats have known for years that there was no way Christie would sign off on tax increases. He called them “phony-baloney tax increases” and a “fake promise” to public workers worried about their pensions.”

Under the Democratic plan, almost all the extra money would go to the state’s distressed pension system for public workers, and nearly $200 million would be spread out among public schools, higher-education investments and a few pet projects for Democrats’ political allies and hometowns.

The last word on the budget, however, belongs to Christie, who vowed to slash spending with his line-item veto before signing the budget into law, which is expected today. The final product, Christie predicted, would be a budget below $34 billion.

For the fifth year since Christie took office, Democrats and Republicans spent the day debating the pros and cons of raising taxes — making the same arguments, quoting the same academic studies and passing the same bills in the same party-line votes.

The Democrats’ $35.3 billion budget plan is 8.9 percent larger than the one Christie signed last year. It includes a pension contribution of more than twice what Christie has proposed.

Business groups complained that even talk of raising taxes has a chilling effect on economic growth. Environmental and commuter groups complained that the Democrats’ plan kicked the can down the road on funding for roads, bridges and mass transit.


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Christie vows to veto tax increases, Webber talks about cutting spending in New Jersey’s 2016 budget

Associated Press -

Gov. Chris Christie is poised to bring New Jersey’s budget drama to its conclusion.

The nearly $34 billion budget Christie is expected to sign on Friday would keep school funding flat, cut out Democratic tax increases on millionaires and businesses and make a $1.3 billion payment to the state’s public pension.

The expected action comes ahead of a deadline for enacting the budget on Tuesday, the same day he is expected to announce a run for the Republican nomination for president, according to several people familiar with his political plans. They spoke to The Associated Press on Thursday on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to pre-empt Christie’s announcement.

The Democrat-led Legislature sent Christie a $35.3 billion budget on Thursday. Democrats have included a tax on income over $1 million as well as a 15 percent surcharge on the corporate business tax to close raise revenue and make the $3.1 billion payment required by a 2011 law, which Christie had signed.

Christie said on his monthly radio show Thursday he would veto the tax increases and review the rest of the Democrats’ changes. Lawmakers said they expect Christie to use his line-item veto to remove the Democrats’ changes to his budget proposal.

“I think it’s safe to say that they have spent a lot of money that we don’t have and that we’re not going to be able to spend,” Christie said.

The 2016 fiscal year budget advanced Thursday by a 24-16 vote in the Senate and by a 47-31 vote in the Assembly; the debate surrounding it fell along party lines. Republican lawmakers argued the budget would drive business out of the state and did not truly solve the state’s pension funding problem. They called on Democrats to sit down with Christie to redraft a pension solution.

Jay Webber

“If you want to truly get something done, let’s talk about spending cuts,” said Republican Assemblyman Jay Webber.

Democrats said their budget fulfilled a promise to state workers made in the 2011 law that set pension payments.

Neither Christie nor the Democrats’ budget addresses the state’s transportation trust fund, which is headed for insolvency in the next fiscal year.

The budget’s passage likely caps the Legislature’s busy season as the Assembly, which is at the top of the ticket in November, looks ahead to the fall election and as Christie prepares his campaign plans.

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Webber Bill Expanding Safe Haven Locations Passes Assembly

Assembly Republican Press Release -

Operation Safe Haven offers alternative for unwanted babies

A bill co-sponsored by Assemblyman Jay Webber that increases the “Safe Haven” locations where at-risk newborns may be placed won approval from the General Assembly today. Under the current “New Jersey Safe Haven Infant Protection Act,” safe haven options are limited to emergency departments of general hospitals and state, county and municipal police stations. Webber’s bill, A-4149, expands the locations to include fire stations, ambulance, first aid and rescue squad sites that are staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Jay Webber

“The Safe Haven program is an alternative for parents who think they have no place to turn because they can’t care for their newborn,” said Webber, R-Morris, Essex and Passaic. “New Jersey is a leader in offering compassionate outlets for parents, and this legislation builds on that success by expanding the number of facilities where precious infants can receive the hope of leading normal and productive lives.”

Assemblywomen Mary Pat Angelini and Donna Simon are also sponsors of the bill.

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O’Scanlon, Webber and Brown on quarterly pension payments

Source: NJ Spotlight -

Democrats, who control the Legislature, and Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican considering a run for president, are stuck in gridlock on the public-employee pension issue.

But if the impasse eventually breaks – or Christie ends up moving on — the first glimpse of a possible compromise may have come earlier this week when budget committees in both the Assembly and Senate advanced a measure that would change the way the state makes contributions into the pension system.

The measure is sponsored by four Democrats shifting the state’s pension-payment schedule from annual to quarterly won praise this week from some Republicans and even earned one of their votes in committee on Tuesday.

Chris J. Brown

Assemblyman Chris Brown (R-Burlington), though he raised some concerns, voted for the bill as it advanced out of the Assembly Budget Committee. Two other Republicans abstained, but suggested they could also end up voting for the measure when it comes before the full Assembly today.

Declan O'Scanlon

“I like this concept,” said Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon (R-Monmouth). “I’m going to abstain right now, (but) I’m sympathetic to it.”

Assemblyman Jay Webber (R-Morris) also promised to take a closer look before today’s floor vote.

Jay Webber

“I’m going to spend a couple days and try to get some analysis on the numbers,” Webber said. “I might very well be a ‘yes’ when it comes to the floor.”

That there’s any hint of bipartisanship on the pension-funding issue is remarkable given the high-profile feud between Christie and Democratic legislative leaders that’s now lasted for well over a year.

Democrats favor tax hikes to raise the money needed to shore up the chronically underfunded pension system, while Christie wants to enact sweeping changes to cut costs.

Neither side can get what it wants without cooperation from the other party – something that seems unlikely at the moment. Democrats are refusing to entertain Christie’s proposed reforms and instead are preparing later today to send him a new budget that would increase spending on pensions. But Christie is expected to use his constitutional line-item veto authority to remove that spending, just as he did under similar circumstances last year.


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Republicans push back on Dems budget [video]

Source: NJTV News [video] -

Strict partisan lines were drawn today as the Assembly Budget Committee approved several tax hikes in order to make a full pension payment.

Republicans said hiking the millionaires tax and slapping a 15 percent surcharge on the corporate business tax will kill jobs.

Jay Webber

“Every time there’s a hard choice to be made in this state, the majority party just raises taxes and they call that a hard choice,” said Assemblyman Jay Webber.

Business lobbyists warned that hiking taxes on those who create jobs will make New Jersey less competitive than neighboring states.

“I don’t have to tell any of you that competition is fierce. I live in South Jersey and see commercials for New York, and they are chomping at the bit trying to steal away our businesses,” said New Jersey Chamber of Commerce Senior Vice President of Government Relations Michael Egenton.

Back in February, Gov. Chris Christie proposed a $33.8 billion budget with a pension contribution of $1.3 billion.

“You can tax everybody as much as you want but I’ll tell you right now it’s not a $3 billion problem. I think we have to start being honest. It’s an $82 billion problem,” said Assemblyman Christopher J. Brown.

Chris J. Brown

Republicans want to revise the pension system to make it less expensive.

Democrats ignore that and press ahead.

Republicans say Democrats, knowing that Christie will veto the tax hikes and additional pension payment, are simply posturing.

“The majority knows very well this is not gonna become law, that the governor will veto this bill as soon as it hits his desk. It is passed for political reasons apparently,” Webber said.

Anthony M. Bucco

“The only good thing about this bill is that it’ll be dead on arrival on the governor’s desk,” said Assemblyman Anthony Bucco.

The Assembly committee vote was 8 to 4 along party lines.

Two hours later, the Senate Budget Committee repeated the exercise, approving the budget and related tax hikes 8 to 5.


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Webber-Sponsored Bill Helps Find Home for Infants at Safe Haven Locations

 Operation Safe Haven offers alternative for unwanted babies

Source: Assembly Republican Press Release -

Jay Webber

A bill co-sponsored by Assemblyman Jay Webber that increases the “Safe Haven” locations where at-risk newborns may be placed won approval from the Assembly Women and Children Committee today. Under the current “New Jersey Safe Haven Infant Protection Act,” safe haven options are limited to emergency departments of general hospitals and state, county and municipal police stations. Webber’s bill, A-4149, expands Safe Haven locations to include fire stations, ambulance, first aid and rescue squad sites that are staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“The Safe Haven program is an alternative for parents who think they have no place to turn because they can’t care for their newborn,” said Webber, R-Morris, Essex and Passaic. “New Jersey has been a leader in offering this compassionate outlet for parents, and this legislation builds on that success by expanding the number of facilities where precious infants can receive the hope of leading normal and productive lives.”

Assemblywomen Mary Pat Angelini and Donna Simon are also sponsors of the bill.

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Asm. Webber: Take a Cue from Purdue University and Freeze College Tuition in NJ [video]

Jay Webber

Source: NJTV News [video] -

Congratulations, Graduate! You have a diploma … and you’re $29,000 in debt. The Institute for College Access & Success reports 70 percent of New Jersey college students have loans, and the amount of those loans has increased 40 percent in just a decade. Purdue University, which was confronted with the same problem, froze tuition for four years, cut costs by combining administrative jobs, streamlining food service and partnering with Amazon to lower textbook costs in order to combat the problem. How has it worked there and could it work here? Assemblyman Jay Webber wrote an op-ed for NJ.com about what New Jersey stands to learn from the Purdue model.

Purdue University, under President Mitchell Daniels, has kept tuition levels frozen for the last four years. The university set the tuition level around the budgets of families instead of families coming up to meet school’s tuition. Can Purdue’s model be implemented at Rutgers?

“I hope so,” said Webber. “I think they’ve done a great job out there and certainly the president of Purdue, Mitch Daniels, needs to be congratulated. He simply put tuition payers first — the students and parents — and said that Purdue is going to set its tuition levels around its families’ budgets and not make the families fit their budgets around Purdue’s wishes. It seems to be working out there and I hope Rutgers and our other state institutions here in New Jersey can take their cue from what seems to be working very well out there.”

New Jersey ranks near the bottom of the list in terms of state funding to higher education with funding being cut 22 percent in 10 years. When asked if a tuition freeze would be possible, Webber notes that before Daniels was the president of Purdue University, he was the governor of Indiana and had cut aid to higher education.

“Higher education overall in this country has seen funding since the ’60s increase almost tenfold. So it’s not a matter of not getting enough subsidies from government, it’s a matter of living within our means, recognizing that families simply can’t afford to continue to pay ever higher tuition and fees and eventually the cycle has to stop,” he said.

Webber also says it’s not a matter of cutting the fat in higher education budgets, where some administrators and presidents can make quite hefty salaries. He says it’s more a matter of exercising restraint in higher education budgets and becoming more efficient.

“As President Daniels said at Purdue, it’s not like there’s a place where there’s this lump of fat that you have to cut out. It’s like a cow — it’s marbled all throughout. What you have to do is I think set goals, set incentives and exercise strong leadership and say ‘here’s what we’re going to do, for one year, just one year at Rutgers, we’re going to go for a 0 percent increase. We’re going to give our families a break and say we’re just not going to do it.’ And then you can form your spending to that goal and that’s what they’re doing out in Indiana. If we’re not doing it here in New Jersey, I think we need answers as to why,” Webber said.

But with budget woes in Trenton and Gov. Chris Christie proposing to cut nearly $38 million in direct aid to schools, or what comes out to about a 5 percent drop from last year, how would that affect schools being able to implement Purdue’s system? Webber says it doesn’t have to do with government subsidies — the focus is on the university.

“This isn’t about what the government can subsidize, it’s about what university leadership is going to set as a goal and what it’s going to accept as a standard. If our leadership in New Jersey says we’re going to do a 0 percent increase and we’re going to freeze tuition, well some department is going to have to cut their spending. Administrators are going to find some efficiencies,” he said.

The impact of student debt goes beyond creating financial woes for families and students, according to Webber. It also has a negative effect on entrepreneurship and careers, which can be crippling to fresh, young minds that are ready to be put to work.

“We really have to start considering that students who graduate from college at age 23, 24, 25 with fresh ideas and the benefit of a world-class education from NJIT or Rutgers can often make their marks on the world pretty early if they have the freedom and flexibility to be entrepreneurs and to take risks,” he said. “But too often with $29,000 or more in student loans hanging over their head, living in their old bedrooms, they’re not making their marks on the world, they’re lowering their sights in the job market just to get enough income to pay the bills. The ever-escalating tuition cost drives student debt. Student debt keeps entrepreneurs from taking risks and really improving New Jersey’s economy and we really need to encourage our young people to take risks and become young entrepreneurs.”

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Webber Bill on Training for Long-Term Unemployed Gets Committee OK

Assembly Republican Press Release -

Jay Webber

Legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Jay Webber that gives priority for job training programs at community colleges to long-term unemployed workers who have exhausted their insurance benefits received unanimous approval from the Assembly Labor Committee today.

“New Jersey has one of the biggest long-term unemployment problems in the nation,” said Webber, R-Morris, Essex and Passaic. “We need to attack that problem, and this bill will help prioritize state spending to help those who have the toughest time finding work.

The bill, A-2926, requires that at least 50 percent of the training funds for displaced workers be reserved for training and re-employment. This includes monies from the federal Workforce Investment Act and grants from the state’s Workforce Development Partnership Fund.

In 2014, 41 percent of New Jersey’s unemployed residents were out of work at least 27 weeks which is the threshold for long-term unemployment.

The Senate unanimously approved the identical bill, S-1621, in June 2014.

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Webber: Rutgers should take a page out of Purdue’s book and commit to lower tuition

Star Ledger op-ed by Jay Webber -

Jay Webber

As high school graduation season begins again, tens of thousands of young New Jerseyans will head off to college for the next phase of their education. For too many of those students, that step will lead to mountains of debt that they will carry with them for decades.

According to one recent study, a whopping 70 percent of New Jersey college students graduated with debt, the fourth-highest percentage of any state in the nation. Each graduate averaged more than $29,000 in debt. That average has increased by over 40 percent since 2004.

That economic pressure has negative effects on young New Jerseyans. It shoves college graduates who should be joining the adult world back into their childhood bedrooms. For graduates who are lucky enough to find a job, that debt load pressures them into short-term employment decisions driven by paying off debt rather than long-term career development.

Debt also discourages entrepreneurship and risk-taking by some of our brightest, most energetic residents, often best situated to take the smart risks so productive for themselves and the rest of society. How many young Bill Gateses seek employment beneath their abilities and at odds with their dreams, rather than unlock their potential – and establish whole new industries – by working for themselves out of their living room while they are young and hungry?

Student debt is of course driven in large part by high tuition rates, and New Jersey charges its in-state students the fourth-highest tuition and fees in the country. New Jersey in-state tuition grew by almost 24 percent from 2004 to 2013, far outpacing inflation.

Fortunately, our state’s flagship university, Rutgers, now has a good example from a peer institution of how to cut costs for its students. Big Ten sister school Purdue University has made intelligent savings a priority since the arrival of its current president, Mitch Daniels, Indiana’s former governor.

At the time of his hiring, Daniels stated, “At Purdue, we will make our first goal affordability, accommodating our spending to students’ budgets not the other way around.” What a refreshing orientation.

Eighteen months after the arrival of Daniels at Purdue, the university froze tuition for the first time in thirty-six years and has maintained the freeze for the last four school years. Besides freezing tuition, Purdue has cut a range of costs, such as combining some administrative jobs, reducing food service expenses, and partnering with Amazon on the price of textbooks. The upshot is that seniors at Purdue this year are paying less than when they started school three years ago.

Daniels challenges his faculty, administrators, students, and alumni to think about this: what are we doing that once made sense, but no longer does; what are we doing in multiple places that could be done less expensively in one; and what are we doing that does not further our core missions for learning? Then he sets incentives for faculty and staff alike to run more efficiently. For example, the fiscal year 2016 Purdue budget provides for increases in faculty merit bonuses and bounties for colleges in the University for hitting certain efficiency targets.

What do Purdue students get for their tuition dollars? A top-notch school. Purdue boasts the country’s best agricultural and biological engineering program, the sixth-best aeronautical and civil engineering programs and the eighth-best industrial and mechanical engineering programs, according to U.S. News and World Report. Princeton Review named Purdue one of the best value colleges in the nation, with a highly diverse student body and an active and loyal alumni base. And it bears reiterating – Purdue has achieved these distinctions, and gathered such momentum, without raising tuition on students and their parents for the last four years.

Now proudly part of the Big Ten, Rutgers has a model for innovation, efficiency and success in its sister school from West Lafayette, Ind. Purdue proves that it can be done. I hope the administration in New Brunswick is watching closely. Rutgers would score a huge victory for its students and our state if it could hold the line on tuition and costs, even for one year. That would be as impressive as winning any conference championship in athletics.

Assemblyman Jay Webber represents the 26th Legislative District in the N.J. Assembly.

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