STATE – Gov. Jon Corzine’s $29.8 billion budget proposal relies on revenue projections that are too optimistic, according to a consensus of economic reports used by the non-partisan Office of Legislative Services to analyze it.
David Rosen, the office’s budget and finance officer, told the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee Monday that Corzine’s budget will leave New Jersey with a $100 million deficit instead of the $500 million surplus projected by the governor.
The state constitution does not allow deficit spending, so a revenue shortfall would require additional cuts to a budget that is already $3 billion less than the one approved last year.
Rosen also criticized the governor for not including a larger surplus margin in a year where revenue is extremely difficult to predict due to the bad economy. “You would want even bigger surplus than normal as a hedge,” Rosen said.
PERTH AMBOY — Jeffrey D. Gumbs, who was a top city administrator under former Mayor Joseph Vas, pleaded guilty Monday to theft, tampering with public records and the misapplication of the city’s property between April 2004 and November 2005.
Gumbs, who was the city’s director of human resources and supervisor of recreation for many years, pleaded guilty to stealing about $2,500 from taxpayers in the New Brunswick courtroom of Judge Frederick DeVesa.
Under the plea bargain, the state will recommend that Gumbs be sentenced on June 26 to probation, he must pay restitution to the city and he will be permanently barred from public employment in New Jersey.
STATE – Gov. Jon Corzine’s draconian budget proposal has drawn a lot of criticism, but the most controversial component was the plan to eliminate the property tax deduction on the state income tax for most New Jersey residents.
Realizing that his budget had little chance of passing with that proposal intact, last week the Governor announced that he’d restore the tax deduction for residents earning less than $150,000 per year.
“Given the circumstances, allowing people to maintain their property-tax deduction is the right thing to do and will help ease the pain for those being squeezed the most,” Senate President Richard J. Codey (D-Essex) said.
Governor Jon Corzine, Assemblyman Joseph Vas and former Assemblyman Neil Cohen sit together in this file photo featuring the week's top newsmakers.
Assemblyman Joseph Vas was indicted on 11 counts of conspiring with municipal employees to bill the city for $5,000 worth of clothing, sneakers and other personal items. The former Perth Amboy mayor is also accused of participating in a scheme to rig a housing lottery so that his driver could buy a new home at a reduced price.
For the first time since April 2003, a majority of Garden Staters (51 percent) say the country is headed in the right direction, up from a low of 13 percent before November’s elections, according to the latest results from Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind.
Two in three Garden State voters (66 percent) say they approve of the job President Barack Obama is doing as President, including 89 percent of Democrats, 57 percent of independent voters and 36 percent of Republicans. Obama’s approval ratings are down slightly from measures taken before his inauguration, but are still more than triple the figures former President Bush received in his last months in office. Both liberals and moderates hold very positive views of Obama, with 86 percent and 74 percent approving of his job performance along with 41 percent of self-described conservatives.
STATE—Gov. Jon Corzine’s standing with the New Jersey public is suffering along with the economy.
According to the most recent poll by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind, 40 percent of voters approve of the job Corzine is doing while 46 percent disapprove—a reversal from January when 46 percent approved and 40 percent disapproved. “The governor is taking his lumps along with the rest of New Jersey,” said Peter Woolley, a political scientist and director of the poll.
TRENTON – Don’t look for a property tax rebate check this year. Unless you’re a senior citizen, it’s probably not coming.
In a meeting with the Legislature’s top Democrats next week, Gov. Jon Corzine suggested that curtailing the popular property tax rebate program may be necessary to balance the state’s budget. Last year, New Jersey spent $1.7 billion on property tax rebates; $1.1 billion went to non-seniors.
Corzine and state lawmakers emphasized the senior citizen tax rebates would not be cut. “I can’t imagine the circumstances where any of the senior rebate programs are under threat,” the governor said.
TRENTON – Gov. Jon Corzine issued an executive order to extend the deadline for candidates to file to run in April’s school board election because Monday’s snowstorm closed most of the schools in the state.
The deadline had originally been Monday afternoon, but in many school districts no one was in the office to accept the petitions. The governor extended the deadline to 4 p.m. Wednesday.
“We need to make sure we have the ability to have people fully have a chance to participate in the electoral process,” Corzine said.
A list of all candidates who filed will be printed in next week’s newspaper, and will be available tomorrow on cmdmedia.wordpress.com.
Balut says Corzine cannot be trusted because he is irresponsible with money, calling the incumbent, “arrogant, incompetent and dishonest.” Balut’s candidacy is founded on a belief that democracy — the power of the people — is far greater than multimillionaire Jon Corzine’s financial advantage.
TRENTON – Applications are now available online from the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA) for $170 million in financing assistance to help state businesses face the fiscal challenges of the national economic crisis.The funding is being made available through two new programs created under Governor Jon S. Corzine’s Economic Assistance and Recovery Plan to stimulate capital investment and job creation.
“In creating the InvestNJ and Main Street Business Assistance programs, the Governor and the Legislature have taken critical steps to support business growth and community investment in New Jersey and help our state emerge from a national economic recession,” said Jerold L. Zaro, chief of the Office of Economic Growth.
STATE—Just one in four New Jersey voters, 25 percent, say the state is headed in the right direction, down 3 percentage points from a year ago (from 28 percent), and essentially unchanged since last February (25 percent).
According to the most recent poll by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind, 65 percent of voters continue to say the state is on the wrong track. That dim view reaches across party lines as a majority of Democrats (55 percent) agree with four of five independents and four of five Republicans that the state is faring badly.
“This persistent number should be worrisome to the incumbent party,” said Peter Woolley, a political scientist and director of the poll. “It would be a stretch to say that voters’ pessimism is due entirely to the economic downturn and looming budget cuts. Their dim view of the direction of the state set in before the Wall Street meltdown,” said Woolley. “The question, sooner or later, will be whom should they blame.”
STATE – An increasing number of claims is rapidly draining the fund that bankrolls unemployment benefits in New Jersey, raising the unwelcome prospect that taxpayers will be required to provide a cash infusion.
According to the state Labor Department, businesses pay about $2 billion into the fund each year, but as of the end of November, it only had a balance of $750 million. Last month, New Jersey paid out $169 million in claims, a 23 percent increase compared with the $138 million paid out in November, 2007, according to records maintained by the federal government.
Should the fund’s balance continue to decline, businesses will face an automatic $400 million tax increase next June. A similar hike on businesses was averted this year when the state provided a $260 million emergency cash infusion.
STATE—New Jersey motorists will pay more to travel along the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway as toll increases long sought by Gov. Jon Corzine have finally taken effect.
The cost of an average 22-mile Turnpike trip will go up to $1.70 from $1.25. One-way tolls on the Parkway will go to 50 cents from 35 cents.
The governor originally wanted to sell off the toll roads in a complicated scheme that would have brought in up to $40 billion in cash, created new state debt to fund transportation projects and paid off some older bond notes.
EDISON – At a Monday afternoon press conference attended by approximately 60 supporters and members of the press, conservative Republican and anti-tax advocate Steve Lonegan announced that he would run for governor next year.
Lonegan is determined to slash the size of government – and government spending—by 20 percent through layoffs, eliminating programs and “devolving government from Trenton to local municipalities.”
“New Jersey was built on that fundamental belief – the belief is individual freedom, defending liberty and letting every individual fulfill their potential,” Lonegan said.“Over the last decades, we’ve seen that philosophy undermined—undermined by a growth of government that has accelerated the entitlement state and reliance not on opportunity, but on government handouts.”
Will Gov. Corzine decide not to seek re-election and instead serve in the Obama administration in some capacity?Will Chris Christie decline to seek the governorship or will he lose in a Republican primary?A betting man would say that Corzine and Christie are the most likely candidates to run in the general election for governor of New Jersey a little less than a year from now.Given this hypothetical scenario, one thing is certain:It will be a battle of the titans.
On the side of Gov. Corzine, there is his near-infinite ability to spend his own money to win re-election.He has the Democratic powerbrokers and ground game, including the unions, which have the facility to mobilize massive amounts of voters.He also has the benefits of incumbency, including free publicity for the rest of his term, wherever he travels, whatever he says.