Category: Clips

Brown: Rather than criticize Gov., Dems should focus on budget solutions

Source: - For the first time since 1994, the state treasurer and legislative budget officer agree on revenue projections for the year ahead. But the two experts of New Jersey’s finances diverge on two of the higher profile issues affecting taxpayers: pensions and the current state of transportation funding.

Chris J. Brown

In a day-long, split session before the Assembly Budget Committee on Monday, the two officials – Office of Legislative Services budget chief David Rosen and Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff – offered their analysis of Governor Christie’s 2016 budget…

When the committee’s two Republicans at the hearing – Declan O’Scanlon of Monmouth County and Christopher Brown of Burlington County – had an opportunity to question the treasurer, they focused mostly on countering the Democrats. O’Scanlon said if there are elements of the budget that Democrats dislike, they have the power to vote it down. And he said it was hypocritical of party members to criticize elements of Christie’s previous budgets when the Legislature must approve his proposals.

Brown, who is not running for re-election in November, said the committee was not focusing enough on serious matters, like how to find a solution to the pensions rather than criticize the governor’s plan.

“What is realistic is to come up with a plan, and if the plan that the governor has is not the right one, then join in the discussion and talk about what is the right one,” Brown said.

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Casagrande: Ensure justice for the developmentally disabled

Asbury Park Press op-ed by Caroline Casagrande -

Caroline Casagrande

The recent news reports concerning Howell’s Parker Drake and the mistreatment he received from two young men in the town are horrifying. The young men offered Parker $20 and two packs of cigarettes to jump into the 30-degree water of the Manasquan jetty. They filmed, taunted and laughed while Parker struggled to reach land.

Parker’s developmental disability was used to provoke him to put his life in danger. There are those who may dismiss his jump off a jetty into freezing water as a harmless prank or boys being boys, but the danger posed was real and could have resulted in a catastrophe.

The suggestion from this paper’s editorial board that I take corrective legislative action to make this kind of heinous treatment unlawful is appreciated, and I enthusiastically accept the challenge.

We are a compassionate society that protects the developmentally disabled and others who suffer from physical and emotional problems. We are responsible for protecting them from predators who think there’s no harm in taking advantage of their disability. There are too many instances where “pranks” turn into physical and emotional tragedy for the victim and his or her family.

The mystifying part to this sordid story is that no law was apparently broken. The developmentally challenged deserve the same protections we all enjoy and should be treated with the same dignity and respect.

Equally appalling is the way Parker’s mother, Christine Marshall, was treated when she sought justice for her son. As a result of her perseverance, disorderly conduct charges were filed. Her fortitude in pursuing this case is what all caring and concerned parents do.

Not everyone, however, agrees that a disorderly person charge is the appropriate or only crime committed. I encourage the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s office to continue with their investigation to determine if further charges are warranted.

To be perfectly honest, if this heinous act had been committed against an animal, the public outcry for justice would be deafening. This case certainly cries out for further scrutiny.

Protecting our most vulnerable has been one of my priorities since joining the Legislature. Two years ago, I introduced legislation (A-3997) that prohibited school superintendents from receiving a bonus for reducing or placing developmentally disabled students in another school district. It seems hard to believe that bonuses of this kind would be doled out for such “achievements,” but they were. On Jan. 13, 2014, Gov. Christie signed A-3997 into law.

It is just as hard to believe that two young men could put the life of Parker Drake in jeopardy for $20 and some cigarettes and face no consequences.

Bringing this matter to the public is the beginning of addressing such an unconscionable act. Law enforcement should be as frustrated as Parker’s mother that a disorderly persons offense is apparently the only charge that could be brought. To her credit, she was not deterred by the dead ends she encountered. In fact, Marshall and Parker have said they want to help our efforts to push through legislation to help prevent the developmentally disabled from being similarly victimized by making such acts criminal.

Marshall is a true hero, as is Parker, for their efforts to make what happened to them into something positive for others going forward. I also commend my legislative colleagues who are joining Marshall, Parker and myself in crafting a bill to protect those who are susceptible to such “dares” or practical jokes. Kudos to state Sens. Bob Singer and Jennifer Beck and Assembly members Mary Pat Angelini, Sean Kean, Ron Dancer and Donna Simon for their efforts and support.

It is not enough to be outraged. This was no practical joke. Appropriate steps must be taken to pass legislation that protects Parker and our developmentally challenged population from this kind of exploitation.

Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande is the Assistant Republican Leader who represents parts of Monmouth County.

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Auth comments on bill giving sales tax break to A.C. businesses

Source: The Star-Ledger -

The state Assembly has passed a bill that would make Atlantic City New Jersey’s 33rd Urban Enterprise Zone, allowing qualifying businesses there to charge a 3.5 cent sales tax instead of the normal 7 cent tax.

The money collected would be spent in the struggling resort, rather than going into state coffers.

Robert Auth

Robert Auth

Assemblyman Robert Auth (R-Bergen) said that he understood the impetus to help Atlantic City, but said his own district is struggling with the loss of jobs — most notably Mercedes Benz’s decision to relocate its headquarters to Georgia.

“There isn’t one of us in this room that doesn’t want to see Atlantic City succeed,” Auth said. “I bet that most of the people in this room have lost jobs in their districts. We need to stop nibbling around the edges with a municipality here and a municipality there. We need to lower sales taxes for the entire state.”

The bill (A3920), which still needs to pass the state Senate before reaching Gov. Chris Christie’s desk, was approved in the lower house by a 55-18 vote on Thursday. And it comes as the resort faces a huge fiscal crisis.

Atlantic City would have Urban Enterprise Zone status for 10 years under the legislation. Casinos would not be eligible to participate, though independent businesses that are located within casinos could.

The Office of Legislative Services estimates that Atlantic City would reap $22.6 million annually from the legislation, although state revenue could decline by as much as $45.2 million.

Busineses would also get a $1,500 tax credit for hiring new employees.

But over the last five years, Gov. Chris Christie has used many of the funds that used to go back to towns under the Urban Enterprise Zone program to instead balance the state budget.


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O’Scanlon expects revenue projections likely to be similiar

Declan O'Scanlon

Philadelphia Inquirer -

Budget gurus for the Christie administration and the Democratic-controlled Legislature are set to say how much money New Jersey will bring in this year – and unlike last year their views will likely align, lawmakers say.

The projections, which Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff and Office of Legislative Services director David Rosen will present to the Assembly Budget Committee on Monday, are important because they help determine how much money lawmakers and the governor can spend in the next fiscal year, which starts July 1.

Divergent revenue projections also played a part in the governor’s decision last year to cut payments to the state public pension system, which angered Democrats as well as many of the state’s nearly 700,000 public sector pensioners.

This year, though, Democratic Budget Committee Chairman Gary Schaer says he expects the projections will be “much more realistic,” and Republican budget officer Declan O’Scanlon says he expects revenues to be on target this year. He attributed the difference last year to federal tax cuts on the wealthiest citizens that expired in 2013.

Democrats and Republicans aren’t predicting a significant difference in revenue projections, but they’re still at odds over how much to pay into the public pension fund and whether to increase taxes on gasoline to shore up the transportation trust fund.

The testimony comes as Democrats are pushing to change how revenue estimates are calculated.

Currently, the treasury calculates estimates, which the administration uses to craft its budget. (Legislators order up their own projections, but the governor is not obligated to abide by them.) The Democratic-controlled Assembly passed a bill last week that would put the revenue projection power into the hands of a three-person board with representatives from executive and legislative branches.

Republicans opposed the bill, saying the ability to certify revenues should rest with the executive.

“The governor has to be accountable about those certifications,” O’Scanlon said. “He admitted when he was wrong. Nobody gives him credit when he is right.”




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Brown, Christie urge Legislature to act on A.C. PILOT legislation

Source: Press of Atlantic City -

Gov. Chris Christie urged the Legislature to put a bill intended to stabilize Atlantic City’s tax base on his desk, his spokesman Kevin Roberts said Friday.

The Payment in Lieu of Taxes, or PILOT, plan requires Atlantic City casinos to pay a total of $150 million to Atlantic City for two years, and $120 million annually for the following 13 years. The county negotiated to receive 13.5 percent of those payments.

Chris A. Brown

Assemblyman Chris Brown, R-Atlantic, said he’s been calling on his colleagues to move the bill.

“The governor affirms what I have been saying,” Brown said. “Once I was able to bring Mayor Guardian and Executive Levinson together to protect our hardworking families throughout Atlantic County from a $9 million tax increase, I have worked in a bipartisan manner and have been calling on my colleagues ever since: move the bill so we can stop the bleeding.”

“The Governor looks forward to combining the efforts of the Emergency Manager with those of Mayor Guardian and the legislation proposed by the Senate President to bring real, long lasting fiscal stability to Atlantic City,” Roberts said in an email. “The Governor urges the Legislature to put just such legislation on his desk for signature.”


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Casagrande, Kean others want law to protect mentally challenged

Caroline Casagrande

Sean Kean

Source: Asbury Park Press -

Political support is growing fast for stronger laws to protect adults with developmental disabilities, after the Asbury Park Press broke a story this week of a Howell teen with autism who escaped death when he jumped off a Manasquan jetty into the frigid ocean in February on a dare.

Senator Jennifer Beck, Assemblyman Sean Kean and Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande, all R-Monmouth, also said they are doing research to craft a law that would make it a crime to put people with developmental disabilities in harm’s way. Assemblywoman Mary Pat Angelini (R-Monmouth) and Assemblyman Ronald Dancer, (R-Ocean) are on board with the idea, Casagrande said.

And Senate President Steve Sweeney, D-Gloucester, said he will consider changes to existing laws and will convene a meeting with policy groups, people with developmental disabilities and their families to discuss ways to prevent similar incidents in the future.

“The great news is, there seems to be a political will in Trenton to get some protections on the books for developmentally disabled people, now that everyone has read the horror story of what happened to Parker Drake,” Casagrande said.

Drake told the Asbury Park Press that two of his so-called friends called him on Feb. 25 and said they would give him $20 and two packs of cigarettes to go into the ocean and stay there for a minute. Then, they drove him to Manasquan, took him out on a jetty and told him to jump, Drake said.

The young man jumped off the jetty and found himself struggling in freezing water over his head while the other two men laughed and recorded a video that they later placed on the social media site Snapchat, he said. The ocean’s temperature was 30 degrees Fahrenheit that day.

Drake told the Asbury Park Press he thought he was going to drown. His mother, Christine Marshall, said her son also was at risk of death from hypothermia or because his insulin pump froze.

Kean, who is municipal prosecutor in Bradley Beach, called Drake’s experience “horrifying” but said he couldn’t think of any indictable offense on the books that the two men could be charged with. He said he contacted the Office of Legislative Services to begin research on crafting a new law that will pass constitutional muster.

“We want to make sure its constitutional, otherwise, it won’t do what we want,” Kean said. “If it’s not done carefully, it’s not worth the paper it’s written on.”

Casagrande said she would like to convene hearings in the Legislature to consider an umbrella law to protect not only children and the developmentally disabled, but also the elderly.

“Some people reached out to me today to say, ‘How can we get this done?”’ Casagrande said Friday. “There’s going to be lots of people pushing and pulling for this.”

Sweeney, the Democratic Senate president, appears to be one of them.

“I will look at the law and consider changes to protect individuals from such unconscionable actions, but the young men who committed this act need to take a long, hard look in the mirror,” Sweeney said. “A law may not change them, but it could protect those they prey on.”

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Parker Space on Assembly backs naming Route 15 in Sussex after Senator Littell

Source: PolitickerNJ -

The members of the General Assembly this afternoon unanimously voted to designate the Sussex County portion of State Highway Route No. 15 as the “Senator Robert E. Littell Memorial Highway.”

Parker Space

“Senator Littell was dedicated not only to the constituents he represented, but all of New Jersey. His commitment to public service is an example to everyone that you can make a difference. Senator Littell loved his family and this great state. We can never truly thank him for his many contributions to New Jersey, but seeing his name on Rt. 15 will always remind us of someone who cared deeply about helping people.” – Asm. Parker Space

The longest-serving legislator in New Jersey history history, Republican Senator McHose of Sussex died late last year.

His daughter, Assemblywoman Alison McHose Littell (R-24), choked up when she remembered her father on the floor of the assembly.

Assembly Bill 2656 passed 73-0.

“Senator Littell was dedicated not only to the constituents he represented, but all of New Jersey,” said Assemblyman Parker Space (R-24). “His commitment to public service is an example to everyone that you can make a difference. Senator Littell loved his family and this great state. We can never truly thank him for his many contributions to New Jersey, but seeing his name on Rt. 15 will always remind us of someone who cared deeply about helping people.”


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Bramnick on gas tax hike talks

Source: NJ 101.5 -

Negotiations to replenish the Transportation Trust Fund (TTF), possibly with an increase in the gas tax, have not broken off despite published reports to the contrary, according to leaders in the General Assembly. They said the talks continue, but politics is at play and that could stall a gas tax hike for the time being.

Jon Bramnick

The top Republican in the Assembly agreed that talks to fund the TTF were continuing. Assembly GOP Leader Jon Bramnick (R-Westfield) said sometimes there are slow periods in negotiations and sometimes there are periods where there’s rapid movement. TTF talks are somewhere in the middle he explained.

“I think negotiations are moving along,” Bramnick said. “We need tax fairness. If we’re going to raise a gas tax I think the people of New Jersey would like to see other taxes reduced.”

All 80 seats in the Assembly are up for grabs in this November’s elections. Bramnick acknowledged fear of voter backlash could have [members on both sides of the aisle] skittish about voting in favor of a gas tax hike until after Election Day.

“I think there are probably legislators who are afraid to vote for any type of increase whatsoever on taxes and I suspect that might be playing a role,” Bramnick said.

Another factor at play could be the fact that Gov. Chris Christie recently said the TTF was not in crisis mode.

“I’m hopeful that the Senate president and the speaker and I will be able to come to a resolution sooner rather than later, but, you know, again, it’s not a crisis at the moment, because we’re funded pretty well now,” said Christie in the February edition of Townsquare Media’s “‘Ask the Governor” program.

As the governor mulls a run for president in 2016, many insiders said he would not want to sign a gas tax increase into law right before throwing his hat in the ring.

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Gove, Rumpf oppose bill to establish stormwater utilities

Source: The Sandpaper - Assemblyman Brian E. Rumpf and Assemblywoman DiAnne C. Gove of the 9th District are opposing legislation that would allow counties and municipalities to establish stormwater utilities empowered to impose charges on ratepayer…

DiAnne Gove

The legislation would authorize a county, county utilities authority, municipality, or municipal utilities authority to regulate combined sewer overflows, to establish, provide and maintain a stormwater utility for the purpose of creating a stormwater management system to manage stormwater runoff. Entities created by the bill would be authorized to impose user fees..

“Imposing fees to pay for a new government bureaucracy is a surefire way to scare away capital investment into our state,” Gove noted. “If you’re a business looking to expand or relocate to New Jersey, does the prospect of paying higher fees while being subjected to regulations by a just-established government bureaucracy play into your decision? Absolutely. If you’re an affected ratepayer, you’ll have less disposable income which, in itself, has economic ramifications for local businesses.”

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Dancer on Assembly approval of bill to protect horse racing simulcasts in Atlantic City

Source: Press of Atlantic City -

Legislation to protect the simulcasting of horse races in Atlantic City was approved by the state Assembly on Thursday.

The bill, A-3972, allows casinos to negotiate with out-of-state racetracks for signal fees.

Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa is the last horseracing simulcast facility in Atlantic City. Current law limits the fee a casino can pay for the transmission signal.

A statement from Assembly Republicans said without the enactment of this bill, which permits a higher fee, the Borgata will lose the signal for races from Churchhill Downs, some of the most prestigious races in the country.

Ron Dancer

“We only have once casino left where you can bet on and watch horses,” Assemblyman Ron Dancer, R-Ocean, Burlington, Middlesex and Monmouth, said in a statement. “This is a matter of survival.”

Dancer said for simulcasting to continue in Atlantic City, the casino needs to be able to show the top stakes races and best horses.

“This bill is about keeping pace with the market,” Dancer said.

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