Legislation that would eliminate the scheduled 10% surcharge on employers’ unemployment insurance tax was cleared by the Assembly Labor Committee today.
The bill, A-4112/A-3675, sponsored by Assemblywomen Amy Handlin (R-13, Monmouth) and Alison Little McHose (R-24, Hunterdon, Morris, Warren and Sussex), postpones the implementation of the surcharge, which is currently scheduled to go into effect on July 1, for one year. An identical bill, S-2404, passed the State Senate unanimously in February.
The Office of Legislative Services estimates that eliminating the surcharge will save employers $300 million in the coming fiscal year.
“The timing of this legislation is critical as we approach the summer season and with the effort to restore the Jersey Shore well underway,” stated Handlin. “Rebuilding communities involves both residential and commercial redevelopment. Companies who invest in our economy would face significant unemployment insurance increases which could impact their hiring decisions. This legislation ensures that the strides made in putting people back to work will not be affected by the cost increases that would have been felt under this surcharge.”
But first, please understand that I thought long and hard about writing this commentary. After all, Bellew is running in a primary in another district than my own and I have my hands full rebuilding our home after Sandy. I would have loved some peace and quiet right now; instead of what I expect will be coming; harsh criticism from some Tea Party people who will attack me as a faux Conservative. I could have simply sat this out. But then, people that know me; know most of all that I am indeed a Conservative and I would feel ill at ease for not doing the right thing. I will let my resume and references speak for themselves should those attacks come.
Yet, good news for Trenton Democrats—the NJ Republicans are trying to lose
By Art Gallagher
State Senator Barbara Buono, the presumptive Democratic nominee for governor, received two doses of bad news today (so far) for her fledgling campaign to unseat Governor Chris Christie in November.
1) A Quinnipiac poll released today indicates that Buono has made no progress over the last month in increasing her dismal name recognition. 78% of those polled don’t know enough about Buono to form an opinion. That compares to 79% last month. Of the few who recognize her name, 43% have an unfavorable opinion.
Christie’s numbers remain amazingly strong. 67% approve of the job he is doing as governor. 66% says he deserves to be reelected. In a head to head match up with Buono, Christie wins 58%-26%, with 13% out to lunch.
2) Even worse for Buono, PolitickerNJ reports that she is likely to be the only major party gubernatorial candidate in the history of New Jersey’s matching funds campaign program not to qualify for the maximum amount. PolitickerNJ said that Buono has raised only $29,000 per week since she declared her candidacy in December. In order to earn the maximum $2 million in state matching funds for the primary, she would have to raise $216,000 per week over the next six weeks of the primary campaign.
Christie has opted out of the state matching funds program and has raised upwards of $5 million to date for the primary.
Trenton Republicans Trying to Lose
With Chrisite’s polling and financial numbers so strong, one would think that the Trenton Democrats that control the legislature would be concerned about Christie coattails. Trenton Republicans seem enthused about the prospect of taking control of the legislature, but so far their campaign is deploying the stupidest strategy imaginable.
I’m not a professional political strategist, I just play one of the Internet. In my not so humble opinion the NJ GOP‘s campaign against Corzine Democrats is the dumbest political strategy since Christine O’Donnell declared she is not a witch.
Monmouth County Legislator Has A Message That Republicans Badly Need To Win
Gannett’s New Jersey newspapers and websites published a list of New Jersey’s political “Rising Stars” yesterday. The editorial says those on the list are young (most are under 40, all are under 50) politicos that are likely to emerge as the “next generation” of leaders on the regional or state levels of New Jersey government and politics.
Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande is the only Monmouth County leader who made the top twelve of the list. As a three term Assemblywoman seeking her fourth term and the Assembly Minority’s Policy Co-Chair, one could argue that Casagrande is in the current generation of leadership. But at 36, her star is still very much “rising.”
If you are fortunate enough to talk to Casagrande about policy and politics, you will quickly realize that the real power of her ’light’ is largely ‘hidden under a bushel.’
Bayshore Tea Party Group Co-Founders Bob Gordon and Barbara Gonzalez took to their Asbury Park Press blog yesterday to attempt to explain why they are challenging the 13th Legislative District and County Republican incumbents. In this post I’ll attempt to explain their explanation with the benefit of having spoken to them and having attended the meeting where they introduced most of their candidates. If I get any of it wrong, I suspect they will correct me in the comments.
Gordon and Gonzalez would probably object to the characterization that they are challenging the incumbents. They would say they are supporting the challenge, not doing the challenging. Just as senate candidate Leigh-Ann Bellew said she is not the BTPG’s candidate, but anticipates the group’s support. This a linguistic distinction without a practical difference. The challenge is a Tea Party challenge.
Assembly Republican Rob Clifton, R-Monmouth, Burlington, Middlesex and Ocean, said he believes it is appropriate for legislation approved by an Assembly committee last June that would allow voters to decide if judges should have the authority to deny bail to defendants deemed dangerous while awaiting trial, to be considered as part of Thursday’s Assembly voting session.
The legislation, ACR-153, was unanimously released by the Assembly Judiciary Committee, but has yet to receive consideration by the General Assembly. Under the resolution, a court must find that no amount of bail, pretrial release conditions, or combination of bail and pretrial release conditions would assure the defendant’s appearance as required or to protect the public safety.
The three major credit rating agencies affirmed the credit ratings of New Jersey’s bonds within the last week. Two of the three, Moody’s and Fitch affirmed the outlook for the State’s credit as stable. However, while affirming their AA- rating today, Standard and Poor’s lowered their outlook for New Jersey from stable to negative. S&P’s rationale for lowering their outlook is that they consider Governor Chris Christie’s revenue projections optimistic.
Democratic legislators, Assembly Budget Committee Chairman Vincent Prieto, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Paul Sarlo and Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald, a potential gubernatorial candidate next year, all jumped on the S&P outlook downgrade to score political points against Christie. The Statehouse Press Corp was happy to advance the negative spin.
Monmouth County’s Declan O’Scanlon, the Assembly Republican Budget Officer, fired back against the Democrats and the media for “crowing” about the S&P report while falling mute over the Fitch and Moody’s reports is a scathing statement:
“My Democrat colleagues are like vultures seeking to pounce on potential prey despite the fact that their appetite will not be satisfied by one agency’s outlook,” said O’Scanlon, R-Monmouth. “They are always ready to jump on what they perceive to be negative news and many in the media buy into their political theatrics. Instead of working with the governor and Republicans in the Legislature, they continue to wait for gloom and doom predictions.
“The conduct and glee from our leading legislative Democrats is remarkable and disturbing. For days, they sat silent when two ratings agencies affirmed New Jersey’s credit rating in response to the Schools Development Corporation bond offering and today are dancing in the streets when a third rating agency – after also maintaining the state’s credit rating – gave an outlier’s opinion and lowered its outlook,” explained O’Scanlon. “To see this kind of political opportunism and rooting for failure from individuals entrusted with some of the highest leadership positions our government offers is disgraceful. Their Swiss cheese, fragmented perception of reality – with the holes miraculously lining up with anything positive about our state’s fiscal condition – is disturbing, but not surprising.”
“That our Statehouse press corps simply gobbles the partisan nonsense up so willingly is also a real disappointment, stated O’Scanlon. “That is especially so when you see them blindly quoting even those lawmakers who so vigorously fought bipartisan pension and benefits reforms in an effort that would have crippled New Jersey’s long-term efforts to fix our long-term economic health.
“Had we followed the path of the very people now attacking the Governor the outlook for the state’s future would be dramatically worse. They cannot, with a straight face, criticize this Governor with any credibility,” said O’Scanlon. “It was this governor that has started to turn our state around – and he had to fight the very people now attacking him in order to do that. The governor and Republicans know we are in a difficult economy and these are risky times. But we are also not afraid to make tough decisions. Previous Democrat administrations talked about tough times, but never took action. Without taking decisive action to fix many of our state’s problems,New Jerseywould be in a financial abyss.
“The Democrats’ are selling a bill of goods to the public and the media which conveniently ignores their eight-year record of expanding government spending and want us to believe their distorted view of reality,” commented O’Scanlon. “We have more work to do in turning our state around, but I am much more confident entrusting our state’s future with the Christie administration than its Democratic predecessors.”
Never mind the 1% to 99% rhetoric that has worked its way into our lexicon since the Occupy movement moved into Zuccotti Park. With yesterday’s 3-2 decision that judges are exempt from New Jersey’s pension and health benefits reform, our State’s judiciary have declared themselves the .005%. They are the truly elite. The 400 of New Jersey’s 8.8 million citizens. They don’t have to share in the sacrifice.
As Governor Christie said in Atlantic City yesterday,
“What we did, the administration and the Legislature, was demand that everybody in public employment pay their fair share for the benefits they’re going to get like people in the private sector do every day. And I cannot believe that we’re going to permit one small sector of folks (to be exempt), who consider themselves special, and who by the way granted themselves this special treatment themselves. That doesn’t make any sense to me.’’
“If you’re a police officer, or a fire fighter, or a teacher in this state, and you’re paying more for your health benefits and your pension, I’ve got a feeling you’re pretty frosted if it turns out that a group of judges decides for the whole group of judges that they don’t have to pay their fair share.’’
Christie told NJ 101.5′s audience on his monthly Ask the Governor show last night that if the legislature puts a Constitutional Amendment on the ballot this fall, he will campaign for it. That will be the easiest campaign in the history of the world. There will likely be 3.9 million New Jerseyans voting on November 6. There are about 400 judges. If all of the judges got all of their family members and friends to vote against the Constitutional Amendment, would that add up to even 10,000 votes? I don’t think so.
As Senator Joe Kyrillos said yesterday, “Judicial independence does not mean judicial supremacy and exceptionalism.” If the legislature acts by August 6, and it looks as though they will, the people of New Jersey will be sending the Judicial branch an overwhelming reminder that they work for us. In America, even in New Jersey, the people are Sovereign. “All political power is inherent in the people.”
Even though there is not much time, the legislature should consider recommending other changes to Article VI, Section VI of the State Constitution to the people, since we’ll be making changes to the clause anyway.
Is seven years too long before a Judge is reviewed and reconfirmed? How about 3 or 4 years? Is tenure after 7 years, if reconfirmed, until mandatory retirement at age 70 still appropriate? How about a review and reconfirmation every 4, 5, or 7 years until retirement. When the retirement age of 70 for judges was affirmed by Constitutional Amendment in 1978, the average life expectancy in the United States was 73.5. Now, the average life expectancy is 78. Why not increase the mandatory retirement age to 75 or 80? How about establishing a voluntary retirement age before being eligible to collect a pension at 70. Those would create some pension savings.
The Judiciary has given the Legislature an opportunity to make substantive adjustments to the .005%’s superiority and exceptionalism.
As Governor Christie told a Town Hall meeting audience in Garfield on May 2, it is extraordinarily difficult to hold judges accountable in New Jersey. Now would be a good time to make some changes.
If you agree, contact your legislators and the governor. Pass this column on and ask others to do the same. Time is short.
A Monmouth University/Asbury Park Press poll released this morning indicates that Governor Christie’s approval numbers remain above 50% in New Jersey. 53% of registered voters approve of the job Christie is doing, compared to 35% that do not.
61% of Jersey voters think its a great idea that Mitt Romney tab Christie to give the keynote address at the Republican National Convention next month.
Christie has been promoting his bipartisan accomplishments in his out of state travels, but Jerseyans aren’t buying it. 31% of voters say that Christie and the Democratic leadership is working well together, 53% say they are not playing nice. 58% blame Christie and the Democrats equally.
The Democratic legislatures approval ratings remain in the tank, 35%-43%.
A majority of voters think it is wise to wait for state revenues to improve before cutting taxes.