Category: Clips

Dems push to court without plan is “Leadership run amok,” says Brown [video]

Source: Assembly Republican Video -

In a press conference, Republican members of the Assembly Budget Committee Declan O’Scanlon, Tony Bucco and Chris Brown pressed Democrats to come up with a pension payment plan instead of filing an amicus brief with the state Supreme Court in support of the unions’ case.

Chris J. Brown

Asm. Christopher J. Brown: “We have about $8.5 million left to be distributed to our school districts. Would that be cut it they want the $1.6 billion? We have no mechanism to go back and create revenue out of thin air. … This to me is leadership run amok. It doesn’t define anything about where New Jersey’s path should be, but rather political grandstanding.”

 

 

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Bucco urges Dems to be honest on pension funding [video]

Source: Assembly Republican Video -

In a press conference, Republican members of the Assembly Budget Committee Declan O’Scanlon, Tony Bucco and Chris Brown pressed Democrats to come up with a pension payment plan instead of filing an amicus brief with the state Supreme Court in support of the unions’ case.

Anthony M. Bucco

Asm. Anthony Bucco: “At this point in the budget cycle, we just don’t have any place to go, except for drastic cuts in school aid, drastic cuts in municipal aid, enormous tax increases. That’s the only way you’re going to close this budget gap with two months to go in the budget cycle … You can’t just say ‘We don’t like it’ and not come up with an answer. That shows a lack of leadership.”

 

 

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O’Scanlon demands pension plan adhere to the laws of mathematics [video]

Source: Assembly Republican Video -

In a press conference, Republican members of the Assembly Budget Committee Declan O’Scanlon, Tony Bucco and Chris Brown pressed Democrats to come up with a pension payment plan instead of filing an amicus brief with the state Supreme Court in support of the unions’ case.

Declan O'Scanlon

Declan O’Scanlon: “We’re talking $1.6 billion and we have about two months of the budget year left. There is approximately $800 million in school aid left to go out the door, and thats the single biggest item. Anything left you can cut, because we front load our spending, so if you look at what is still on the table to be cut, you’re going to have to go after that $800 million. If you were trying to cut $800 million from school aid in the last two months of a school year, we have about a 110,000 teachers give or take – you’d have to lay off half of them for the last two months.”

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N.J. Assembly Republicans accuse NJEA of ‘pandering’ to members in pension talk pullout

Star Ledger -

Republican members of the Assembly Budget Committee on Wednesday criticized New Jersey’s largest public worker union of taking the easy road by shutting down pension talks and demanding full funding without offering any alternatives.

The assemblymen, in a brief news conference following a budget hearing on Department of Education funding, leveled accusations of pandering at the New Jersey Education Association, which on Monday said it was dropping out of talks with a commission designated by Gov. Chris Christie to devise a retirement system fix.

Declan O'Scanlon

“For NJEA to pull out without presenting their own plan is a damn shame,” said Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon (R-Monmouth), who was joined by Assemblymen Anthony M. Bucco (R-Morris) and Christopher Brown (R-Burlington). “It smacks to me of pandering to your members.”

Anthony M. Bucco

“You can’t just keep pointing fingers and walking away,” Bucco added.

New Jersey’s labor unions contend the state owes an additional $1.57 billion in pension contributions that Christie slashed to balance the budget.

O’Scanlon said Wednesday that doing so would force cuts to unspent school aid and mass teacher layoffs in the final months of the school year. Additionally, implementing a tax increase to raise the money is virtually impossible, he said.

O’Scanlon has praised the work of the commission, which in February recommended freezing the existing pension system and enrolling workers in hybrid defined-benefit, defined-contribution plans. It would also require public workers to agree to concessions in their health-care coverage.

The union agreed to work with the commission last fall, and by February, Christie announced an “unprecedented accord” with the group that has spent $60 million battling against him. Within two months, though, the accord corroded, with union leadership saying it was shifting all its focus to the upcoming Supreme Court fight.

“The deeper we got into discussions, the more we realized the things they were asking us to consider were just not in the realm of possibility,” Communications Director Steve Wollmer said Wednesday.

Wollmer argued the accusations of pandering are more accurately described as representing the union’s legions of members, who “want no part in the further diminishment of their benefits.”

O’Scanlon also took aim at Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester) and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson), who on Monday said they will file an amicus brief with the state Supreme Court in support of the unions’ case. In it, the Democratic leaders argued Christie should live up to the pension law dictating how much the state is supposed to pay into the pension system.

“That money isn’t just going to come out of thin air,” O’Scanlon said.

“The folks who are uttering the words ‘just make the payment’ or ‘find a way’ are not going to win any awards for gutsy leadership,” O’Scanlon said.

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Politicians scrutinize the N.J. media at Bramnick’s Kean University event

Source: The Star-Ledger -

Several New Jersey politicians who have long been scrutinized by the media turned the tables on Tuesday.

And they didn’t always have nice things to say.

“My neighbors know the size of Kim Kardashian’s butt, but they don’t have a clue as to how real the budget crisis is in the state of New Jersey and what it may do to them,” said Union County Sheriff Joseph Cryan. “I assure you one has more impact on your life overall than the other.”

Cryan was part of a panel assembled by Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-Union) at Kean University. Also participating were former Govs. James E. McGreevey and Donald DiFrancesco, NJTV chief political correspondent Michael Aron, TAPInto.net publisher and CEO Michael Shapiro, conservative blogger Art Gallagher and PolitickerNJ.com reporter Chase Brush. The topic: changes in the media, and how politicians are dealing with them.

Jon Bramnick

Bramnick said the media are too fast to tarnish politicians.

“There were some allegations against Senator Menendez. Within a day, his face was on the front page of The Star-Ledger,” he said of the senator, who was indicted this month on 14 federal corruption counts. “When do you give the elected official the benefit of the doubt? When do you put the story out there? If it’s just a allegation, how much attention does it get?”

Bramnick suggested that coverage of politicians has made many community leaders think twice about running for office.

“I truly believe there’s a chilling effect in bringing some of our best and brightest,” he said.

McGreevey, Cryan and DiFrancesco have all had political and personal scandals that were heavily covered. But the three differed on how much the media’s coverage of politicians has changed.

“I haven’t seen much change. The only thing that’s changed is the social media,” said DiFrancesco.

The biggest change, DiFrancesco said, is that politicians’ own use of social media has allowed them to rely less on the bigger, traditional outlets.

“From my perspective, having been in the minority for 15 years in the legislature, you would kill to get your picture in The Star-Ledger or Bergen Record, what have you. You tried all kinds of ways… But now I think social media is very good for politicians,” he said.

McGreevey said he didn’t think it media coverage has had a chilling effect on politicians because everyone gets a high level scrutiny.

“Perhaps we’ve ironically come to a point where the media is so rapacious and exhaustive that no person can survive that level of scrutiny. So in a sense, all sinners are welcome,” he said.

Aron, who has covered New Jersey politics for decades, said that the way reporters approach stories is “fundamentally the same,” but with a lot more emphasis on speed.

“We’re all fascinated by a fall from grace. That was true 30 years ago, and that’s still true in the era of Bob Menendez and Bridgegate.”

Shapiro — whose company covers local news — says his writers often exercise restraint. He said the outlet was criticized for running only a brief about a local mayor’s arrest for DWI in the police blotter.

“If that elected official was trying to use his office to get out of the ticket, that to me is newsworthy and a story. But we put it in the news blotter, just like any resident who’s arrested for DWI,” he said.

Although the discussion was on the new media, much of the criticism was focused on media coverage from more than a decade ago.

Cryan — a longtime former Assemblyman who served as state Democratic chairman — took aim at online forums on NJ.com from years ago, saying anonymous people leveled false accusations against him that he had trouble getting removed. And he slammed The Star-Ledger for running a photo of then-Essex County Executive Jim Treffinger during his 2002 arrest, showing him in shackles after being arrested on corruption charges. Cryan said reporters worked “off an illegal leak” from the U.S. Attorney’s Office under Chris Christie.

Treffinger pleaded guilty to corruption in 2003.

A member of the audience, Lesly Deveraux, told the panel her misdeeds were heavily covered by the the Star-Ledger, but her subsequent actions have not been.

Deveraux, a former chief of staff at the state Commerce Commission, did prison time after her conviction for official misconduct. She also pleaded guilty to third-degree theft by deception.

“I paid my debt to society. I came home. I got a doctorate. I got a master’s. I got a radio show. I wrote two books…. I was ordinained a minister. Nobody knows anything about that,” Deveraux said. “When you google my name, you just see something that happened 11 or 12 years ago… My question is does there ever come a time when the media will become forgiving?”

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Bramnick says N.J. Democrats need to show us the pension money

Jon Bramnick

Star Ledger -

Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick on Tuesday said Democratic legislative leaders shouldn’t side with unions in asking the courts to order the restoration of $1.6 billion in state pension payments cut by Gov. Chris Christie.

They should come up with the money themselves.

“I think it’s simple: I just don’t think that we need a court to order the payment of the money,” Bramnick (R-Union) said before hosting an event at Kean University. “We need the Democratic leaders in the Legislature to present that plan for $1.6 billion in funding in a fiscal year that has two months left in it.”

Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson) and Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) on Monday filed legal briefs in support of the state’s public workers’ unions, which are suing the Christie administration. The unions argue that it is a breach of their members’ contractual

A state Superior Court judge ruled in the unions’ favor earlier this year. After the Christie administration appealed, the state Supreme Court agreed to hear the case.

“We know there’s not enough money n the next two months to find $1.6 billion. So the court can order it, but the court is going to have to find out where the money is,” Bramnick said. “Pass your plan, tell us where the money is. What tax are you gong to raise, How are you going to find the $1.6 billion during the last two months of the fiscal year?”

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O’Scanlon berates Dems over budget problems

Declan O'Scanlon

PolitickerNJ -

Talk about sarcasm.

In a rollicking press release today that is either penetratingly witty or downright distasteful, depending on what side of the aisle you’re on, Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon (R-13) “praised” the “miraculous efforts” of the house’s top Democrats for proposing a plan to solve the state’s gaping budget shortfall and public pension crisis. Full of adjectives like “joyful” and “ebullient”, the Republican thanked Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) and Assembly Speaker Vinnie Prieto (D-32) for finding the money to fix the state’s fiscal issues somewhere “down in the basement of the statehouse.”

“This is the best news I’ve heard in years!”, the release quotes O’Scanlon saying. “I really am having trouble containing myself! I need to sit down. Can someone bring me a water?!?”

The comments are, of course, tongue-in-cheek. Both parties have struggled to find consensus specifically on how to fix the pension fund, currently suffering from some $80 billion in unfunded liabilities, as lawmakers work to craft this year’s budget. Republicans have largely side with Gov. Chris Christie’s administration in opting to put off scheduled payments to the system in order to address more immediate fiscal problems, while Democrats have railed against the move, arguing that it would renege on the 2011 pension reform law both parties joined Christie in signing.

O’Scanlon apparently wants to highlight that Democrats have fallen short on offering up concrete alternatives to the problem, and began his next quote in the release “a little less enthusiastically.”

“The only small problem, actually, I’m certain it isn’t a problem per se, let’s call it a formality, is that they didn’t actually release their plan,’ the release reads. “Yet, I mean….I’m sure it will be released later today. But it must exist because they filed support of the lawsuit that would force full pension payments. They would never be so irresponsible as to publicly support the lawsuit without a plan to make the payments – balance the budget and do it all without massive, economy-killing tax increases or untenable budget cuts. That would be insane.”

Yesterday, Sweeney and Prieto announced plans to submit an amicus brief in the Mercer County Superior Courthouse that would express the legislature’s support for public labor unions in their legal battle with the Christie administration over its failure to make full pension payments the last two years.

“I heard digging and blasting down in the basement of the statehouse when I was there for Budget Committee meetings over the last couple of weeks and saw Steve emerge in filthy overalls with a pick in his hand,” O’Scanlon continued. “There probably was $3.5 billion buried down there. Or maybe they were drilling for oil and hit a gusher! Whatever, I’m just glad our problems are solved! Everyone can rest easy now!!”

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Bramnick to Dems on pension issue: ‘Show us where the money is’

PolitickerNJ -

Jon Bramnick

Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-21) said today that he is puzzled by the legislature’s Democratic leadership’s decision to submit an amicus brief with the Mercer County Superior Court in support of public unions in their legal battle over the state’s failure to fund its pension and benefit system, asking why they haven’t offered up a plan themselves to solve the problem in Trenton.

“My understanding is the Democratic leadership is going to the courts for the courts to order the Democratic leadership to make the payments,” Bramnick said during a short press conference at Kean University. “Why not simply put forward a plan, the Democrats are in control in both houses of the legislature, they have a plan, pass a resolution?”

Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Vinnie Prieto announced their intention to submit the brief yesterday hoping the court during its case next month would uphold the 2011 pension reform law which meant to ensure the state’s makes its scheduled payments.

“Show us where the money is and present it to the governor,” Bramnick contended. “But to go to the courts and order the legislature to make the payment, to me, doesn’t make any sense.”

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Simon, Ciattarelli discuss Horticulture Week

Courier News -

Since Jan. 1, 2014, more than 6,300 bills and resolutions have been introduced by the state Senate and Assembly. If you weed out duplicates, the list of bills for the 2014-2015 Legislative Session total approximately 4,300. Only a few hundred per session ever become law.

On March 26, the General Assembly passed Joint Resolution, AJR13, designating the third week of March as “Horticultural Therapy Week.” The state Senate, through bipartisan SJR-12, led by state Sen. Kip Bateman, and the Assembly, through AJR-13, led by Assemblywoman Donna Simon, are the first legislative bodies in the nation to designate the week every year to raise awareness about the importance of horticultural therapy in improving the quality of life for all participants. Horticultural Therapy Week was established by Congress in the spring of 2006 to coincide with the first day of spring.

Donna Simon

“Many people find working with plants to be very enjoyable and relaxing. Using it as part of treatment plan has proven to be beneficial to people of all ages with various needs including brain injuries, cancer, Alzheimer’s, substance abuse, developmental disabilities, OT/PT rehabilitation. Horticultural Therapy is used to improve memory, fine and gross motor skills, cognitive abilities, language, socialization and vocational skills. As the Garden State, New Jersey couldn’t be a more perfect place to launch this joint resolution,” said Simon, R-16, Hunterdon, Somerset, Mercer and Middlesex.

In order to advance the profession, it is important that the public recognize horticultural therapists as professionals with specific education, training and credentials in the use of horticulture for therapy and rehabilitation.

Jack Ciattarelli

“As horticultural therapy continues to play a larger and more important role in the community, it is altogether fitting and perfectly appropriate that we recognize its emergence and therapeutic benefit by designating the third week in March as “Horticultural Therapy Week,” said Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli, R-16, Hunterdon, Somerset, Mercer and Middlesex.

Horticultural therapy designs and programs can offer cognitive, social, physical benefits with year-round applications indoors and outdoors. Currently, there are 25 registered horticultural therapists in New Jersey facilitating valuable programs using evidenced-based research for children through seniors, in schools, adult day care, mental health, veterans homes, assisted living, nursing homes, rehabilitation, family shelters, developmentally disabled day programs, group homes, day and residential housing for adults with autism, community and county parks, gardens and arboreta.

 

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Handlin comments on NJ Transit fare hike proposal

Asbury Park Press -

Beleaguered New Jersey Transit commuters face a 9 percent hike in their train and bus fares, starting Oct. 1.

NJ Transit announced long-anticipated fare hikes Monday. It also proposes ending two late-night trains out of Hoboken in September and making service cuts to six bus routes, including seasonal routes running to Great Adventure from Freehold and Philadelphia.

The hikes, the subject of upcoming public hearings, would sock it to around 1-in-10 New Jersey workers. The Census Bureau estimates that 10.8 percent of New Jersey commuters use public transit, more than 443,000 people, including around 37,800 from Middlesex County and 24,800 from Monmouth County. The highest rates of public transit use are closest to New York City, including around 40 percent of workers living in Hudson County.

Fares would go up across all rail, bus and light-rail lines, by roughly 9 percent but varying slightly. A monthly rail pass between Metropark and Penn Station New York would go from $284 to $310, up 9.2 percent. A monthly bus pass from Lakewood to the Port Authority Bus Terminal would go from $411 to $448, up 9 percent. A monthly light-rail pass from Camden to Trenton would go from $50 to $54, up 8 percent.

Concerns about the fare-hike plan appear to be bipartisan.

Amy Handlin

“If NJT wants yet another fare increase, at a minimum they should be required to demonstrate a long-term fiscal plan and forecasting model,” said Assemblywoman Amy Handlin, R-Monmouth.

Single round-trips for those same three examples would see slightly smaller increases: $1.50, or 7.5 percent, from Metropark; $3, or 8.6 percent, from Lakewood; and 20 cents, or 6.7 percent, from Camden.

 

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