Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Letter From Sen. Barbara Mikulski


They trash our president, stomp on women’s rights and gut Medicare.

It’s the Republican recipe for taking back the Senate, and it leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Karl Rove is putting this recipe into action with a new $1.2 million ad blitz against our Democratic candidates in five battleground states.

We must stand together, here and now, to forcefully say, “You can’t do this to our country.”

President Obama is counting on you. Women who have fought for equality only to see Republicans demean them and try to take it away are counting on you. Seniors who depend on Medicare are counting on you.

Help us meet our $1.2 million goal before the April 30 deadline. The only way to win is if you fight back now. If you give before the deadline a group of Democratic senators will match your gift dollar for dollar.

The damage a Republican House, Republican Senate and President Romney would do to our country is horrifying.

The first thing they would do is implement Paul Ryan’s budget. That means we’d have to say goodbye to health reform, basic women’s health services, Medicare as we know it, adequate funding for education and so much more.

All to pay for unnecessary tax breaks for the wealthy and Big Oil.

The Republican recipe is an abject disaster. We’ve seen it before and it has failed. We can’t let it happen again.

We don’t have a Rove or Koch on our side. Instead, we rely on grassroots supporters to win.

We need your help, right now, before the deadline. There’s too much at stake for you to remain on the sidelines. Give whatever you can and help us hold the Senate.

I am ready to win this fight. We can do it. With your help, this November, we’ll hold back the Republicans.

Thank you very much for your support.


Sen. Barbara Mikulski

Watson Coleman: We Need to be Investing - Not Divesting - in Higher Education

Assemblywoman Questions Impact Governor’s Defunding of Tuition Aid Programs has had on Prospective College Students

(TRENTON) – Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson (D-Mercer/Middlesex) questioned the impact the Christie administration’s continual defunding of higher education may have on the prospects of college for low and middle income students after the Assembly Budget Committee heard testimony from the Secretary of Higher Education on Wednesday.
“The cuts the Governor has made in TAG (Tuition Aid Grant) and EOF (Educational Opportunity Fund) funding over the last few years worry me on a number of levels, especially when coupled with his cuts in direct aid.  Even when funding remains stagnant for a year, or increases minimally as he has proposed for EOF funding this year, it still essentially equates to a decrease because of the continually rising cost of tuition, fees and books.
“We saw the report out this week that 53 percent of college graduates under 25 years old are either un- or under-employed, making it all that much harder to pay off the cost of their education.  My fear is that the short-sighted moves that have been made the last few years may eventually price college out of reach for many middle and low income students. 
“Given the increasingly competitive nature of the global market and the fact that unemployment in our state is still higher than the national average, we need to be investing - not divesting - in education to provide our students with every advantage possible to succeed,” said Watson Coleman.

Assembly Democrats: Governor Must Realize that Public Safety for all New Jerseyans is a Priority

Mainor, Connors, Cryan and O’Donnell Call on Governor to Make Public Safety a Priority After His Municipal Aid Cuts Weakened Police Forces in Cities Across State

(JERSEY CITY) – Assembly Democrats released the following statements after hearing testimony during Wednesday’s Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee hearing in Jersey City:
Assembly Law & Public Safety Chairman Charles Mainor (D-Hudson):
“We have seen the consequences of the governor’s municipal aid cuts and they are not pretty. Police departments in Newark, Paterson, Trenton, Camden and Atlantic City have suffered dramatic losses in manpower, despite steep crime rates that demand the opposite. It’s a dangerous situation to put our residents in, and our police officers and firefighters who are now expected to do their jobs with less reinforcement. Fiscal responsibility is a must, but not at the expense of public safety.”
Assemblyman Sean Connors (D-Hudson):
“Crime is a daily nuisance for many residents in our urban centers. The crime stories we read and discuss? They live them. The governor has slashed funding for indispensable services. His municipal aid cuts led to police layoffs and uncertainty for residents. Public safety is our priority and should be the priority of this administration. Maybe the governor should visit these communities more often. Maybe then he will understand what his budget cuts really mean for these neighborhoods.”
Assemblyman Joseph Cryan (D-Union):
“Cities have had to rely on tactical support from the state police, which may see its own funding cut under the governor’s proposed budget. Municipal aid cuts in these cities were followed by vast police layoffs, increased crime and a shift in proven policing strategies to make up for the gap in coverage. What will these proposed cuts to the state police bring? Governor, proclaiming a comeback means nothing if people don’t feel safe because your budget cuts resulted in fewer cops on the beat.”
Assemblyman Jason O’Donnell (D-Hudson):
“Residents in New Jersey should feel safe in their homes, regardless of where they live. Giving cities with significant crime no other choice but to downsize their police forces shows the governor’s lack of apathy for the state’s most vulnerable. He has slashed funding for schools, women’s health care and public safety, yet manages to fund income tax breaks for millionaires. There won’t be any real recovery in New Jersey if the governor keeps undermining New Jersey’s working class.”

Greenwald: Senior Citizens Will Get the Help They Need Under Assembly Democratic Property Tax Relief Credit Plan

(WEST WINDSOR) – Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald (D-Camden/Burlington) released the following statement Wednesday after holding a virtual town hall meeting with AARP New Jersey to discuss the Assembly Democratic plan to give senior and disabled citizens a 25 percent property tax relief credit:
“It was honor today to talk with so many great AARP members throughout New Jersey about the issues that are important in their lives, including property tax relief and our plan for a 25 percent property tax relief credit for senior and disabled citizens.
“Today’s discussion makes clear that senior citizens and Assembly Democrats are on the same page when it comes to property tax relief. Seniors need our help, and we’re ready to provide it with our plan for quick, responsible and significant relief.
“Millionaires have received $40,000 annual tax breaks thanks to this governor, but seniors have been among those suffering through Gov. Christie’s net 20 percent property tax hike. It’s time to put the focus where it belongs – property tax relief for seniors and our middle-class.
“I thank the AARP for hosting today’s event and look forward to working cooperatively with them to bring about real property tax relief for New Jersey.”

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Spencer: Christie’s Anti-Environment Record Getting Worse by the Day

(TRENTON) – Assembly Environment Chairwoman L. Grace Spencer (D-Essex) released the following statement on Tuesday on Gov. Chris Christie’s decision to back out of a lawsuit opposing lax ozone regulation implemented during the Bush administration:

“The governor’s lack of commitment to environmental protection and the health and well-being of New Jerseyans just keeps getting worse by the day.
“It is not a waste of resources to fight to improve the quality of life for residents. The health of young residents in urban areas is especially put at risk every day they are subjected to pollution, with evidence showing children in urban areas are more likely to develop asthma. 
“The governor is turning his back on improving the quality of life and improving the health of our most vulnerable people. Sadly, this is all part of a disturbing pattern.
            “Whether it’s pulling out of the regional effort to curtail greenhouse gases, threatening water quality in the Highlands, raiding clean energy funding or getting rid of protections against overdevelopment, this governor has continuously taken the side of polluters against the people of New Jersey."

Monday, April 23, 2012

Greenwald Challenges Christie to Debate Tax Plans

Wants Gov to Live Up to His Own Offer to Debate Assembly Dem Plan for Middle-Class Property Tax Relief vs. Christie’s Income Tax Cut to Mostly Benefit Wealthy

(TRENTON) – Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald on Monday challenged Gov. Chris Christie to live up to his own vow and debate the Assembly Democratic plan for middle-class and senior citizen property tax relief against Christie’s plan for an income tax cut that would mostly benefit the wealthy.
Assembly Democrats have proposed a 20 percent property tax relief credit for the middle-class worth on average about $1,600 and a 25 percent property tax relief credit for senior and disabled citizens worth on average about $2,000.
Christie has proposed an income tax that would mostly benefit wealthy New Jerseyans.
Last week, when opposing the plan for middle-class and senior property tax relief, Christie said he would “be happy to have that debate and discussion any time they want,” so Greenwald on Monday had a letter delivered to the governor inviting him to a debate on NJTV’s “On the Record” program to be moderated by Michael Aron. 
“I know you will agree that middle-class New Jerseyans deserve to hear about how our plans would affect them and their families,” wrote Greenwald (D-Camden/Burlington) to Christie. “By discussing our plans on ‘On the Record,’ we can move past slogans and 30-second sound bites - allowing New Jersey’s middle-class families to decide whether they would rather have our 20 percent property tax relief plan or your income tax proposal.”
Greenwald added, “I hope you will join me in this civil discussion about how best to provide relief to the middle-class.  New Jersey’s middle-class and working families deserve nothing less.  I eagerly await your reply.”

Coughlin, Benson & Wisniewski Bill to Help Boost Organ and Tissue Donation Signed Into Law

April Will Now Be Designated as “Donate Life Month”

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assemblymen Craig Coughlin, Dan Benson and John Wisniewski to help boost organ and tissue donation throughout the State of New Jersey has been signed into law.
“Organ and tissue donation is one of the single greatest gifts we can give,” said Coughlin (D-Middlesex).  “The amount of lives that can be saved or improved by one single donor is invaluable.  Hopefully, through the power of education, we can encourage everyone to give the gift of life.”
The new law (A-1265) designates April of each year as “Donate Life Month” and directs the Governor to issue a proclamation calling upon public officials and residents to observe the month with appropriate activities and programs.
“We’ve seen many inspiring stories of organ donations over the years,” said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex).  “There is no greater gift one can give then to help provide someone with a new lease on life and more time to cherish with their loved ones.  I hope Donate Life Month will remind everyone of the power they have to impact others through this selfless act.”
“Organ donation is a simple, heroic act that everyone should consider,” said Wisniewski (D-Middlesex).  “Many people support organ donation but often fail to find the time to register to become a donor.  Hopefully this educational campaign will put the knowledge at their fingertips and increase registration.”
The law also requires the State Treasurer to disseminate information about organ and tissue donation with employee paychecks during the month of April.  The Department of Treasury is also required to encourage all businesses with state contracts to notify their employees, through information and materials or through an organ and tissue awareness program, of organ donation options.
All information provided to employees and state contractors concerning organ and tissue donation must be prepared in collaboration with the organ procurement organizations designated by law to serve in New Jersey.

Prieto: Governor Cuts Direct Aid to Schools, but Champions Tax Breaks for Wealthy. What’s wrong with this picture?

(TRENTON) – Assembly Budget Chairman Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson/Bergen) issued the following statement Monday concerning cuts in direct school aid under Gov. Christie’s proposed budget following the Assembly Budget Hearing:

 “We entrust school districts with the education of our children, yet under the current administration, the resources they are getting to meet this responsibility keeps shrinking.
“The increase in school aid claimed by the governor is nothing more than clever smoke-screening. Truth is, the amount of direct aid going to schools under his proposed budget is still much less than what was allocated two years ago. This means less money for districts to hire more teachers, purchase classroom supplies and reduce classroom sizes – all crucial components to student success.  
“Short-changing school districts, while vigorously defending tax breaks for millionaires makes no sense. Surely even a fifth-grader can recognize the wrong in this scenario. Selling out the education of New Jersey students to appease a national Republican audience and ideal is disgraceful.
“At the end of the day, while the governor keeps going on national stages, the people of New Jersey must deal with his property tax increases here at home.”

Burzichelli: Governor’s Lack of Commitment to Regionalization & Direct School Aid Disappointing

(TRENTON) – Assembly Appropriations Chairman John Burzichelli (D-Gloucester/Salem/Cumberland) released the following statement Monday as the Assembly Budget Committee heard from the Department of Education:

“The governor’s continued inability to properly fund our schools is disappointing, especially for the property taxpayers who have endured a net 20 percent property tax hike under this governor.
"Also concerning is this governor's lack of commitment to the savings that could come from school regionalization.
"A 2007 law required the executive county superintendents to present by March 2010 a plan to regionalize and consolidate schools within their districts. Despite this being law, we have seen no progress on this plan, much to the detriment of taxpayers.
"The Christie administration needs to do better.
“After all, the governor claims his proposed budget increasing school aid by $1.12 billion, but this is merely spin. Direct aid to districts is nearly $112 million less compared to before Gov. Christie took office.
“None of the indirect aid touted by the governor goes into the classroom to benefit children. It does not hire one teacher, provide one textbook nor buy one computer.
“Last year I sponsored a bill to help school districts with significant enrollment growth, but the governor vetoed that bill despite indicating he would support it. The governor needs to finally fully support our schools for the benefit of both our taxpayers and children.”

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Watson Coleman: Why Can Governor Afford Tax Breaks for Millionaires but Not Health Care for Women?

(TRENTON) – Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman on Wednesday questioned why the Christie administration has not restored funding for women’s health care despite their robust budget projections for this year.
“For two years the Governor stated that we did not have the money to fund women’s health care and family planning. 
“Now that his self-proclaimed ‘comeback’ is underway and he has found a billion dollars to give millionaires income tax cuts, why can’t he find $7.5 million to provide access to critical health care for middle and low income women?
“It’s time to end the shameful excuses when the money is available and investing it in health care for women would help lower insurance costs for every taxpayer.
             “This is yet another indication that the governor’s opposition to women’s health care is nothing more than his conservative ideology. It certainly cannot be based on sound fiscal and health care policy.

Johnson: Governor’s Continued War on Women in New Jersey Must End

(TRENTON) – Assembly Majority Conference Leader Gordon M. Johnson (D-Bergen) released the following statement Wednesday following the budget hearing on the Department of Health and Senior Services:

“Gov. Christie continues to shamelessly deplete resources for women’s health care, with little regard to the women who rely on these services.
“Since Gov. Christie took office, he has eliminated what had been an annual $7.5 million appropriation for grants for women’s health care services. These cuts have forced centers to scale back and others to close, jeopardizing the health of thousands of women. Not everyone has the luxury of private health care, yet the governor continues to cut at the expense of poor and working class women and families. This doesn’t affect just women; it affects entire families.
“The number of women receiving family planning services has steadily dropped as a result. In 2010, 125,000 women in New Jersey were applying for and receiving these services. That number has dwindled each year and is expected to drop to 72,000 by next year. Given this rate, I dread to imagine how many fewer women will have access to life-saving care by the end of this governor’s term.
If the governor’s intentions were to boost his national credentials with such backward thinking, shame on him. A lot has been said about the War on Women. It’s clear which side the governor is on.”

Tucker Calls on NJ Employers to Join “Jeans for Troops” Fundraising Drive in Support of NJ’s Military Men and Women

(NEWARK) – Assemblywoman Cleopatra G. Tucker (D-Essex) is calling on employers to join the G.I. Go Fund and the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce in the 3rd Annual “Jeans for Troops” Fundraising Drive to support the thousands of New Jersey veterans returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan.
“For just $5 dollars, individuals can wear comfortable jeans to work, and more importantly, contribute to an organization that helps returning soldiers find jobs, go to college, find housing and get health care,” said Tucker, who chairs the Assembly Military and Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “It’s never been easier to support our troops, so I hope companies throughout the state and their employees will jump at the opportunity to lend a helping hand to those who have risked their lives for us.”
The Jeans for Troops Day will be held on Thursday, May 24, 2012 in honor of Memorial Day. Companies that choose to participate in the fundraising drive allow employees to wear jeans to work in exchange for a $5 donation to the G.I. Go Fund. Several major employers have already signed up.
Tucker plans to issue a proclamation declaring May 24 “G.I. Go Jeans for Troops Day” and is working with local officials to have the City of Newark and Essex County issue similar proclamations.
The G.I. Go Fund is a nonprofit charitable organization that provides transition assistance to all military veterans, with a focus on veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, by preparing veterans for the twenty- first century economy, securing educational and health benefits, and providing aid and assistance to low income and homeless veterans. Those interested in participating in the Jeans for Troops Fundraising Drive should contact Alex Manis at (973) 802-1614 or

Speaker Oliver: Is Christie in Lock-Step with Romney when it comes to Eliminating State & Local Tax Deductions for Working Class Families?

(TRENTON) – Assembly Speaker Sheila Y. Oliver on Wednesday questioned whether Governor Christie is in lock-step with his Presidential candidate when it comes to Mitt Romney’s suggestion to eliminate state and local income and property tax deductions, as has been reported in numerous media outlets.
“Time and time again we’ve seen how out-of-touch Governor Romney is with the struggles of ordinary Americans.  His latest idea, to eliminate state and local income and property tax deductions, is yet another example.
“For working-class families, every dollar saved makes a difference.  Eliminating these deductions would hurt low and middle income families the most, not to mention the impact it would have on the struggling housing market.  Without these deductions, many families might not be able to afford to buy a home, suppressing the market even further.
“In New Jersey, especially, where homeowners have seen their property taxes increase a net 20 percent under the Christie administration, eliminating these deductions would be crippling.  Many seniors and working-class families might not be able to afford to stay in their home without these deductions.
“Since this is Governor Christie’s candidate of choice, it begs the question, does he support this misguided idea as well? We’ve seen the Governor foist many proposals from the national Republican playbook on the residents of New Jersey.  The people deserve to know if this is yet another glimpse of things to come,” said Oliver (D-Essex).

Prieto: Governor’s Must Finally Support Access to Quality Health Care for Working Class Families

(TRENTON) – Assembly Budget Chairman Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson/Bergen) released the following statement Wednesday after the Assembly Budget Committee heard from the Department of Health and Senior Services:

“The department claims one of its main goals is to optimize access to the highest quality health care for the people of New Jersey, but unfortunately the governor’s record sadly says otherwise.
“Millionaires have zealously had their tax breaks protected by this governor, but New Jerseyans struggling to make ends meet have watched as the governor:
·         Eliminated funding for family planning;
·         Froze FamilyCare enrollment for adults;
·         Reduced personal care attendant reimbursement rates;
·         Increased co-payments for Early Intervention Services;
·         Reduced funding for cancer research;
·         Eliminated funding for the Rapid AIDS test;
·         Reduced reimbursement to nursing homes;
·         Reduced reimbursement to Special Care Nursing Facilities; and
·         Reduced reimbursement rates for Federally Qualified Health Centers.
“Clearly, optimizing access to quality health care for working class residents is not a priority of this governor. I thank the commissioner for testifying today, but the governor’s poor record when it comes to providing access to quality health care sadly speaks for itself. It’s even worse when you consider these are the same families who have endured the net 20 percent property tax hike realized under this governor.
“It’s time for the governor to change course and finally support access to quality health care for working class families.”

Greenwald, DeAngelo & Benson: Middle-Class Family Struggles Show Assembly Dem 20% Property Tax Relief Credit Best for N.J.

[HAMILTON] – Touting their plan to provide a 20 percent property tax relief credit to middle-class families and a 25 percent property tax relief credit to senior and disabled citizens, Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald and Assemblymen Wayne DeAngelo and Daniel R. Benson on Wednesday met with a Mercer County family to hear concerns about property tax hikes endured under Gov. Christie.
Property taxes have increased a net 20 percent under Christie, but the Assembly Democratic plan would provide an average of nearly $1,600 for middle-class families and nearly $2,000 for senior and disabled citizens.
Greenwald, DeAngelo and Benson joined the Castellano family of Hamilton to discuss how the Assembly Democratic property tax relief credit would benefit New Jersey’s middle-class families and senior citizens.
“Our plan is simple: a 20 percent property tax relief credit to middle-class and working families and 25 percent property tax relief credit to seniors and the disabled,” said Greenwald (D-Camden/Burlington). “The property tax is the most crippling, destructive tax we have, and it’s strangling our families. The average property tax bill has topped $7,700 under this governor, and that’s why we’ve proposed real, immediate property tax relief for middle-class families and seniors.”
“The governor has zealously protected tax cuts for New Jersey’s 16,000 millionaires while overseeing a huge net property tax hike for everyone else,” said DeAngelo (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “The Assembly Democratic property tax relief credit is the kind of relief middle-class families and senior citizens need.  As they suffer under the governor’s property tax hikes, the families of my district want us to deliver 20 percent property tax relief, and seniors need 25 percent, not more handouts from the governor to the wealthy.”
“Millionaires are doing just fine under this governor, while everyone else is struggling with the governor’s net 20 percent property tax hike,” said Benson. (D-Mercer/Middlesex).  “Our plan for a 20 percent property tax relief credit for the middle-class and 25 percent for seniors strikes directly at the number one issue in our state.  As we heard today, property taxes are the top concern of families trying to balance their budget. Struggling middle-class families such as the Castellano family in Hamilton need the Assembly Democratic property tax relief plan.”
Under the Assembly Democratic plan, residents earning up to $250,000 per year would receive a 20 percent property tax relief credit against the first $10,000 paid in property taxes - resulting in significant and immediate property tax relief to 95 percent of households.  The credit would rise to 25 percent for senior citizens and disabled residents. This would provide nearly $1,600 to middle-class families and nearly $2,000 for senior and disabled citizens.
To view the Assembly Democratic plan visit
The Assembly Democratic plan provides these significant levels of relief by moving 16,000 millionaires back to their fiscal year 2010 income tax rates - eliminating a tax break through which millionaires have received an average of $40,000 per year for each of the past two years. Christie, meanwhile, has proposed an income tax scheme that would benefit wealthy New Jerseyans the most.
 “The Governor was elected to serve all the families of New Jersey, not just New Jersey’s wealthiest few,” Greenwald said. “He should dial down the meaningless sound bites and stop obstructing the real 20 percent property tax relief credit New Jersey families deserve.”

Assembly Democrats: A Plan for 20% Property Tax Relief

Assembly Democratic Plan
Christie Plan

The Plan
20% property tax relief credit on the first $10,000 paid in property taxes for non-seniors/non-disabled up to $250,000 in income.  25% for seniors and disabled.  Preserves “Senior Freeze”, Increases minimum credit to $250 (benefits tenants)

10% income tax cut

What It Means
Real relief to more than 95% of New Jersey homeowners, starting now
Disproportionate benefits to millionaires, any relief delayed until tax year 2013

Relief to a Family Making $100,000/year
A family with household income of $100,000 paying $8,000 in property taxes receives $1,600 in property tax relief (if it’s a senior or disabled household, $2,000)

$275—barely enough to cover a middle-class family’s grocery bill

Real shared sacrifice; Moves millionaires back to their FY 2010 status and eliminates a tax break they have been receiving an average of $40,000 a year each of the past two years

Tax handout of $7,265.75—enough for an exotic vacation

Additional Relief for FY 2013: $1 billion
Additional Relief for FY 2016: $2.12 billion
Relief for FY 2013: $174 million
Relief for FY 2016: $1.4 billion

The Result

Real, immediate relief from NJ’s most regressive tax
Delayed cuts in NJ’s most progressive tax, resulting in disproportionate benefits to the wealthiest few

Monday, April 16, 2012

Assembly Transportation Committee Members on Authorizing Use of Subpoena Power to Compel Testimony from Port Authority

Members Say Subpoenas Will Help Deliver Information on Bi-State Agency’s Troubled Finances

(TRENTON) – Assembly Deputy Speaker John S. Wisniewksi (D-Middlesex), the chair of the Assembly Transportation, Public Works and Independent Authorities Committee, Assemblywoman Linda Stender (D-Union), the vice chair of the transportation panel, and Assemblyman Ruben J. Ramos, Jr. (D-Hudson), a member of the transportation panel issued a multimedia package Friday in which they discuss the need to authorize their committee with subpoena power in order to further its investigation into the finances and operations of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (Port Authority).
This is the latest action in the committee’s ongoing effort to seek information and clarification of the bi-state agency’s finances and expenditures.  The General Assembly had previously voted in March to grant the Transportation Committee subpoena power over the Port Authority, following months of bad press for the agency, two scathing audits of its practices, discrepancies in its explanation of how the additional revenue from the recent series of toll hikes would be expended, and repeated refusals to provide information under state and federal public information acts.
The multimedia package consists of a video of the Democratic Assembly Transportation Committee members discussing the need for the subpoena power to ensure the Port Authority is appropriately employing its resources to serve travelers using its crossings and mass transportation services and audio and a transcript of same.
The video can be accessed directly via our website – – or by pasting the following link into a Web browser:
The audio file is available upon request.
A transcript of comments from the committee members is appended below:

Assembly Deputy Speaker John S. Wisniewski (D-Middlesex), Assembly Transportation, Public Works and Independent Authorities Committee Chair:
            “We’ve asked for documents from the Port Authority to explain their inner workings; to understand their decision making.  This agency, time and time again, has just said ‘No.’  At a certain point in time, we can no longer accept that they’re just not going to show.  We need to compel the production of documents.  We need to compel the production of testimony.
“So the step that the committee took was to authorize the issuance of subpoenas.  And everybody should understand exactly what we’re trying to do here.
“This committee is engaging in fact-finding.”

Assemblywoman Linda Stender (D-Union), Assembly Transportation, Public Works and Independent Authorities Committee Vice Chair:
“I voted for the subpoena power because I want to be able to share the information with my constituents about where their toll money is going.  How is it being spent?  Is it going to good purpose for our infrastructure?
“Or is it just being wasted by this challenged and dysfunctional agency that we call the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey?”

“There’s one statistic that says that if you’re earning under $100,000 a year and you commute to New York every day, you pay more to the Port Authority in tolls than you pay to the State of New Jersey in income tax.
“That’s outrageous and that’s got to be changed.”

Assemblyman Ruben J. Ramos, Jr. (D-Hudson), Assembly Transportation, Public Works and Independent Authorities Committee Member:
“So, I think people want to understand where’s this money being spent?  And I think that right now, as a legislator, I don’t think I could honestly answer that question.  I think the most embarrassing answer I could give someone is ‘I don’t know.’
“And hopefully, at the end of the day, when we go through this process and we gather the information, I will have a better understanding and give my constituents a better understanding of where their toll dollars are being spent.”

“Everybody – the Republicans on the committee and the Democrats – all said they believe the Port Authority needs to be fundamentally remade.  And so, in order to make those changes, we need to operate based on facts.  And so, the goal of this committee is to get the facts it needs to sponsor the legislation that’s required to make the changes that are demanded.”

Friday, April 13, 2012

My Response to Doc

I am shocked that someone would put this misleading information out to the community. That Doc would choose today, to compare me to Frank Hague, and suggest that I am a criminal, just shows where his priorities are.  

People write what they want, but I have no respect for people like Doc who are constantly negative and very close to crossing the line.  As hard he tries to show that he is not a true member of the Republican tea party, he really baffles me.  He’s said himself that he’s only a Democrat to participate in our primaries. 

Today, the front page of the Courier reads “Longtime planning board member indicted: Accused of $800,000 in false claims”.  Ken Robertson stated in that article, “every one deserves their day in court” and I agree.  But, if that was me, Doc would contact the Governor and ask him to call on me to resign from office before I even got a day in court.   

Mr. Fuller has been a Planning Board member for 40 years.  In that time there have been many complaints from businesses and developers on the lack of leadership on our zoning and planning boards.  Some decisions the planning and zoning boards’ have made have cost the people of Plainfield thousands of dollars.  This has set this City back.  The problem in Plainfield today is that when individuals are appointed or elected they do what is good for them and not what’s good for the City.  On a day when a longtime member of those boards gets indicted, Doc would rather talk about the Mayor, Council Members, and PMUA.  He spent over a year accusing the mayor of misusing $20,000, yet Mr. Fuller was accused of stealing $800,000 and he does not have anything to say about that at all.  Doc would rather talk about me being a political boss who puts pressure on people to make decisions. 

Enough is enough!  I cannot and do not tell any official that is elected or appointed in the city of Plainfield what to do.  The members of the Plainfield Democratic City Committee are elected by the Democrats of Plainfield at the ballot box.  A majority of them chose me to be the Chairman of that body.  In that role I help select, with the other municipal chairs in this county, which candidates will receive the support of the Union County Democratic Committee.  Whoever wins in June, I support every Democrat come November.  My only role is to get Democrats elected.  If people seek my counsel, I give it to them.  If they don’t, I wish them luck, and support what they do if it’s good for Plainfield.

The Mayor makes appointments, and the Council gives their advice and consent.  Sometimes they ask my opinion.  Most times they do whatever they want.  That’s their right as elected officials.  The people they appoint make up their own mind, and hire who they want.  To suggest that I am running around the City trying to get people patronage jobs or control everything is silly.  I’m serving the people of the 22nd Legislative District, including Plainfield.  You should ask the City Council how those commissioners got there, and how many of their friends got hired.

You find one elected or appointed individual in the city of Plainfield to honestly say I ever told them to do something, forced them to do something.  It’s ridiculous.  It is time that Doc stops making these statements, and if he doesn’t, I’m going to make sure he does not step over the line into libel and slander. Its one thing to criticize an elected official for doing something wrong, but unless you can prove your accusations, you shouldn’t make them.  And they have the same right as anyone else to challenge the false information.
Doc, people like you have set the City of Plainfield back 50 years and I have yet to see you do anything positive for the community.  You have spent far more time trying to destroy my reputation then speak on the good things myself, or others, have done for the City.  It I so obvious that Ray Charles could see that you choose to try to destroy some people’s careers and let others destroy the City without saying a word.

Christie Administration Announces Clark to Receive $273,807 Through Schools Development Authority’s Regular Operating District Grant Program

Furthering the Governor’s commitment to providing the state’s children with safe, modern and efficient schools, the Christie Administration today announced that the New Jersey Schools Development Authority (SDA) has executed six state grants to the Clark Township School District through the SDA’s Regular Operating District (ROD) grant program.

The details for the district grants are as follows:


Frank K. Hehnly Elementary School:  1) Replace boilers and associated equipment; Install automatic supply air dampers.  2) Replace sidewalks; Construct new catch basin to correct drainage problems; Install new curb cuts; Install new canopy and signage at building entrance.

Carl H. Kumpf Middle School:  Boiler replacement

Arthur L. Johnson High School:  1) Install new site and exit lighting at south and west areas of school to increase site safety; Install new asphalt walkway and recondition existing asphalt walkways and curbs to provide accessible paths and site egress.  2) Replace windows in portions of school.

Valley Road Elementary School:  Replace and widen walkways with new asphalt or concrete at building entrance area, at south side of building and at north side courtyard.

State share: $273,807.35
Local share: $410,710.54
Estimated total project cost: $684,517.89

SDA Chief Executive Officer Marc Larkins, in cooperation with the Department of Education, announced the resumption of the grant program in May 2010. Since then, the SDA has executed 810 grants. The state-grant program funds at least 40 percent of eligible costs for projects in the RODs, addressing health and safety issues, student overcrowding and other critical needs.

The Department of Education selects school projects to receive grant funding from the SDA. The State has provided over $245.5 million in grants to local districts since the May 2010 announcement, leveraging projects estimated at a total of $573.4 million. Funding for the program was made available through the sale of $500 million in bonds by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA).

Greenwald Hails Success of School Elections Reform Law

With Only 73 Districts to Hold Elections Tuesday, Vast Majority Have Moved to November

(VOORHEES)--Today Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald (D-Camden/Burlington) released the following statement on the school election reform law he sponsored which has proven very successful in only a few short months:
"For decades, plenty of politicians and pundits have talked about this, but special interests got in the way of common-sense. A few months ago, we were able to bring everyone to the table and forge a bipartisan compromise that puts our communities and taxpayers first and delivers needed reform.
"As a result, we've given voters better control of their local finances, while preserving educational quality, and saving property taxpayers the costs of holding yet another election. Under this law I sponsored, 468 of New Jersey's school districts have chosen to move their school elections to November. Empowering more voters to make decisions on the issues that directly impact their property taxes and quality of life is the right thing to do, and that is why I sponsored this law."

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Greenwald: ARC Controversy Just the Latest Example of Christie Shortchanging NJ Families

(VOORHEES)—Today Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald (D-Camden/Burlington) released the following statement regarding Chris Christie’s continuing record of shortchanging New Jersey out of its share of federal funds:
“In light of recent reports showing he wildly exaggerated projected costs, Governor Christie’s misguided cancellation of the ARC Tunnel is just the latest example of his shortchanging New Jersey out of our fair share of federal funding. I commend our Congressional delegation for fighting for these funds.
“Whether it’s the ARC Tunnel, a botched Race to the Top application, matching funds for women’s health care, Governor Christie has let billions of federal dollars slip through his fingers.  With New Jersey getting one of the lowest rates of return for each dollar our residents pay in federal taxes, taking advantage of federal funding seems like a no-brainer—unless your constituency is Tea Party Republicans, rather than New Jersey’s middle-class families.
“I urge Governor Christie to stop standing in the way of federal aid to New Jersey families.  With a struggling economy, crumbling infrastructure and New Jersey’s unemployment rate higher than the national average and our neighboring states, we should be fighting for our fair share in federal funds—not turning them away.”

The Costs of Christie

Cancelling the ARC Tunnel

$3 Billion Lost federal funds
+ $9 Billion Lost business activity during construction
+$120 million/year Lost business activity over the long term
Botched Race to the Top Application
$400 Million Lost federal funds
+ 1 Education Commissioner
Women’s Health Funding
An estimated $10 million per year in federal reimbursement due to Christie refusal to expand Medicaid coverage for family planning
Average net property tax increase in New Jersey during Christie Administration
$1,275—a 20.4% hike
Average Proposed Christie Income Tax Handout for Millionaires
$7,265.75—enough to take an exotic vacation
Proposed Christie Tax Cut for Middle-Class Families
$275—barely enough for groceries for a middle-class family
Having a Governor more interested in campaigning for Fox News, Wall Street & South Carolina Republicans than in helping NJ’s middle-class?



Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Assembly Transportation Panel Authorizes Use of Subpoena Power to Compel Testimony from Port Authority of New York & New Jersey

Panel Seeks Information on Bi-State Agency’s Troubled Finances

(TRENTON) – The Assembly Transportation, Public Works and Independent Authorities Committee on Wednesday adopted a resolution authorizing the issuance of subpoenas in order to further the committee’s investigation into the finances of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (Port Authority).
Wednesday’s action by the committee is the latest in its ongoing effort to seek information and clarification of the bi-state agency’s finances and expenditures.  The General Assembly voted in March to grant the Transportation Committee subpoena power over the Port Authority, following months of bad press for the agency, two scathing audits of its practices and discrepancies in its explanation of how the additional revenue from the recent series of toll hikes would be expended.
“For months, the Port Authority has ignored or refused our repeated requests for information explaining their finances,” said Assembly Deputy Speaker John S. Wisniewski, chairman of the Assembly transportation panel.  “Yesterday, the U.S. Government Accountability Office issued a report that all but stated Gov. Christie killed the planned ARC rail tunnel under the Hudson River for political purposes.  The Port Authority portion of that project was to have been $3 billion.  Where did that money go?  Were toll hikes necessary after this project was canceled?  With the subpoena power granted this committee, maybe we can finally get some answers.”
The bill granting subpoena powers was sponsored by Wisniewski, Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen), Linda Stender (D-Union) and Ruben J. Ramos, Jr. (D-Hudson).
“This is a multi-billion dollar agency that has quite simply forgotten that it exists to serve the motoring public, not the narrow interests of some of its executives and employees,” said Stender, the Transportation Committee’s vice chair.  “We are asking for some simple answers to some troubling questions and since the Port Authority has failed to provide them, we now have the ability to demand them.”
“We have given the Port Authority every opportunity to come before this committee or provide us with the documentation needed to explain their side of things,” said Ramos.  “In every instance they have flatly refused, or simply ignored, our requests.  So, we are left with no choice now but to compel their cooperation.”
“North Jersey commuters who work in New York will be soon be facing 50 percent toll hikes on all the major thoroughfares,” said Vainieri Huttle.  “And for what?  We don’t know and, until now, the Port Authority has refused to tell us.  Being able to subpoena information from the Port Authority will help ensure that our toll dollars are being spent appropriately.”

Monday, April 9, 2012

Referendum on N.J. 'millionaire's tax' in N.J.: A Q&A

Has Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald (D-Camden) found a way to beat the governor on the “millionaires tax”?
His plan is to threaten a state constitutional amendment that would hike that tax and devote the money to more property tax relief for the middle class. Under his plan, most people would get a 20 percent break on property taxes, twice the break offered by his fellow Democrats in the Senate.
Gov. Chris Christie would surely veto the plan, but Democrats could enact it themselves, because the governor plays no role in amending the constitution. A majority vote in the Legislature two years in a row puts it on the ballot for voters to decide. Under Greenwald’s plan, that would happen in 2013, just in time for the next gubernatorial election. He discussed it with Tom Moran, editorial page editor of The Star-Ledger. An edited transcript appears below.

Q. Let’s look first at your property tax plan, compared with the plan offered by Senate Democrats: Yours offers twice the rebate and includes a surtax on income over $1 million. Do you think the governor would sign a plan like that, or are you trying to make a point?
A. The governor is very practical. If he sees the possibility of a referendum on the “millionaires tax” that is overwhelmingly popular, he will see the writing on the wall. He can either stand in the way of relief for the middle class for the next two years, or he can embrace shared sacrifice.
Q. So this is a way to get it done without his signature, by referendum?
A. The referendum is a fallback. That would happen only if he doesn’t sign it. But if we pass it by referendum, as a constitutional amendment, we wouldn’t need his signature.
Q. Why should we set tax rates in the constitution?
A. This is about addressing a crisis, the burdensome property tax, which discriminates against the young, senior citizens and middle-class families.
Q. So under this plan, the rate would be set in stone in the constitution, right?
A. There would be a rate increase from 8.97 percent to 10.75 percent, on income over $1 million. And it would direct the proceeds to property tax relief. But we don’t have to go to those lengths if the governor would just sign the Assembly plan.
Q. So the idea is the governor might prefer to sign this plan rather than face a referendum he would lose, right?
A. Correct.
Q. Your plan would provide relief equal to 20 percent of the property tax bill, right?
A. Yes. And 25 percent for seniors and disabled. It would cover 95 percent of taxpayers, those with incomes up to $250,000 a year.
Q. The governor believes raising taxes on incomes over $1 million would discourage investments and kill jobs. You disagree?
A. The evidence shows that is nothing but partisan rhetoric.
Q. What evidence?
A. Since the original surtax on income over $500,000 went into effect, we have roughly doubled the number of filers in that category. And this would affect only an even wealthier group. They are not impacted until they make $1 million, plus $1.
Q. How much would that raise?
A. Roughly $800 million.
Q. That won’t give you enough for a 20 percent rebate, right? How would you cover the rest of the costs?
A. The plans from the governor and Senate Democrats cost $1.4 billion. We add to that with the surtax, and by shifting over roughly $500 million from the rebate programs.
Q. Why is your plan better than the governor’s 10 percent cut in income taxes?
A. The governor’s plan would give the average family in New Jersey roughly $50 this year. Ours would give them $1,000 this year.
Q. On another topic: Charter school advocates are deeply concerned about the Assembly bill that would require a referendum to open a charter school. They say the teachers union has much more political heft than any individual charter school, so this is basically a poison pill to kill the movement. What’s your answer?
A. I think the movement has been misdirected by this administration. Opening charter schools in Cherry Hill and other suburban districts where the schools are very successful is a waste of resources.
Why not go 3 miles away to Camden and open charters there, and give those families a choice they currently don’t have? Those children are prisoners of poverty.
Q. Final question: What is your latest thinking about challenging Gov. Chris Christie in 2013?
A. I could kick his butt ... in a game of HORSE.