Category: Clips

Bucco says governor’s budget speech was ‘on point’ [video]

Source: NJTV [vide] -

“I’m pleased to announce today that the commission has — with my support — reached an unprecedented accord with the NJEA,” said Gov. Chris Christie at the beginning of a budget address that even some Republicans here were fearing could mean curtains for Christie’s political fortunes. Instead, it turned out to be another case of the governor successfully changing the subject to the great consternation of his critics and maybe to the benefit of his still nascent presidential campaign.

Anthony M. Bucco

“The governor’s good for that,” observed Republican Assemblyman Anthony Bucco. “He does a great job. He’s a great communicator.”

The report by the governor’s pension reform commission says major changes are needed to change the system from the transformational — “The road map calls for the existing pension plan to be frozen and to be replaced by a new plan. Both the existing plan and the new plan would be transferred from state ownership to a trust overseen by the NJEA” — to the constitutional — “To make sure that the state meets its obligations and the payment is enforced, a constitutional amendment would be voted on this November.”

But these are not new ideas. Some have been rattling around the State House since 2011 and ignore the major point made by a judge on Monday.

“I thought the speech was on point,” added Bucco. “I thought that the fact that the governor took a lot of time to address the pension issue was good. It’s an important issue. It’s certainly a huge issue in terms of a financial issue for New Jersey.”

For all the hand-wringing and political punditry of the last 24 hours, the fact remains that the budget process has just begun. Any number of things can, and probably will, happen between now and the end of June.

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Bramnick discusses pension proposal

Bergen Record -

A day after Governor Christie announced what he is calling a “road map for reform” on public employee pensions and health care, legislators and union leaders aren’t sure what exactly the next step is, but they say any progress is most likely to hinge on negotiating changes to employee health benefits.

And if Christie can get the teachers union — the state’s largest and most politically powerful — to agree to health care concessions, that could help him pressure other unions representing state workers to follow suit when their contracts are up in June.

Jon Bramnick

“The key to this legislation is an understanding that there’s a change in the health care plan. Without that, I don’t think there’s going to be an agreement,” said Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick, R-Union. “If you can’t get past Square One, you’re done.”

Union and legislative leaders on Wednesday were still reading through and processing the dense, 50-page pension commission report, plus the governor’s 2016 budget. They were largely unable to reach a consensus on how, or if, the administration’s recommendations will proceed.

And looming over the governor’s proposal is a Superior Court judge’s order from Monday that Christie must work with the Legislature to find nearly $1.6 billion to restore the pension contribution the governor cut from the 2015 budget. Although the administration has said it will appeal the decision by Judge Mary C. Jacobson, many state and union leaders believe the focus should be on fulfilling the state’s prior pension commitment, which Christie has touted across the country as a fix to New Jersey’s long-neglected retirements benefit system.

Although the NJEA signed a memo endorsing the so-called road map, it has made clear that it is not fully onboard with the plan and that many details must be worked out.

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Angelini fighting to keep legal pot out of New Jersey

Source: The Star-Ledger -

A New Jersey Assemblywoman said that in light of the formation of a group that launched last week to fight for the legalization of recreational marijuana use in New Jersey, she is planning a group that will actively advocate against it.

Mary Pat Angelini

Assemblywoman Mary Pat Angelini (R-Monmouth) has been a vocal opponent of the movement to legalize and tax the drug in the state of New Jersey. In response to the official launch of “New Jersey United for Marijuana Reform” in Newark last week, Angelini said she is working with other anti-marijuana activists to form a group of their own.

“The folks that want to legalize appear to be gaining traction,” Angelini said in a phone interview. “It’s a good time to let our voice be heard.”

Angelini said she and some others passionately opposing the legalization of recreational marijuana use in the state plan to hold a conference call this week to “lay out our strategy.”

Angelini said the launch of NJUMR was “not necessarily a bad thing. It starts a dialogue and we need to do a better job educating people (about our position).”

The pro-marijuana coalition, which includes members like the ACLU-NJ and New Jersey’s NAACP chapter, launched with a press conference last week that outlined its position. The group argued that legalizing and taxing marijuana would create revenue for the state, and free up law enforcement officers to focus on other crimes.

Angelini said that some of her group’s arguments will include health and incarceration statistics about marijuana users, and questions about additional costs that might be incurred as a result of legalization. She cited the state’s alcohol tax as an example that brings in revenue. But, she said, the revenue is outweighed by law enforcement and healthcare costs the state must take on to deal with residents who abuse alcohol.

“Look at the tax (dollars) this would garner…the health and society issues we would encounter (as a result of legalization) would far outnumber that,” she said.

Experts last week said they felt the conversation on marijuana in New Jersey will likely be a long-term one that is ultimately decided by the state’s legislators and governor.

Gov. Chris Christie has publicly said that he will not support a legalization bill. NJUMR members said last week that they are not directly targeting Christie, but hoping to spread their message to the public.

Angelini said she felt the pro-marijuana movement was “futile” under Christie’s administration.

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Handlin discusses Port Authority Reform on panel at university

Source: The Jersey Journal -

How should Port Authority be fixed?

The short answer, all five members of a panel discussing Port Authority reforms at Saint Peter’s University Monday agreed, is with more responsible leadership and greater transparency.

The five members of the panel at the event — entitled “How Should We Fix the Port Authority?” — also agreed that the Port Authority’s major issues have all come in the past five years.

Amy Handlin

“The Port Authority is neither a bank or a real-estate speculation business, it’s in place to serve its customers,” said Assemblywoman Amy Handlin, D-Monmouth County, who was critical spending at Port Authority, which she estimates averages $23 million per day.

“Unfortunately in recent years it has morphed into an octopus with tentacles extending out into all kinds of unrelated ventures and one of our most important tasks is to rein that in and cut some of those arms off the octopus.”

Handlin was joined on the panel by New York Rep. James Brennan, chair of the Assembly Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions; Thomas D. Carver, former New Jersey commissioner of Labor Workforce and Development; New Jersey state Sen. Bob Gordon of Bergen County, chair of the Senate Legislative Oversight Committee, and Martin Robins, director emeritus of the Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center at Rutgers University.

The panel convened two months after legislation from New York and New Jersey to reform the Port Authority was vetoed by the governors of both states. Although neither state’s legislature has overturned a veto in a decade, they are now both considering overturning legislation to reform the Port Authority.

  • Port Authority officials declined to comment on the panel’s suggestions, and pointed to its own list of recommended reforms it released last week. Those reforms include:
  • Replacing the executive director and deputy executive director with a single CEO selected by the Board of Commissioners;
  • Creating a new chief ethics and compliance officer;
  • Issuing a new Port Authority Code of Conduct for employees, Commissioners and vendors;
  • And adopting a new mission statement to refocus the authority on its core mission of developing and overseeing regional transportation infrastructure.


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Fiocchi Bill Saving Customers on Electricity Costs Wins Assembly Approval

Source: Cape May County Herald -

Legislation (A-2385) sponsored by Assemblyman Sam Fiocchi, R-Cumberland, Cape May and Atlantic, which allows municipalities with their own electric utility to form a shared services authority was approved by the Assembly.

Sam Fiocchi

Sam Fiocchi

“Consumers will save on their electric bills as the combined purchasing power of participating towns will make it less expensive,” said Fiocchi. “Shared services must be more than a concept. This bill puts the idea into practice. It makes New Jersey more affordable as the towns will be able to combine their resources and shop for the best wholesale electricity price available.”

The bill impacts nine municipalities with their own electric utilities – including Vineland, in Fiocchi’s legislative district – and one rural electric cooperative of six more towns. The measure permits these entities to establish a municipal shared services energy authority. The participation of a minimum of three municipalities is required to create an “authority.”

The Assembly passed the same bill in 2012.

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Assembly Republicans on Christie’s FY 2016 Budget Plan

Source: NJ 101.5 -

Shortly after Gov. Chris Christie proposed a $33.8 billion state budget for the fiscal year that begins on July 1, lawmakers commented on the state spending plan.
Assembly Republican Deputy Conference Leader Mary Pat Angelini (R, Monmouth):

Mary Pat Angelini

“This is another fiscally responsible budget that keeps New Jersey on the right track. The governor has a sustainable plan to fund our priorities – education, property tax relief and pensions – without increasing taxes.

“The Legislature needs to work together to continue the progress to make New Jersey competitive and affordable. We continue to see significant progress. To sustain the momentum, it will take cooperation like we saw today, with the governor and the teacher’s working out a pension solution for the long haul.”

Assembly Republican Budget Officer Declan O’Scanlon, (R-Monmouth):

Declan O'Scanlon

“The governor and the NJEA deserve high praise for working together on a solution to the pension issue. As we have said all along, it is essential we come together to craft solutions that provide long term relief. Gov. Christie and the teachers did just that, coming together to find a realistic, sustainable fix to the pension challenge.

“From a budget-makers perspective, this is a credible first step toward an over-all solution to the serious budget issues facing our state. It will be a work in progress for the next six months as we continue to monitor revenues and work out the details.”

Deputy Assembly Republican Leader Anthony M. Bucco (R-Morris and Somerset), a member of the Assembly Budget Committee:

Anthony M. Bucco

“One doesn’t have to look any further than today’s Budget Address to realize the differences between Republicans and Democrats. When Governor Christie said ‘no new taxes’ in his address, not one member of the Democratic party stood in support.”

“The governor’s budget puts taxpayers first by controlling spending, funding education and making the largest pension payment in state history and sets priorities our residents support. These are challenging times and difficult choices must be made. I look forward to a rigorous and honest debate during the budget process.”

“Promoting a more competitive business tax structure and providing direct property tax relief will make our state a more affordable place to live. I am confident we will be able to work together on a plan that continues to move New Jersey in the right direction.”

Assembly Republican Conference Leader David Rible (R-Monmouth and Ocean):

Dave Rible

“For the sixth year in a row, the governor has proposed a budget that protects taxpayers and businesses by keeping our fiscal commitments on solid ground. He understands that tax hikes are the problem, not the solution. By meeting our fiscal obligations without increasing taxes, we continue to provide the predictable and stable environment businesses require to grow and create jobs.”

Assembly Republican Whip Scott Rumana, (R-Passaic, Bergen, Essex and Morris):

“The governor’s budget proposal shows his continued commitment to fiscal discipline and government reform which are paying dividends for taxpayers. Major revenues continue to increase at the same time the state’s unemployment rate continues to decline. Today’s plan again contains no tax increases which has also helped to spur economic growth. People are spending money and our business climate continues to improve. This is the responsible way to fix our fiscal ills.”


Assemblyman Sam Fiocchi (R-Cumberland, Cape May and Atlantic):

Sam Fiocchi

Sam Fiocchi

“Now the Legislature must work with the governor to solve the state’s fiscal obligations. Increasing educational funding and streamlining the government workforce demonstrates Governor Christie’s commitment to keeping his promises. We now have a responsibility to maintain a budget that’s affordable for taxpayers.”

“We can accomplish much more for the people of New Jersey by working together instead of playing politics. This budget is fiscally responsible and keeps New Jersey on the road to recovery without raising taxes.”


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O’Scanlon voices support for Christie’s budget plan

Source: NJ Spotlight -

There was a pledge to not increase taxes. A promise to deliver the last installment in a $2 billion business-tax cut initiative. And an announcement that teachers through their unions are open to sweeping changes designed to make health and pension benefits more affordable.

Declan O'Scanlon


“As we have said all along, it is essential we come together to craft solutions that provide long-term relief,” said Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon (R-Monmouth).



“That is fiscal discipline,” Gov. Chris Christie declared yesterday while putting forward a $33.8 billion budget for the fiscal year that will begin on July 1.

While Christie’s pronouncements were probably well-received by those looking at Christie from afar as he prepares to jump into the 2016 Republican presidential primary, many New Jersey lawmakers — still reeling after Monday’s court ruling that ordered them to work with Christie to find billions more for the state pension system — said they were left with too many unanswered questions.

Christie gave a commanding performance, but he avoided mentioning some key problems New Jersey faces. He said nothing about how the state is going to sustain transportation spending, and made only a passing reference to Monday’s court ruling requiring an additional $1.6 billion be found in this year’s budget to fund the state’s pension system, and another possibly $3 billion payment in 2016. Christie’s budget proposal yesterday called for a $1.3 billion pension contribution in the new fiscal year.

Christie’s biggest new proposal yesterday was the announcement that the nonpartisan panel of experts he convened last year to find ways to make public-employee benefits more affordable had finally released its recommendations. The panel is calling for sweeping changes, including a freezing of the current state pension system and the creation of a new hybrid system incorporating some features of a defined-contribution plan, or 401(k).

Christie in his 30-minute speech also touted a long-term payment plan that would involve a constitutional amendment to ensure payment of the pension system’s debt, which measures between $37 billion and $83 billion depending on which accounting method is used. And the governor repeatedly said the New Jersey Education Association’s leaders endorsed the plan.

“We are on the verge of providing evidence to our citizens once again that we can make government work for them, the people who actually pay the bills,” Christie said.

The commission’s work drew praise from Republican lawmakers.

“As we have said all along, it is essential we come together to craft solutions that provide long-term relief,” said Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon (R-Monmouth).

But the teachers union’s leadership later disagreed with the governor’s characterization of its support of the commission’s full work. And unions representing other public employees took a firm stand against the panel’s ideas.

Christie also said nothing yesterday about how he plans to maintain spending on transportation projects, something lawmakers and the governor have been discussing now for weeks without reaching an agreement. The current source of revenue, the state’s 14.5-cent gas tax, will no longer be an option starting July 1 because the money from that tax will be needed to pay off the state Transportation Trust Fund’s existing debt.

And the budget booklet distributed after Christie’s speech by the state Department of Treasury said increasing employee health premiums and other rising costs will force the agency to review revenue-generating options “that may include the first fare adjustment since May of 2010.”

In all, Christie’s new budget would increase spending by about 4 percent over the current, $32.5 billion budget. But many key areas in the spending plan would see only flat funding.

Formula aid for local school districts — the amount of money that goes right to the classroom — would be held at $7.86 billion. Aid for municipalities would remain at $1.5 billion.

In all, the budget envisions revenues growing through June 30, 2016 by more than $1 billion, or 3.8 percent. That’s less than the roughly 5 percent growth forecast for the current fiscal year, and one of the more modest projections offered by the governor since he took office in early 2010.

Still, that revenue projection shows the state is “clearly on the right track,” said Michele Siekerka, president of the New Jersey Business and Industry Association. “Investments are paying off.”

The commission’s work also drew praise from Republican lawmakers.

“As we have said all along, it is essential we come together to craft solutions that provide long-term relief,” said Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon (R-Monmouth).

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Rodriguez-Gregg supports Christie’s $33.8 billion budget

Source: Burlington County Times -

Gov. Chris Christie unveiled a $33.8 billion budget for the upcoming fiscal year Tuesday, as well as his administration’s proposed fix for the state’s public employee pension system woes.

The pension issue dominated Christie’s address to a joint session of the Legislature, as he outlined what he described as a “groundbreaking plan” to freeze the existing plan and create a new one overseen by public employee unions.

Maria Rodriguez-Gregg

Maria Rodriguez-Gregg


“We will commit the most money ever to the pension funds,” Assemblywoman Maria Rodriguez-Gregg, R-8th of Evesham, said in a statement. “State aid to schools, towns and property tax programs are maintained. This is achieved responsibly, without increasing the burden on our taxpayers.”


The state would be required by a proposed constitutional amendment to make payments to cover the existing pension liability, pegged in recent reports as being as much as $90 billion, over the next 40 years.

The proposal also calls for the state to work with the public employee unions to achieve savings in health care costs through a variety of initiatives, including new plan designs, wellness programs and other incentives, to reduce costs.

The plan was created by a bipartisan commission of experts Christie formed to research the pension and health benefits issue and recommend possible solutions.

“We now have a bipartisan reform plan which can, once and for all, fix this problem. No one branch of government can wish or order this problem away. We must do it together,” Christie said in his speech.

Christie’s proposed budget for the 2016 fiscal year beginning July 1 calls for a $1.3 billion payment to the pension system. That sum is the most in state history, but is still short of the $3 billion the state is scheduled to make, per a 2011 pension and health benefits overhaul law he signed.

Last year, Christie slashed the scheduled payment from $2.25 billion to $681 million to help close a budget deficit. Public employees sued to force the payment, and a Superior Court judge ruled Monday that the administration must adhere to that law and work with the Legislature to make the remaining $1.6 billion payment before the fiscal year ends.

Christie, a Republican who is mulling whether to mount a 2016 presidential campaign, is appealing the ruling. His administration has said the ruling would not have an impact on the 2016 budget, but it could wreak havoc on the current fiscal year if the decision is upheld by higher courts.

Christie said the New Jersey Education Association, the state’s powerful teachers union, has signed on in support of his proposed plan. However, the union responded that it had agreed to work only with the administration’s commission, and that it does not support all of the proposals put forward.

“While we believe some of the concepts in the report are worth exploring further, we have not yet agreed to anything in the report, and we will not agree to some of what it contains,” NJEA President Wendell Steinhauer said in a statement.

Christie said the proposal would provide a sustainable solution to the state’s growing pension and health care liabilities. He warned that inaction would cause those expenses to overwhelm state budgets and leave no available funding for other priorities.

His proposed budget calls for a modest 3.8 percent increase in revenues during the upcoming fiscal year. That would be enough to fund the proposed $1.3 billion pension payment, but the budget calls for spending on most other programs to remain flat.

School and municipal aid will remain largely unchanged, as will funding for higher education and property tax relief programs, such as the Homestead tax credit for seniors, disabled and low- and moderate-income homeowners.

Republican lawmakers [noted] that the state has paid more toward the pension under Christie’s watch than any previous governor, and that his budget maintains crucial programs.

“We will commit the most money ever to the pension funds,” Assemblywoman Maria Rodriguez-Gregg, R-8th of Evesham, said in a statement. “State aid to schools, towns and property tax programs are maintained. This is achieved responsibly, without increasing the burden on our taxpayers.”

Lawmakers must review Christie’s budget proposal and either approve it as written or present their own spending plan using the governor’s forecast revenue. A balanced budget must be in place by July 1.

Christie is scheduled to begin a town hall tour to tout his budget and pension reform plan, starting Wednesday in Moorestown.


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Brown, Fiocchi applaud Christie for not raising taxes on New Jersey families

Source: Press of Atlantic City -

Gov. Chris Christie called for a massive overhaul of the state’s public pension system. He touted his record of balanced budgets. And the potential presidential candidate stood his ground Tuesday on not raising taxes in his annual budget address.

Sam Fiocchi

Sam Fiocchi

Chris A. Brown

“Simply raising taxes on the middle class in the highest-taxed state in the nation is not the answer, nor is spending money we don’t have that just passes the debt onto our children and grandchildren,” Brown said in a statement.

Assemblyman Sam Fiocchi, R-Cumberland, Cape May, Atlantic, praised Christie’s budget in a statement for “being fiscally responsible” and keeping New Jersey “on the road to recovery without raising taxes.”

Christie didn’t mention pressing state issues such as the fiscal crisis in Atlantic City or the depleted Transportation Trust Fund. Instead, he focused his annual budget speech on an overhaul of the pension and health benefits system a day after a judge ruled the state must pay an additional $1.57 billion into public pension funds for the current fiscal year.

In his speech, Christie proposed paying $1.3 billion into the pension system next year. Although he said it was the largest pension payment in state history, it is still far less than the $3 billion the state is on the hook for, after a judge said Monday the state must adhere to a 2011 pension agreement.

Christie said if the pension system is not reformed, the state would be asked to spend nearly $8 billion on pension and health benefits. He said such spending will make up 23 percent of New Jersey’s budget if “we do nothing.”

In a statement, Assemblyman Chris Brown, R-Atlantic, said “Democrats and Republicans must stand shoulder to shoulder and work together to address the Transportation Trust Fund and the pension payment.”

At times, the speech appeared to be geared to both a state and national audience. In a scene similar to George H.W. Bush’s “Read my lips, no new taxes” statement, Christie adamantly opposed raising taxes to solve the state’s fiscal woes. Two bills have recently been introduced to raise the state’s gas tax to replenish the Transportation Trust Fund. In June, Democrats introduced a bill that would raise the marginal tax rate on income above $1 million from 8.97 percent to 10.75 percent to help pay for pension funds.

“I do not and will not” raise taxes, Christie said.

“Simply raising taxes on the middle class in the highest-taxed state in the nation is not the answer, nor is spending money we don’t have that just passes the debt onto our children and grandchildren,” Brown said in a statement.

Assemblyman Sam Fiocchi, R-Cumberland, Cape May, Atlantic, praised Christie’s budget in a statement for “being fiscally responsible” and keeping New Jersey “on the road to recovery without raising taxes.”

Although Atlantic City didn’t get a mention in Christie’s speech, a few line items in the budget show a new reality of shrinking casino revenue.

The Casino Revenue Fund, financed by an 8 percent tax on gross casino revenue and used for programs for seniors and the disabled, is expected to be $205 million in Fiscal 2016, down 24.1 percent from this year. Likewise, the Casino Control Fund, paid into by casino licensing fees, is expected to be $60.4 million, down 8.6 percent.

Christie’s budget spends $120.8 million for the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, down almost $40 million from fiscal 2015.

The $33.8 billion state budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1 includes no tax increases and flat spending for key items such as aid to schools. Christie said he is proud of his balanced spending plan.

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Bramnick discusses Christie’s Budget Address on NJTV [video]

Source: NJTV News [video] -

Assemblyman Jon Bramnick discussed Gov. Chris Christie’s Budget Address with NJTV News Chief Political Correspondent Michael Aron.

Bramnick said New Jersey is an expensive place to live and that the state can’t afford the benefits that it’s paying for now.

Jon Bramnick

“Sure this is a dose of reality,” said Bramnick. “It’s just too expensive to live in New Jersey and part of that is we can’t afford benefits that we’re paying now. The system will go broke. So apparently in cooperation with the teachers and NJEA, there’s an understanding that they’ll transfer the pension, the entire program to the union. Let the union run it and the state will send them an annual payment. Except, you have to keep in mind unless you reduce the cost of health care benefits in the state to retired employees, it was from a different type of plan, you’re not going to be able to afford the pension plan.”

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