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Trump Administration Official Throws Cold Water on Gateway Tunnel Funding Agreement

Ridgewood_Train_station_train-_is_coming_theridgewoodblog

December 30,2017

the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Ridgewood NJ, earlier this month Gov. Chris Christie and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced commitments to fund 100 percent of their respective share of the new Gateway tunnel. The agreement follows a 2015 framework agreement in which the federal government agreed to fund 50 percent of the project.

The agreement for a combined $5.5 billion states that the State of New York will contribute $1.75 billion with NJ Transit committing $1.9 billion and the Port Authority contributing $1.9 billion.

But the Trump administration through cold water on the idea on Friday . In a letter to New York and New Jersey officials, a top Federal Transit Administration Deputy Administrator Jane Williams signaled that the Trump administration would not recognize the agreement struck under former President Barack Obama that called for the federal government to pay half the cost of the project.

The letter stated that ,“There is no such agreement,” and “We consider it unhelpful to reference a nonexistent ‘agreement’ rather than directly address the responsibility for funding a local project where nine out of 10 passengers are local transit riders,”

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Trenton Politicians Always Pay Themselves First

money-growing-on-tree-image-8

December 15,2017

the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Trenton NJ, A state Senate panel quickly advanced a Democratic bill that would give some elected officials bigger pensions, pushing through a vote on Thursday in about one minute and without any debate or public testimony.

The New Jersey Pension and Health Benefits Commission has stated that there are a combined $90 billion in unfunded liabilities for future pension and retiree healthcare benefits .

The bill known as (S3620) would allow certain elected officials, such as the outgoing Camden Mayor Dana Redd, to re-enroll in the Public Employees’ Retirement System (PERS) even if they were removed due to switching from one elected office to another.

Effectively, the bill creates a special exemption that allows Redd to cash in on a bigger public pension at a time when public workers who are not politically connected have seen cutbacks to their benefits and a freeze in yearly cost-of-living adjustments for retirees since 2011.

The legislation  is moving quickly because Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester), a Redd ally, has given the bill  special status, allowing it to move forward without a customary review by a public body that scrutinizes the cost of pension and health benefits legislation and makes recommendations to lawmakers.

In a “hail Mary” the bill could be approved by the Assembly and Senate and signed by Gov. Chris Christie who is another Redd ally during the waning days of the lame-duck Legislature. A full vote in the Assembly and Senate could be held on the bill before the legislative session ends on Jan. 9.

 

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N.J. lottery-pension plan “slightly positive,” Wall Street ratings agency says

Lottery_theridgewoodblog

Dustin Racioppi, State House Bureau, @dracioppiPublished 3:29 p.m. ET Aug. 15, 2017 | Updated 5:32 p.m. ET Aug. 15, 2017

Gov. Chris Christie’s new law shifting lottery revenue from education and social-service programs to the troubled public employee pension funds is being viewed as a “slightly positive” move by a Wall Street ratings agency, but not one that will fully relieve the pressure on the state to meet its obligations to workers.

The report by Moody’s Investors Service is the latest analysis by one of the three major ratings agencies that have collectively downgraded New Jersey’s credit under Christie a record 11 times. They often cited the state’s heavily underfunded pension system as the main driver of the downgrades.

http://www.northjersey.com/story/news/new-jersey/2017/08/15/nj-lottery-pension-plan-slightly-positive-wall-street-ratings-agency-says/568965001/

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CHRISTIE’S CHARTER LEGACY: A CLEAR RECORD OF GROWTH

School Choice by ArtChick

photo by ArtChick

JOHN MOONEY | JULY 18, 2017

In the eight years the governor has headed up state government, charter school enrollment has more than doubled

When Gov. Chris Christie leaves office in six months, one of his clear legacies will be the growth of charter schools in New Jersey, with school enrollment more than doubling in his eight years in office.

Yesterday, his administration finished the job, announcing the final approval of five more schools to open this fall. That brings to 89 the number of charters that will be open when Christie steps down in January.

That number isn’t that big an increase from the 70 in place in 2010 at the start of Christie’s tenure, a number that jumped to over 90 in his first year. But his administration ultimately closed nearly 20 charter schools as well.

http://www.njspotlight.com/stories/17/07/18/christie-s-charter-legacy-a-clear-record-of-growth/

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Christie spares Marine from prison over gun conviction

By Sergio Bichao April 14, 2017 4:48 PM

New Jersey 101.5 video archive

A Marine veteran from Virginia who was convicted in New Jersey of possessing a legally owned gun without a state permit will not go to prison after his sentence was commuted Friday by Gov. Chris Christie.

The Afghanistan war veteran is the 10th person whose weapons-related conviction or sentence has been pardoned or commuted by Christie. Like the other cases, Hisashi K.D. Pompey is an out-of-state resident who got entangled by New Jersey’s strict gun laws.

Read More: Christie spares Marine from prison over gun conviction | http://nj1015.com/christie-spares-marine-from-prison-over-gun-conviction/?trackback=tsmclip

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EXPLAINER: SORTING THROUGH THE STATE’S PROPERTY-TAX RELIEF PROGRAMS

ridgewood real-estate

file photo by Boyd Loving

JOHN REITMEYER | MARCH 21, 2017

The bad news is that the amount of money available for property-tax relief is shrinking; the good news, there are still a plethora of programs and options available

Once a top priority for government leaders in Trenton, property-tax rebates and other direct-relief programs received nearly $3 billion in funding from the state budget a decade ago.

But this year, with Gov. Chris Christie proposing a $32.5 million reduction in funding for direct property-tax relief in his latest state budget proposal, the total will be just over $1 billion unless lawmakers can convince him to allow for an increase before the next fiscal year begins in July.

The reduction comes as Christie, a second-term Republican, in recent years has instead been using revenue growth to ramp up state contributions to the public-employee pension system, which has been another top priority for Democrats who control the Legislature. Christie has also pointed to his efforts to address property-tax increases at their root, including the 2 percent cap on annual property-tax hikes that he and lawmakers passed on a bipartisan basis in 2010.

Still, data released recently by the state Department of Community Affairs showed the average New Jersey property-tax bill rose to a record high of $8,549 last year, putting new heat on lawmakers to more fully address property taxes as they prepare to run for reelection this year with all 120 legislative seats on the ballot in November.

http://www.njspotlight.com/stories/17/03/20/explainer-sorting-through-the-state-s-property-tax-relief-programs/

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N.J. needs a water plan, or it may be tears that will flow

ridgewood water

February 19, 2017 at 3:00 AM

Smart companies (and states) make long-range plans based on the most accurate data available. But New Jersey’s real estate and home-building industries, the state’s water utilities and, indeed, any N.J. company that depends on a reliable water supply can’t do that right now. The Statewide Water Supply Plan — a document that details where the water for New Jersey’s future is and is not — has not been updated since 1996, despite a state statute requiring that an updated report be provided every five years.

Certainly, the Department of Environmental Protection has been working on an update. But, as Rutgers professor and former DEP official Daniel J. Van Abs said in a Feb. 7 column for NJSpotlight, a new draft plan was “last seen” in 2012, when it was presented to the Water Supply Advisory Council — a panel of water company officials, academic scientists and various nonprofits that advises the DEP on water issues. Since then, nothing has happened.

The DEP says it is still collecting data, but Van Abs and others believe Gov. Chris Christie is sitting on the report because the news is not likely to be good. Their theory is that an updated report could stymie development in the state, and the Christie administration does not want to be bound by it.

http://www.njbiz.com/article/20170219/NJBIZ01/170219830/editorial-nj-needs-a-water-plan-or-it-may-be-tears-that-will-flow

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NEW JERSEY STILL BOGGED DOWN IN FORECLOSURES WHILE REST OF COUNTRY RECOVERING

foreclosureB

JOE TYRRELL | JANUARY 26, 2017

Housing advocates blame a lack of leadership at state level for Garden State’s highest foreclosure rate in nation

Housing markets have improved and foreclosure numbers dropped across the country since the Great Recession, but a decade on, New Jersey remains mired in a deep foreclosure swamp.

Statewide figures are significantly better than in 2009, the depth of the economic downturn. Yet some analyses cite Atlantic City as the worst housing market in the country, with Trenton not far behind. Overall, New Jersey continues to have the highest foreclosure rate in the country, according to real-estate data firms.

While many factors contribute to the problem, housing advocates point to a lack of leadership from state government as significant. Gov. Chris Christie, who used $75 million from national foreclosure-prevention aid to plug a budget gap in 2012, seldom mentions the issue.

“In the other states where we work, we have governors who have welcomed us and networked us to their housing agencies and counselors,” said a relative newcomer to the state scene, Jessica Brooks, a vice president at Boston Community Capital.

Nonprofit housing organizations like BCC work with lenders and borrowers to prevent foreclosures. Some for-profit groups also have sprung up, like Community Champions of Melbourne, Florida to fight the effects of foreclosure blight. But as the major federal foreclosure relief ends, a lack of state leadership in New Jersey means municipalities must find such partners themselves. Meanwhile, borrowers must remain alert to police their own mortgages, according to a top foreclosure defense lawyer.

http://www.njspotlight.com/stories/17/01/25/new-jersey-is-still-bogged-down-in-foreclosures-while-rest-of-country-recovers/?utm_campaign=Observer_NJ_Politics&utm_content=New%20Campaign&utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_term=New%20Jersey%20Politics

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NJ considers law requiring Pledge of Allegiance before public meetings

flagpole_theridgewoodblog

By Michael Symons January 19, 2017 5:38 PM

All public meetings in New Jersey might soon be required to open with a Pledge of Allegiance under a proposal now one vote from reaching Gov. Chris Christie’s desk.

The Assembly State and Local Government Committee gave its unanimous endorsement Thursday to a bill, S308/A777, already passed 35-0 by the full Senate two months ago.

Read More: Lawmakers move to require Pledge of Allegiance before all public meetings | http://nj1015.com/nj-considers-law-requiring-pledge-of-allegiance-before-public-meetings/?utm_campaign=Observer_NJ_Politics&utm_content=New%20Campaign&utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_term=New%20Jersey%20Politics&trackback=tsmclip

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New Jersey Ranked 43rd in, Best and Worst Run States in America Survey

Sweeney & Prieto

43. New Jersey

Debt per capita: $7,378 (5th highest)
> 2015 Unemployment rate: 5.6% (tied-19th highest)
> Credit rating: A2/A-
> Poverty: 10.8% (8th lowest)

December 16,2016

the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Ridgewood NJ, New Jersey has among the smallest reserve funds of any state. According to analysis by the Pew Charitable Trusts, New Jersey would be able to operate just eight full days with its budget reserves alone, less than a third of the average across all states. New Jersey also has just 42.5% of the assets it needs to meet its future pension obligations, nearly the smallest share of any state. Credit ratings agency S&P recently downgraded New Jersey’s bonds from A to A-, nearly the worst rating in the country. The agency cited the underfunded pension as one of the main reasons for the downgrade as well as the recently announced tax cut.

The “tax cuts”, which will amount to an estimated $1.4 billion in lost revenue a year by 2021, have been criticized as politically expedient and financially irresponsible as New Jersey struggles to balance its budget. New Jersey’s credit rating has been downgraded 10 times under Gov. Chris Christie, more than any other governor in U.S. history.

While most residents will not see a deal to raise New Jersey’s gas tax by 23 cents a gallon, to 37.5 cents as a “tax cut”  or in reality , despite Governor Christies war with the media most people realize that the nails have long been driven into New Jersey’s economic coffin. The Massive flight of personal assets as well as businesses, running from the state’s high tax anti-business climate has significantly eroded the tax base over years making a major financial shake-up in the state a foregone conclusion.