Category: Clips

Bramnick calls for civility in toughest speech at Assembly swearing-in

Source: Politico New Jersey -

Democrats on Tuesday swore in their largest majority in the state Assembly since 1979.

But it was Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick, after suffering a rough election two months ago, who gave the most muscular speech of the ceremony at Trenton’s war memorial — a defiant and impassioned call for civil discourse in which he skewed politicians and the media.

Jon Bramnick

“Politics has gone from the art of statesmanship to an arena of insults, ridicule and showmanship,” Bramnick said. “Treating opponents with respect is no longer a cherished part of the American landscape, and that should be very troublesome to all of us.”

“The rhetoric on both sides of the aisle, and even in the press, when speaking about a president or a governor is now done with such disdain or disrespect that it’s offensive to the office itself,” Bramnick said. “Whether we are talking about Barack Obama or Chris Christie, let’s keep in mind that they occupy an office in our government that deserves basic respect and basic decency.”

Leadership of the new Assembly class remains the same, but 10 new members were sworn in Tuesday from Cumberland, Camden, Burlington, Monmouth, Mercer, Union and Hudson counties.

Democrats ousted four of Bramnick’s Republican incumbents in November, winning significantly more clout in the lower house. Their 52-seat majority means that if the Democratic caucus is united against a veto by Christie, Democrats must pick off only two GOP votes to succeed in overriding it.

But while he pledged to work together with Democrats, Bramnick said he wouldn’t cave to them.

“We will stand up against using the constitution as a legislative tool to avoid the veto of the governor, we will strongly oppose unfair redistricting plans that make New Jersey a one-party state and we will clearly express our concerns about the costs of living or dying in New Jersey,” Bramnick said.

The criticism could apply to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, even though Bramnick did not name him.

It did not appear aimed at Christie, despite the fact that the governor has called Obama a “petulant child” and a reporter an “idiot” and once urged reporters to “take the bat out” on a state senator.

“Hateful rhetoric is repugnant to New Jerseyans and most of the people who live in this country,” Bramnick said. “If you are a Republican who hates all Democrats or a Democrat who despises all Republicans, you have no business to be in office.”

Bramnick is a Christie loyalist who has acknowledged he’s considering a run to succeed the governor when his second term ends next year.

Bramnick said news coverage has focused too heavily on conflict, “hair” and “boots” — references to Trump and GOP presidential rival Marco Rubio — at the expense of detailed policy coverage.

“My friends in the media: you should not be co-conspirators in creating an atmosphere of distrust and divisiveness. It does not serve the common good, and if you see a campaign on either side of the aisle that wrongly attacks the character of a candidate and you fail to address the real issues, you are part of the problem,” Bramnick said.

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Brown: ‘This makes it more fair for everyone.’

Source: Associated Press -

New Jersey Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney said he will introduce a bill Tuesday to have the state take over Atlantic City’s finances.

Sweeney said the struggling gambling resort needs to get its fiscal house in order and stop seeking bailouts from the state.

His comments came shortly after the Legislature approved a revised Atlantic City aid bill that would have its eight casinos pay more in lieu of taxes. The Legislature is also about to move forward with a bill to authorize a referendum on expanding casinos to northern New Jersey.

The payment-in-lieu-of-taxes, or PILOT, bill that was passed Tuesday and sent to Gov. Chris Christie requires the casinos to make $50 million in additional payments over seven years, and would share 13.5 percent of the money collected from the casinos with Atlantic County’s government and the city’s schools to help prevent tax increases for those entities.

It also includes other revenue streams other than gambling when calculating how much the casinos owe, which effectively sets a collective minimum of $120 million per year for the eight casinos.

It also sets a goal of securing $10 million for economic development projects for the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, and $8 million to continue marketing and tourism advertising for the resort after the abolition of the Atlantic City Alliance, which spent $30 million a year on that task.

Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian said through a spokesman the city has already made painful budget and job cuts, and stands ready to do more.

Chris A. Brown

Assemblyman Chris Brown, an Atlantic City-area Republican who had suggested many of the changes, said the revised bill spreads the tax burden more equitably.

“This makes it more fair for everyone, all the taxpayers, instead of just a handful of casinos,” he said.

The changes were surprising given that the aid package had already passed the full Legislature and presumably was awaiting action by Christie.

The bill also specifies that casino additions built after the measure is passed will be taxed at full value and not at a reduced rate called for in the bill. Sen. Diane Allen, a south Jersey Republican, said that could discourage smaller casinos from investing in their properties.

 

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Bramnick on proposed state take-over of Atlantic City

Source: The Star-Ledger -

State Senate President Stephen Sweeney on Tuesday continued his sudden push for the state to take over Atlantic City’s finances, saying he will soon introduce legislation for a formal plan — and that the struggling gambling resort should declare bankruptcy if the state Legislature doesn’t approve the measure quickly.

Sweeney floated the idea of a takeover late Monday night, much to the surprise of Atlantic City officials.

Jon Bramnick

State Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-Union) said he supports a takeover.

“You have two choices: You can simply send them an incredible amount of money from the taxpayers, or you give the state the opportunity to take it over,” said Bramnick, the Assembly’s top Republican and a close Christie ally.

At the same time Tuesday, both houses of the state Legislature approved a revised version of a rescue bill that would allow Atlantic City’s eight casinos to make payments in lieu of taxes — known as a PILOT program — to help stabilize the city’s finances. The measure now heads back to Gov. Chris Christie’s desk for his approval.

Lawmakers on Monday also agreed to a plan that, if approved by the Legislature, would ask voters in November to allow casinos in north Jersey — a move that would funnel millions of dollars a year to Atlantic City.

Sweeney said he has discussed a possible state takeover with Christie’s administration. But the Republican governor’s office did not immediately return a message Tuesday seeking comment.

For decades, Atlantic City — the only place that allows casinos in New Jersey — had been the East Coast’s premier gambling destination. But over the last two years, four of its 12 casinos closed amid ever-increasing competition from neighboring states, killing 10,000 jobs in the process.

The closings also caused the city to hike taxes on its residents.

A state monitor has overseen the local government since 2010, and Christie hired an emergency management team last January to find ways to fix the city’s finances. The team has yet to release its final report but has noted the goal was to avoid bankruptcy.

Sweeney added that Atlantic City’s $262 million annual municipal budget is “outrageous” when the city has only 40,000 residents. By comparison, he said, Piscataway has 60,000 residents and only a $55 million budget.

He suggested that New Jersey’s other ailing cities — like Newark, Trenton, or Paterson — don’t receive the same kind of attention.

The takeover bill Sweeney floated Monday night — called the “Municipal Stabilization and Recovery Act” — would empower the state Department of Community Affairs’ Local Finance Board or a body it designates to take over the “functions, powers, privileges, immunities, and duties” of Atlantic City’s government.

Meanwhile, the PILOT bill passed Tuesday bill would require the casinos to make $50 million in additional payments over seven years, and would share 13.5 percent of the money collected from the casinos with Atlantic County’s government and the city’s schools to help prevent tax increases.

The measure also includes other revenue streams other than gambling when calculating how much the casinos owe, which effectively sets a collective minimum of $120 million per year for the casinos.

And the bill sets a goal of securing $10 million for economic development projects for the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, and $8 million to continue marketing and tourism advertising for the resort after the abolition of the Atlantic City Alliance, which spent $30 million a year on that task.

Christie must now approve the measure for it to become law.

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Leaders Trade Veiled and Not-So-Veiled Jabs at Assembly Reorganization

 

Jon Bramnick

Source: PolitickerNJ – At the reorganization of the state Assembly for the new legislative session, the leaders of the historic Democratic majority touted its early morning compromise on casino gaming expansion, while Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-21) reiterated his criticisms of the Democrats’ suite of proposed constitutional amendments.

After a general call for civility and non-partisanship in Trenton, Bramnick laid into the Assembly Democrats’ efforts to dedicate gas tax revenues to the Transportation Trust Fund, require quarterly payments into the state pension fund, and effect new redistricting standards. The first two are widely seen as swipes at Governor Chris Christie, while experts have said that the Democrats’ redistricting bill would be all but guaranteed to favor their own caucus.

“We will stand up against using the constitution as a legislative tool to avoid a veto from the governor,” said Bramnick. “We will stand opposed to unfair redistricting plans that would make New Jersey a one-party state.

“If you are a Republican and you hate all Democrats, or you’re a Democrat that despises all Republicans, you have no business to be in public office,” Bramnick added to applause. “Our job is to address serious policy issues, and if your vision is so clouded with partisanship you stand in the way of solving the most pressing facing the state, then you should go.”

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Bramnick calls for ‘meaningful bipartisan policy’ from the Legisalture

Source: Star-Ledger -

Democrats swore in their largest majority in the state Assembly in 37 years Tuesday, but the lower house’s leaders urged its members to work in unity and avoid the kind of bickering that has plagued politics across the country in recent years.

They also agreed New Jersey’s sky high property taxes should be their focus.

Jon Bramnick

Jon Bramnick, who was once again named the Republican leader of the Assembly even though his party lost four seats in last November’s election, asked his colleagues to “make a promise” to draft meaningful, bipartisan policy in the new legislative session.

“Whether we will be productive, that is not so clear,” Bramnick (R-Union) said during the chamber’s reorganization ceremony at the War Memorial Theatre in Trenton. “But politics and policy seem to be drifting farther and farther apart. Politics has become our national past time.”

And politics, he said, “is now an arena of insults, ridicule, and showmanship.”

Tuesday was the first day of the 2016-17 legislative session, and the Assembly swore in all 80 of its members, including 10 new lawmakers.

Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson) and Majority Leader Lou Greenwald (D-Camden) were also re-sworn into the leadership positions they held last session.

Prieto stressed that each member of the house is equal despite the Democratic control.

Both Prieto and Bramnick said lawmakers’ focus should be relieving New Jersey’s property taxes, among the highest in the nation.

Bramnick also took aim at the media, saying journalists have help fuel divisiveness in politics.

“Journalism is an art, and it should be treated that way,” he said. “You should not be co-conspirators in creating an atmosphere of distrust and dismissiveness.”

 

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Bramnick Discusses Gov’s Speech and Politics

NJTV -

NJTV News Chief Political Correspondent Michael Aron spoke with Assembly leadership at the State House after Gov. Chris Christie’s State of the State address.

Aron: I’m here with the Assembly Republican leader Jon Bramnick of Westfield and the Assembly Transportation Committee Chairman John Wisniewski of Sayreville. Assemblyman, what did you think of the governors speech?

Jon Bramnick

Bramnick: Fabulous! Told it the way it was and is. Basically said you are putting mandatory spending in the Constitution of New Jersey and you are pitting one interest group against another. Really bad policy. This one they went took far on the Democrats.

Aron: Who went way too far?

Bramnick: The Democrats!

Aron: Oh, in proposing a constitutional amendment to boost the pension?

Bramnick: I am going to make it simple. This constitution amendment would say, that four or five years from now $5 billion would have to go to the pensions. Regardless of the financial situation of this state at that time. This is why we have budgeting and this is why you have to have a flexibility in the budget process. This is risky behavior.

Aron: Assemblyman, what did you think?

Wisniewski: You know after 261 days of absence, I was just glad the governor is in Trenton once again. People of the state of New Jersey voted for Chris Christie to be governor for four years. Not take a 261 day hiatus to leave Kim Guadagno in charge. Look, Kim is a wonderful person and a good leader…

Aron: Some of those days are partial days out of state, not entire days out of the state, for the record.

Wisniewski: For the record. Still, the governor, when he is out of the state he is not the governor. Kim Guadagno is the governor. That is not what the people of the state of New Jersey voted for. The reality is that the governor, once again, failed to address the issues that face the state of New Jersey. New Jersey still has a structural $10 billion deficit no matter what he says. He loves to crow of his accomplishment of a balanced budget. Every governor who was sitting here in the audience accomplished a balanced budget because it’s in the constitution. He failed to address the Transportation Trust Fund. He failed to address the fact that eight of 10 school districts in this state have less money today than they did in 2010.

Aron: But he focused on New Jersey, to those who say he is focused on the national election. Today, at least, it was New Jersey focused, no?

Wisniewski: Well it is a speech about New Jersey. I would hope that his handlers would remind him he is giving a speech in Trenton not in Port Smith.

Aron: What about the fact…

Bramnick: But the Democrats are in the majority! They’re here. You can pass whatever you like. You have enough votes in each house. Why do you blame the governor? You can pass those reforms, you know what they are you can make it more.

Wisniewski: Jon, he has to sign the bill. You know that. He doesn’t sign bills, he vetoes them and you watched the bills that were passed, by the Legislature, in the lame duck session. He very frequently resorts to his unique opportunity … to do a pocket veto. The bills die with no explanation because he doesn’t have the courage of his conviction.

Bramnick: You lower a tax. I guarantee you he will sign that bill.

Aron: We only have limited time. Would you support doing away with the estate tax?

Wisniewski: What I would support is the governor giving us a recipe on how he is going to pay for that! The governor says I want to give away $700 million of revenue the state’s taking today which — everybody says hooray — how are we going to pay for it? The governor fails once again to explain how he would pay for the programs that he advocates for, that’s irresponsible. That’s not being a conservative. He was being as liberal as they come. The people on the campaign trail in New Hampshire and Iowa ought to know that the liberal Chris Christie promised to spend $750 million today and had no way of paying for it.

Aron: Your response?

Bramnick: We know this is the number one exit state in the country because the policies that you just heard about you will just reject that out of hand. What are you going to do to stop people from leaving this state who know they can’t afford to die here? You need to change the law.

Wisniewski: New Jersey is not the number one exit state. Look, there are wonderful statistics that everybody can manipulate and that’s what the governor did today. You know while getting up there saying we shouldn’t be using sound bites. This is the master of sound bites. Who spent the portion of the speech today criticizing Jon Corzine who hasn’t been in office for five years.

Aron: We’ve got to wrap it up gentleman. Thank you for a spirited and quick exchange. Jon Bramnick and John Wisniewski, thank you.

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Bramnick Reorganization Speech – 2017th Legislature – 1/12/16 [video]

Assembly Republican Press Release [video] -

Jon Bramnick

Mr. Speaker, Majority Leader Greenwald, Conference Leader Rible, WHIP Rumana, distinguished guests and my fellow New Jerseyans; Happy 2016 to everyone.

Today I will guarantee on thing about New Jersey’s political future: it will not be boring. Whether we are productive, well, that is not so clear. On that note, I have serious concerns about our country and our state. It appears that politics and policy seem to be drifting further and further apart.

Politics appears to be our national pastime. Every word and every moment is dissected under a microscope. The discussion has gone from someone’s hair to even the heals on their boots. Yet, the discussion of public policy not as much; and I conclude that policy is just not that interesting, not very entertaining and, therefore, doesn’t drive ratings very well.

Politics has gone from the art of statesmanship to an arena of insults, ridicule and showmanship; and the very concept of being a statesman, respecting the other sides’ position, and treating opponents with respect is no longer a cherished part of the American landscape, and that should be very troublesome for all of us.

And the rhetoric, on both sides of the aisle, or even in the press – even when speaking about a president or a governor – is done with such disdain and disrespect that it is offensive to the office itself. Whether we are talking about Barack Obama or Chris Christie let’s keep in mind that they occupy an office in our government that deserves basic respect and basic decency, and this needs to stop.

If you have a problem with their policies so be it, but the hateful rhetoric is repugnant to most of New Jersey and our country. If you are a Republican and hate all Democrats, or a Democrat that hates all Republicans, you have no business being in public office. Our job is to address serious policy issues, and if your vision is so clouded with partisanship, you stand in the way of solving the most pressing issues facing our state.

And to my friends in the media, sometimes there is no story, no angle, no bad faith, and maybe no politics; there just may be legitimate policy differences.

I do understand simply comparing the underlying policy differences is boring and will not win any awards, but it just might be the right thing to do. Journalism is an art and it should be treated that way. My friends in the media, you should not be co-conspirators in creating an atmosphere of distrust and divisiveness; that does not serve the common good. And if you see a campaign that wrongly attacks the character of a candidate and fails to address the real issues, call that campaign out on their tactics.

I submit and I am convinced that most New Jerseyans wants us to govern from the middle. That means compromise between the ideas of the Democrats and the Republicans. The loudest voice, the most powerful boss or the richest PAC does not and will never reflect the view of most New Jerseyans.

Now let me address public policy itself. To the speaker, you are a friend and we have worked together well , but I am still the voice of the minority and it is my job to articulate the differences between your caucus and mine, and we certainly have some.

We will stand up against using the constitution as a legislative tool to avoid the veto of a governor. We will strongly oppose unfair redistricting plans that make New Jersey a one party state and we will clearly express our concerns about the costs of living or dying in New Jersey and, once again, I respectfully ask that our 80 reform bills be posted for a vote so New Jersey sees clearly where each member stands on real reform. Let’s agree today to make New Jersey a state where we can afford to live, work, retire and die.

My caucus members and I will continue to advocate for smaller government, less government and lower taxes. We will always rely on the individual over the government. We have the confidence that if you give New Jerseyans the opportunity to succeed and get government out of their pocket and off their back, New Jersey will succeed.

The creative, entrepreneurial and generous spirit of the people of this state is the most effective path for success.

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Former Burlington County Freeholder Joe Howarth sworn into NJ Assembly

Source: Burlington County Times – The New Jersey Legislature’s new session kicked off Tuesday with expressions of hope and bipartisanship as lawmakers in the state Assembly took the oath of office for new terms and welcomed several new members.

Among the new faces sworn into office was the newest 8th Legislative District Assemblyman Joseph Howarth, of Evesham, who was elected in November to the seat of departing Republican Chris J. Brown, also of Evesham.

Brown, who represented the 8th District since 2012, did not seek re-election in November to devote more time to his family and real estate business.

Howarth, a Republican, comes to the Legislature after serving three years on the Burlington County Board of Freeholders. He chose not to run for re-election to the county board in 2014 because he was battling Crohn’s disease, but opted to return to politics last year after Brown announced he would step aside.

Prior to serving as a freeholder, Howarth spent time on the Evesham Council and Evesham Board of Education.

After taking his oath, he said he planned to serve in state government in the same manner as he did in local offices.

“I’m all about doing the right thing and at the end of the day, it’s about the people who put us in office,” he said.

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Legislature votes in favor of quarterly pension payments, despite GOP outcry

Source: Politico New Jersey -

Over the objections of Republicans, the state Legislature on Monday voted in favor of a controversial proposal to amend New Jersey’s Constitution to require quarterly pension payments, though lawmakers will need to vote again to place the measure on the ballot in November.

The legislation (SCR184) was proposed by Senate President Stephen Sweeney and is sponsored in the Assembly by Speaker Vincent Prieto. They believe the resolution would be a solution to a court ruling last year that said the state can skip its annual pension payments to help balance the budget, despite a 2011 law that required the state to reach full funding.

“We were going to pay it over a seven-year period. Now we’re here. We weren’t making the payments,” Prieto, speaking from the Assembly floor, said late Monday evening as the lame-duck session wrapped up. “In the state of New Jersey, we cannot trust the politicians who are in charge are doing the right job.”

The state contributed $1.3 billion to the pension system last year. The amendment would boost that to $5 billion a year in 2021.

Republicans said they’re worried such a requirement could throw the state into a financial tailspin. The legislation was condemned as fiscally irresponsible by Gov. Chris Christie, who said unions bought the proposal with their support of Democratic candidates last year. Republican lawmakers say they’re worried about what happens if the state finds itself with a massive deficit like it did last year.

Calling it “a clash between politics and policy,” Assembly Republican leader Jon Bramnick said the Monday evening vote was “evidence of an overreaction by this chamber to really bad policy in the past.” While it might look “attractive on the surface,” he said, what happens down the road?

“If there is a mandated payment of $5 billion in five or six years from now, but revenues are flat for the next four for five years — or revenues are declining at the time we’re required to pay the $5 billion — we are placing handcuffs on a Legislature years from now, giving them no flexibility,” Bramnick said. “How can we possibly anticipate what the Legislature might find in the economy with respect to revenues?”

Sweeney has said the proposal will save billions of dollars over the years by more quickly funding the pension system, allowing it to earn more money on investments. The governor said it wouldn’t save anything if the state finds itself, like it did last year, unable to make a complete payment.

The Legislature fell short of a three-fifths majority vote, which would have allowed the measure to be placed on the ballot in November with a single vote. As a result, both houses will need to vote again sometime in the coming months. The new legislative year starts Tuesday. The Senate voted, 23-16, and the Assembly, 43-27, to approve the amendment.

Labor unions and Democrats have argued a constitutional amendment is needed because the Christie administration had gone back on its own agreement to ramp up funding. Christie signed the law in 2011 that secured cuts to the system’s cost-of-living adjustments in exchange for the state increasing its payments. Last fiscal year, facing a massive hole in his budget, Christie skipped part of the scheduled payment. The state Supreme Court ruled the governor’s action was legal.

Sweeney amended the resolution not long after introducing it last year, reducing the amount the state would have in the next few years. His plan initially called for a $3.1 billion contribution in fiscal year 2018, about $650 million more than what Christie had discussed earlier last year. Sweeney said his changed legislation would be more in line with what the governor had thought possible at the time.

Democrats said the amendment was the only way to ensure the state lives up to its agreement with New Jersey’s 800,000 public-sector workers. They said they’re aware it could lead to some tough choices.

“This constitutional amendment is going to make this legislature make some very, very difficult decisions, and that’s why I’m supporting,” Sen. Raymond Lesniak said. “Because we have been avoiding those difficult decisions for way too long and, in the process, have jeopardized the viability of public employees pension funds.”

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Bucco sponsored ‘Joseph Wargo Law’ for 1st responders heads to Christie’s desk

Lehigh Valley Express -

New Jersey lawmakers have approved a permanent tribute to a police officer from Warren County and other first responders who have died in the line of duty.

The Assembly on Monday unanimously OK’d the so-called “Patrolman Joseph Wargo Law” that establishes a memorial sign program for first responders.

Wargo was a police officer for Mount Arlington in Morris County who died on duty in 2011 after he was struck by an intoxicated driver on Interstate 80.

The 38-year-old lived in Lopatcong Township in Warren County and was a graduate of Phillipsburg High School.

The Senate approved the bill in June, so the measure now heads to the governor’s desk to be signed into law.

The idea is to place a sign near where Wargo and others died as a lasting memorial to their sacrifices, officials said. The bill’s prime sponsor was Assemblyman Anthony M. Bucco, whose 25th District covers Mount Arlington.

Wargo was a police officer there for more than 10 years. He died Oct. 16, 2011, when another motorist crossed the median into his lane of travel and collided head-on with his police cruiser.

Anthony M. Bucco

“The selfless acts of fallen heroes should never be forgotten, and the memorial sign program is just one small way that we can help to preserve the memory and the legacy of those who died in the line of duty,” said Bucco, a 30-year member of the Boonton Volunteer Fire Department and a life member of the New Jersey State Firemen’s Association.

The sign would outlast any temporary memorials that spring up after a fatality, officials said.

“DOT sometimes removes the memorials,” Bucco said in a statement following the Assembly’s approval Monday night.

“This legislation creates a uniform law that allows for permanent recognition that is appropriate for those officers and responders who gave their lives.”

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