Category: Clips

Assemblyman Bucco Clashes With Estate Tax Critic in Assembly Budget

Source: Excerpted from PolitickerNJ -

Assemblyman Anthony Bucco (R-25) countered arguments from left-wing advocacy group New Jersey Policy Perspective in committee Monday, calling their arguments distorted after a representative from the group contradicted the Republican caucus’ consistent claim that wealthy residents are filing out of the state because of its estate tax. Governor Chris Christie emphasized the cuts in his budget address last month, citing “tax fairness.”

Countering NJPP’s Sheila Reynertson after she said those claims are based in “anecdotes and faulty data,” Bucco pointed to farmers and small business owners affected by the tax’s current threshold of $675,000 in assets. Reynertson said that the group’s data shows population remaining stable over the last ten years and the state economy growing.

Anthony M. Bucco

“I think you’re missing a whole segment of the population when you say this will only impact the wealthy. I respectfully disagree,” said Bucco.

“We’ve heard testimony here from families that have had farms in their families for years, and when the owner passed away they had to sell the farm because the estate couldn’t pay the estate taxes,” Bucco continued. “We’ve heard from small mom-and-pop businesses that suffer the same consequences as a result of the estate tax. You’re not trying to suggest that those situations are the wealthy of New Jersey?

“If you have a small business, you can very easily get to $675,000 in assets.”


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DeCroce: Crowdfunding: an alternative funding source

Source: Bergen Record [Op-Ed by BettyLou DeCroce]

BettyLou DeCroce

BettyLou DeCroce

Municipal governments, commissions and agencies have been struggling to meet the cost of basic services that residents expect, such as policing, trash pickup and snow removal. Add to those services the demands of constituents who want better recreational facilities, more parks, art centers or new libraries, and it’s easy to understand why local government officials, striving to keep a lid on property taxes, are overwhelmed by residents’ demands.

But there is potential in New Jersey to fund non-essential improvements without adding to the property tax levy or turning town halls into battle grounds between special interests that want to spend taxpayer money and those who want to hold the line on government spending. That is through crowdfunding.

Crowdfunding is the practice of funding a project or venture by raising contributions from people who have an interest in a project. Donations are usually done via the Internet with several companies such as Kickstarter IOBY, and CitizInvestorare leading the way by offering platforms specializing in raising funds for public projects, taking a small fee for their efforts.

Crowdfunding or something akin to it has been a successful tool for private ventures for years, but more recently it has emerged in a number of states as a way to raise capital for public sector projects:

* When dog owners in Fort Lauderdale wanted a dog park built, they didn’t wait for the City Council to find the money to pay for one.

* In Denver, the design of a mile-long protected bike lane was financed without taxpayer assistance.

* Residents in the small town of Central Falls, R.I., which struggled with bankruptcy, created a proposal to beautify and clean up its landmark park. The residents knew the city could not finance it, so they did.

New Jersey has yet to catch on to the potential of crowdfunding, but there is bipartisan support for legislation that I submitted, along with Assemblyman Gordon Johnson, D-Englewood, that would allow all levels of governments, including school boards, to conduct fundraising efforts for government projects. The Government Crowdfunding Act, Bill A-291, gives small governments an option they need to do public good without heaping more pressure on beleaguered taxpayers.

Athletic fields, visitors center

Bergen County municipalities such as North Arlington, Park Ridge and Tenafly have been divided over the cost of new turf athletic fields, a firefighter memorial and a visitors facility at a nature center. These communities and others often try to settle their disputes with costly and divisive public referendums that often result in more community disunity.

By allowing governments to use crowdfunding as an alternative way to raise project-specific revenue, we can open a door to public investment that does not burden our taxpayers. With the proposed legislation, there would be both donor-based and investor-based crowdfunding. Donors receive no remuneration for their contributions, whereas investors would receive payment or interest once the project is completed. Going either route allows citizens to take charge of the projects they most want to see completed.

One of the added benefits of crowdfunding is that it lessens the acrimony over disputed projects that some people feel are essential and others feel is a waste of money. At its core, crowdfunding is a referendum on public support for a project without the expense of going through a governmental referendum process. If the fundraising effort fails, it fails for lack of public interest; if it succeeds, it’s a demonstrable measure of public support.

Small projects

Admittedly, the success of civic crowdfunding is found mostly in small projects. According to information taken from several websites, crowdfunding for public purposes averages about $8,000 in donations. The Rhode Island park crowdfunding effort raised just over $10,044. But many projects have exceeded that number. The dog park effort in Fort Lauderdale raised more than $81,000, and the bike lane in Denver raised $150,000 from businesses, investors and private donors.

There is evidence that larger public projects, such as turf fields, may be funded with a combination of crowdfunding and philanthropic and government grants as they are trying to do in Kansas City to fund a non-profit bike-share program.

The potential of crowdfunding not only to finance small community projects but to serve as the catalyst for leveraging public and private funds to undertake bigger civic projects is exciting for a state like New Jersey, where we have a large, online population that can be tapped for donations for special-interest projects.

New Jersey should climb on the crowdfunding train and allow local governments to use technology that can lead to civic improvements without adding to our property tax burden.

BettyLou DeCroce, R-Morris, is an assemblywoman representing District 26. She is the author of the government crowdfunding bill.

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Bramnick, Munoz joins Chamber Honoring Business’ Best at Annual Service Awards Dinner

Source: Excerpted from Tap into Providence -

Seven deserving business and organization leaders were honored Wednesday night at the Suburban Chamber of Commerce Sixth Annual Service Awards Dinner that drew a crowd of 250 people to the Grand Summit Hotel in Summit.

Suburban Chamber of Commerce Chair and CEO Michael Shapiro set the stage of the night by sharing the success of the chamber. “We will continue to increase membership, deliver more services to our members and work together with all of our communities,” said Shapiro. “What is so special about this evening tonight, it brings all three of our communities together — Berkeley Heights, Summit and New Providence — it is a really special evening for all of us.”

The Master of Ceremonies John Rosellini of Overlook Medical Center welcomed Assemblyman Jon Bramnick, Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz, Summit Mayor Nora Radest, New Providence Mayor Al Morgan and Berkeley Heights Mayor Robert Woodruff along with the room full of business and community members.

Jon Bramnick

Bramnick congratulated and thanked the award recipients for “demonstrating what civility is and what real relationships are about — that is what America is and should be,” said Bramnick.

“When you bring communities together and people actually work together, and they struggle together, and communities work with each other — you have success,” he said.

Members of the Chamber introduced each of the seven recipients and presented the honorees with a hand blown glass plate award. The Service Award recipients were: Bill and Christine Ferdinand of Ferdinand Jewelers for Business of the Year; Jim Wood of Berkeley Aquatic Club for Good Neighbor Award; Clelia Biamonti for Citizen of the Year; Summit P.A.L. for Organization of the Year; Summit Police Department for Public Safety Award; Mayor Ellen Dickson for Public Service Award; and Miles McMahon for Silver Service Award.

In addition to the presentation of the awards, Joe Steiner was recognized for his recent retirement and many years of service as president of the Chamber of Commerce.

Miles McMahon was presented with the Silver Award. McMahon was a U.S. Merchant Marine during World War II as a radio officer. His work with the Army Signal Corps had inspired him to take a career in teaching high school and subsequently taught 25 years at the Essex County College.

Nancy Munoz

Munoz spoke of sharing a similar history through her father-in-law, who was a member of the Merchant Marines like McMahon. “I am working to get recognition along with the Cadet Nurses Corps — two groups that have worked tirelessly and with many casualties in the wars and are not recognized as veterans. I will continue to work to get recognition for the Merchant Marines in New Jersey. There will be a Merchant Marine recognition day in New Jersey,” said Munoz.


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Ciattarelli chairs Tour of Somerville to benefit Jack’s Kids organization

Source: -

The 73rd Tour of Somerville, one of the oldest and most prestigious bicycle races in the United States, will benefit Jack’s Kids, a nonprofit organization dedicated to easing the financial burden for families dealing with a serious childhood illness or disability.

Jack’s Kids is an initiative of the Somerville Elks Club. The organization is named in honor of Jack Gardner, a former detective in the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office and warden of the Somerset County Jail, who dedicated his life to helping the youth of Somerset County.

Jack Ciattarelli

“It’s very exciting to be part of the Tour of Somerville,” said Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli (R-District 16), the honorary chairman of this year’s Jack’s Kids Softball Tournament. “It’s such a huge community event, with so many locals and guests from around the world. We’re so impressed with and grateful for the generosity of the Tour sponsors.”

More than 600 cyclists from around the world will race on Memorial Day through the streets of Somerville in a traditional event that kicks off summer in New Jersey.

More than 15,000 people are expected to attend the day of bicycle races through the borough’s revitalized downtown and past historic Victorian houses in a residential neighborhood. Admission is free.

Ample parking is available and the race is one block from the Somerville station on NJ Transit’s Raritan Valley Line.

The race, traditionally the biggest event of the year in the county seat, is promoted by Arts on Division, an organization dedicated to support the arts in Somerset County.

A variety of sponsorships are available for corporations, businesses and non-profit organizations. For more information on sponsorships, contact Lisa Werner at

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DiMaio: Bound Brook has ‘a great future’

Source: -

It takes Assemblyman John DiMaio (R-District 23) 45 minutes to drive from his home in Hackettstown to Bound Brook at the far southeastern corner of his district that extends from the Delaware River to the Raritan River.

But it’s a drive that DiMaio said is worth taking.

John DiMaio

“You guys have a great future,” DiMaio said after he was given a tour of Bound Brook’s downtown led by Mayor Bob Fazen and Council President Abel Gomez.

DiMaio, a former mayor of Hackettstown which has about the same population of Bound Brook, has firsthand knowledge of the challenges facing small towns.

But he believes that Bound Brook has the potential to meet those challenges.

“It’s pretty exciting,” he said after the tour conducted last week.

The tour focused on the borough’s efforts to revitalize its downtown, which has started a comeback with the completion of the Bound Brook portion of the Green Brook flood control project. Bound Brook’s downtown had been devastated by a series of floods in the past four decades that discouraged businesses from locating on Main Street.

Now, with the threat of floods diminished, Main Street has begun to attract developers lured by the borough’s station on NJ Transit’s Raritan Valley Line which has now started to offer direct train rides into Manhattan.

That’s why Bound Brook is embracing developers who want to build mixed-use projects – businesses on the street level and rental apartments on the upper floors.

But that also depends on improving the transit facilities.

Fazen told DiMaio that one of his top priorities is renovating the abandoned waiting room on the eastbound platform.

For a quarter of a century, Fazen told the assemblyman, he waited outside in all types of weather when he was commuting to New York.

Fazen said the renovation of the 100-by-50-foot brick building, which is hollow, does not have to be complicated. All he wants is a waiting room for protection from the weather and maybe a stand to buy coffee and a newspaper.

But handicapped access to the train has to be improved, Gomez said.

The borough sees the possibility of a “skywalk” with elevators to to make it easier for commuters to get to both sides of the tracks, especially if more commuter parking becomes available on the south side of the railroad.

Both Fazen and Gomez showed DiMaio an abandoned stairwell from South Main Street by the Queen’s Bridge to the train platform area. That stairwell used to provide access to trains for South Bound Brook residents who walked over the Queen’s

With the construction of the Riverbrook Walk community just on the other side of the bridge in South Bound Brook, it’s important that the stairwell be restored, they told DiMaio.

The officials were also excited to tell DiMaio that a developer were also interested in renovating the former First National Bank of Central Jersey that has been closed at the train station plaza for more than a decade.

Impressed with what he saw in Bound Brook, DiMaio said he regularly visits towns in his district “to see what I can do for them.”

“We’re here to help,” he said.

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Is 65 mph too slow for NJ? O’Scanlon says raise the speed limit!

Source: 101.5 - As the Pennsylvania Turnpike speed limit gets raised above 65 mph this spring, at least one Garden State lawmaker is eyeing the possibility of making the same change in New Jersey.

Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon, R-Monmouth, a longtime advocate for a higher speed limit, said Thursday that he’s “actively pursuing it,” noting that Pennsylvania will become the 37th state with a limit above 65 mph on at least some of its highways.

Declan O'Scanlon

O’Scanlon said a higher speed limit wouldn’t make Jersey drivers go any faster. He believes the limit should be set at the speed at which 85 percent of drivers regularly travel — which on New Jersey highways would be between 70 and 75 mph.

“You’re really just recognizing the speeds people are already traveling. You’re providing for more uniform traffic flow. You’re making people less paranoid when they’re on the highways by having realistic speed limits. It’s exactly the right thing to do,” he said…

O’Scanlon said New Jersey highways are engineered in such a way to allow for speeds over 65 mph.

“When you set reasonable speed limits based on sound engineering criteria, you get the greatest amount of compliance. You get the greatest amount of safety, with the least amount of punishment. That should be our overwhelming goal,” O’Scanlon said.

O’Scanlon said a lower speed limit leads to people being ticketed for driving at speeds that are inherently safe and that drivers then get angry with police officers because “they know when they’re being victimized.”

“You also have some officials who believe that you should set laws in such a way that you can entrap people and steal their money. And they think that’s an acceptable activity of government. And they’re wrong. That is theft, and it’s complete misuse of government power,” O’Scanlon said.

Starting his spring, most of the Pennsylvania Turnpike will have a 70 mph speed limit, under a change approved Wednesday. Portions now at 55 mph will remain at that speed. That state’s Department of Transportation is studying whether to also raise the limit on other highways, including Interstate 80.

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Bancroft CEO responding to Rodriguez-Gregg: $15 minimum wage could cause us to shrink our organization dramatically

Source: Politico New Jersey -

The push for a $15 minimum wage could negatively impact social-service providers like Camden-based Bancroft if there isn’t a corresponding increase in funding to cover the cost of the wage increase, the group’s CEO testified at an Assembly Budget hearing Wednesday in Collingswood.

Bancroft provides services for children and adults with developmental disabilities.

Maria Rodriguez-Gregg

Maria Rodriguez-Gregg

Republican Assemblywoman Maria Rodriguez-Gregg asked Bancroft CEO Toni Pergolin how the proposed legislation for a $15 minimum wage, which has been led by Democratic leaders Assembly speaker Vincent Prieto and Senate president Stephen Sweeney, might impact the organization.

“If we got funding to do that, it would be an amazing change to our organization and our staff across the board,” Pergolin said. “My scare is that will go to $15 and we won’t get one more dollar for it. That will cause us to shrink our organization dramatically. We will never be able to provide the support for the number of people we serve today if we have to pay the $15 minimum wage without any additional funding.”

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O’Scanlon: Planned Parenthood funding cuts not affecting access to healthcare

Source: NJ Spotlight – Many counties in South Jersey have unemployment rates that are higher than the state’s overall average. The region is also home to two of New Jersey’s neediest cities, Camden and Atlantic City.

But it also has large rural areas and a good portion of the Garden State’s farming community. That means the concerns of South Jersey residents tend to be a bit different than those of their neighbors in the north, where there are larger cities, bigger companies, and a heavy emphasis on commute times into New York.

Declan O'Scanlon

In order to learn more about how “the other half” lives, members of the state Assembly Budget Committee went down to South Jersey yesterday to hear firsthand about the issues important to that region.

The nearly four-hour public hearing in Collingswood was the latest to be held this month as lawmakers continue to review the $34.8 billion budget that Gov. Chris Christie has proposed for the fiscal year that begins July 1…

Christie’s proposed budget calls for overall spending to increase by $1 billion. Most of that new money would cover rising public-employee pension and healthcare costs. The budget essentially calls for flat funding for education, property tax relief and municipal aid, and it doesn’t rely on any tax hikes…

Impact of Planned Parenthood cuts
Camden is being affected by Christie’s decision to cut $7.5 million in funding for family planning and women’s health services, according to Lynn Brown, president and chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of Southern New Jersey…

But Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon (R-Monmouth) told another member of the public who asked for the restoration of the $7.5 million in funding if he knew of anyone specifically who had not been able to find adequate services after Planned Parenthood lost its state aid. O’Scanlon said it appears that federally qualified health centers have simply picked up the slack.

“Bring me specific folks who are having difficulty accessing care,” said O’Scanlon, the committee’s ranking Republican member. “I’m interested in helping people get the access to the care that they need.”

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Bramnick: Christie deserves credit for New Jersey job growth

Source: Excerpted from NJ Spotlight -

Armed with new labor statistics that show New Jersey’s unemployment rate has now fallen below the nation’s and all other states in the region, Gov. Chris Christie came forward yesterday to tout his administration’s anti-tax policies.

The governor’s victory lap highlighted a drop in New Jersey’s unemployment rate that reached nearly 2 percentage points between January 2015 and this past January, which was the best 12-month decline in the jobless average for any U.S. state over that period.

“I do not think that that is coincidental,” Christie said during an afternoon news conference held at the headquarters of HelloFresh, a Linden-based food-delivery company.

Jon Bramnick


Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-Union), who also attended the event yesterday, said afterward that analyzing the new economic statistics “ain’t that complicated.”

“Businesses realize that the governor has their back,” Bramnick said.


New Jersey’s improving unemployment picture also drew praise yesterday from Republican lawmakers and business-lobbying groups who share Christie’s views on tax policy. But a liberal think tank called the state’s progress only “modest,” and downplayed any connection to Christie administration initiatives.

For Christie, the state’s unemployment rate has in recent years been a source of discomfort, long trailing both the federal jobless rate and other states in the region as New Jersey has struggled to fully recover from the Great Recession.

But new figures released earlier this week by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics showed the New Jersey unemployment rate dropped to 4.5 percent in January, well below the federal 4.9 percent jobless average.

New Jersey’s unemployment rate is also now lower than the rates in Pennsylvania, 4.6 percent; Delaware, 4.7 percent; New York, 4.9 percent; and Connecticut, 5.5 percent.

New Jersey’s rate has been in a steady decline since the summer of 2012, with that progress coming even after superstorm Sandy hit the state and caused extensive damage that fall.

Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-Union), who also attended the event yesterday, said afterward that analyzing the new economic statistics “ain’t that complicated.”

“Businesses realize that the governor has their back,” Bramnick said.


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DeCroce calls for clarity on PARCC graduation requirements

Source: NJ Spotlight – ressure is mounting from around New Jersey for the state Department of Education to reverse its decision to use a controversial national test as a graduation requirement for the class of 2016, in part due to contentions that using the PARCC tests is illegal.

BettyLou DeCroce

BettyLou DeCroce

Stan Karp, director of the Secondary Reform Project of the Newark-based Education Law Center, called on lawmakers to take some action to pressure the DOE to allow this year’s senior class to graduate without having to pass a standardized test. Nearly 55,000 of the 95,000 12th graders are affected because they either did not take or did not pass the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers language arts test that they took as juniors, he told the Joint Committee on the Public Schools at a hearing in Trenton on Tuesday. He termed the department’s decision to make passing PARCC a graduation requirement both “illegal and unfair.”

School districts are also starting to weigh in on the issue, with at least three so far passing resolutions regarding PARCC, said Frank Belluscio, deputy executive director of the New Jersey School Boards Association. One passed last month by the Highland Park Board of Education agrees with ELC’s contention, asserting that “the NJDOE and the State Board of Education have not yet legally adopted the regulations required to implement the proposed new graduation policies and none of the additional ‘options’ proposed by the NJDOE as alternative ways to satisfy the new graduation requirements are authorized by the current assessment regulations.”

David Saenz Jr., a DOE spokesman, said he could not comment on the assertions of illegality because they are the subject of a legal challenge. Representing a number of students and parents, ELC is set to argue the question of legality before an administrative law judge on March 31…

Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce (R-Morris)...repeated several times that DOE officials need to discuss this matter with the committee.

“The DOE needs to talk to us about this and how we are going to deal with this,” she said. “We need transparency here, we need to make things clear for the students and their families. I don’t see any other way than by having the Department of Education come here and talk to us about this…”

New Jersey is in the minority of states that require the passage of a test for graduation and is one of only two states in the nation — New Mexico is the other — that has made PARCC a graduation requirement.

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