Posted on

Trump Administration Official Throws Cold Water on Gateway Tunnel Funding Agreement


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,”

Posted on

Trenton Politicians Always Pay Themselves First


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.


Posted on

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


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.

Posted on


School Choice by ArtChick

photo by ArtChick


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.

Posted on

Christie spares Marine from prison over gun conviction

gov christie press lrg2

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 |

Posted on


ridgewood real-estate

file photo by Boyd Loving


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.

Posted on

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.

Posted on




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.

Posted on

NJ considers law requiring Pledge of Allegiance before public meetings


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 |

Posted on

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.

Posted on

N.J. relaxes rule barring convicted drug users from getting welfare


By Susan K. Livio | NJ Advance Media for
on November 30, 2016 at 1:18 PM, updated December 01, 2016 at 2:16 AM

TRENTON — A drug possession conviction is no longer a barrier to receiving welfare benefits in New Jersey under a compromise bill Gov. Chris Christie signed into law Wednesday.

Childless adults who undergo outpatient drug treatment may qualify for public assistance, despite a conviction for drug possession in their backgrounds. Previously, inpatient treatment was the requirement.

The bill’s sponsors say the old restrictions inhibited a person’s ability to become self-sufficient. The legislation is among others aimed at reducing poverty in the state, which has remained stubbornly high in the post-recession era.

“It can be tremendously hard to turn one’s life around after a drug conviction because of all the doors that close in their face due to legal constraints, especially for those who don’t have family or friends to rely on for assistance,” said state Assemblywoman Liz Muoio (D-Mercer), one of the bill’s prime sponsors. “Financial assistance, job training, and education — all of these things provide hope and a chance at a new start.”

Posted on




Christie gets bipartisan plan that he calls ‘more fair than the previous proposals,’ but it offers no constitutional guarantee enforcing payments

After failing to find any common ground for the past several years over the best way to address New Jersey’s grossly underfunded public-employee pension system, state lawmakers reached a rare, bipartisan agreement yesterday, voting in favor of legislation requiring quarterly instead of yearly state pension contributions.

The measure — which legislative leaders say they are confident Gov. Chris Christie will eventually sign — would help the $73 billion pension system by breaking up the annual state pension contribution into smaller installments that the sponsors hope will be easier for the state to afford than the lump sum that administrations typically try to make at the end of each fiscal year.

Depositing the payments on a quarterly basis would also protect more of the pension contribution from end-of-the-year budget cuts and allow the pension system, which is professionally managed, to generate bigger investment returns by getting more money into the system earlier in the fiscal year.

Posted on



file photo by Boyd Loving

Christie’s executive order idled some 3,000 construction workers during the warm weather. Can it be lifted in time to make a dent in outstanding projects?

With the political impasse over transportation funding that has gripped Trenton for the past three months now settled, New Jersey lawmakers are scheduled to vote tomorrow on the legislation that will hike the state’s gas tax by 23 cents. The proposed increase already has Gov. Chris Christie’s endorsement and is expected to pass with bipartisan support.

But still uncertain is exactly when Christie will be willing to lift a hold on state-funded road, bridge, and rail projects that’s been in effect since July and how much that shutdown, which sidelined an estimated 3,000 construction workers, has impacted New Jersey’s economy and its residents. In some places, local officials simply ignored the construction freeze since the state money had already been promised, but others were concerned about possible fines and are now anxious to see the road crews return to work.

Christie, a Republican, announced on Friday that he is ready to sign off on the gas-tax increase needed to renew the state Transportation Trust Fund since Democrats who control the Legislature say they will authorize more than $1 billion in new tax cuts. If approved and signed into law this week, the gas tax increase isn’t expected to go into effect immediately, but officials say it would likely be in place by the beginning of November at the latest.

Still, the construction freeze remains in effect and Christie’s office offered no clear idea yesterday of when it will be rescinded.

Posted on

Christie Demands The Legislature Do their Job and Fill Judicial Vacancies In Mercer County


September 1, 2016
the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Trenton, NJ , Governor Chris Christie demanded today that the Senate “do its job” and act on seven judicial vacancies that are jeopardizing the efficient delivery of justice to citizens in Mercer County, where the reassignment of a Superior Court judge this week underscored the emergent need for a full complement of judges in the vicinage.

In May, Governor Christie nominated seven qualified candidates, both Democrats and Republicans, to fill the Mercer County vacancies, but the Democrat-controlled Senate has failed to schedule them for a review and confirmation.

Now, Superior Court Judge Pedro Jimenez, a Middlesex County judge who has been assisting Mercer County in its criminal courts for the past seven years, is being reassigned back to his home county. Mercer County, which normally has a complement of 24 judges, has had one vacancy on the bench since March 2012 and six other vacancies since the departure of six judges in the fall of 2014.

“This is a complete disservice to the public and it falls firmly at the feet of Senate Democrats. They continue to fail in their constitutional responsibility to review and act on nominees to many key government posts in New Jersey, including the courts. Just as Senate Democrats created problems in Essex County a couple of years ago by blocking appointments, their inaction now in Mercer County is impeding the effective delivery of justice there,” said Governor Christie. “These judicial vacancies not only threaten our efforts to enact bail reform, but also leave the short-staffed Mercer County judicial system juggling to resolve serious matters, such as issuing restraining orders for victims of domestic violence and providing people accused of crimes a swift adjudication of their cases.”

Beyond Mercer County, the Senate also has failed to act on six other Superior Court nominees waiting to fill judicial vacancies elsewhere in the state and they are holding up 76 other nominations made by Governor Christie to various boards and commissions that serve the public.

Posted on

Ridgewood Homeowners Could Save $4,200 under Gov. Chris Christie’s proposed school funding overhaul

Ridgewood Real-Estate

How Christie’s school funding plan could affect your property taxes

Gov. Chris Christie’s proposed school funding overhaul could produce property tax relief from as much as $4,500 for the average homeowner in Glen Ridge to a little as $5 on average in Mount Ephraim, according to state data. Stephen Stirling and Adam Clark, Read more