Strangling New Jersey’s Taxpayers Day By Day
More than 300 days later, Corzine still hasn’t touched the pile of ideas to reduce state spending. New Jersey’s state budget has gone from $27.4 billion in 2006 to Corzine’s proposed $33.3 billion budget for 2008. That’s an 18 percent increase in state spending in just two years.
Earlier this year the governor said, “I didn’t run for public office to be a number cruncher, or to play scrooge”. Which is slightly different from the line he used when running for governor – “As a former businessman, Corzine has never seen a budget he couldn’t cut – and that experience will allow him to scrub the state budget, line-by-line.”
It’s been 809 days since we wrote:
Senator Corzine would have you believe his wealth puts him beyond the reach of special interest groups. But Jon Corzine can’t afford to alienate state workers if he hopes to become the next Governor of New Jersey. Corzine will buy the votes of government employees, not with his money, but with yours. A candidate in the pocket of teachers and other state workers can not bring real reform and fiscal sanity to Trenton.We were right. State workers are now crowing about the best deal they’ve negotiated in 15 years and for good reason. No layoffs and Corzine has rewarded state employees with a new budget busting contract that tightens their stranglehold on New Jersey’s taxpayers.
So where’s New Jersey’s legislature on this? It’s been a mighty quite budget season since the Democrats announced their own vote buying scheme.
Enlightened Dynamo Or An Electric Opportunist?
According to the Star-Ledger’s Tom Moran, Izzo is the energy industry's enlightened dynamo because he wants to reduce reliance on coal by making it much more expensive to burn. Fifty percent of the electricity in the U.S. is generated by coal so we’re talking about big bucks and major economic repercussions if his idea was adopted.
"Ralph Izzo is a visionary," says Frank O'Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch, a major green lobby in Washington. "He's really willing to buck the system. I think that's huge, politically."Is Izzo a visionary or just a politically savvy guy exploiting the global warming craze and working the system for profit?
Izzo’s pushing for state regulators to approve utility price hikes to pay for lost business due to conservation. He’s announced a solar energy program*, that will generate more in positive company PR and ultimately dollars to PSEG’s bottom line, than electricity. He’s also proposing a plan that would jack up the cost American consumers pay for electricity, excluding the poor who would be subsidized by regular ratepayers, while improving his company’s advantage in the marketplace.
Izzo wants the federal government to cap emissions of greenhouse gases and require utilities to purchase credits at auction for any carbons they do emit. The proceeds could be used to fund research into alternative fuels and to help low-income households purchase the higher-cost power.We are also fans of nuclear power, but it certainly seems Izzo is more of an opportunist than an environmentalist. A new study appearing in the April 1 issue of the journal Environmental Science and Technology notes:
Izzo is a fan of nuclear power, which produces no greenhouse gases.
The coal-burning utilities call Izzo's approach simple self-interest. PSEG relies so heavily on nuclear power that it would not pay as much.
No new nuclear power plants have been built in the United States in 29 years, in part because they've proved to be poor investments, producing far more expensive electricity than originally promised. In 2005, about 19 percent of U.S. electricity generation was produced by 104 nuclear reactors.Those two major pieces of federal legislation not only promote nuclear energy but, cover all energy sources and uses. Plans for improving energy efficiency and conservation, the development and use of alternative and renewable energy, and the modernization of the country’s electricity grid were among the many initiatives advanced in the laws.
The Energy Policy Act of 2005 and the Advanced Energy Initiative of 2006 sought to change that, offering financial incentives for new plant construction that employs new reactor and new safe-operating technologies. Current nuclear plant operators have given notice that they intend to apply for approval of 27 new "generation III+" reactors.
However, Tom Moran scoffs at these measures and points to actions by New Jersey lawmakers as momentous.
New Jersey, like California, is getting tired of watching the glaciers melt while the Bush administration does nothing to slow global warming.Great goal, what’s the plan?
This year, the Legislature is almost certain to approve a bill that requires deep cuts in emissions -- an 80 percent drop by 2050. The governor has already signed an executive order embracing the same goal.
So far, though, no one has spelled out how that can be done. The bill would require that we fill in the details within a year. So the hard work lies ahead.In other words, Trenton has produced nothing but hot air. These political gasbags won’t come up with the “details” before the next ice age, so can we skip the talk and start building some nuclear power plants. Make them safe and efficient Mr. Izzo and your competition will follow.
* PSEG solar energy program
PSEG will put up a $100 million for solar energy projects and earn a nice profit on this fairly complicated scheme. The plan calls for the company to provide loans to customers to cover as much as half the cost of a solar installation project, with the utility getting repaid, with interest, over 15 years. Customers would pay the remaining cost directly or through an equity partner, such as a bank or investor, that is eligible to collect the federal investment tax credit.
PSEG would also recoup its investment though the existing “societal-benefits charge” that all customers pay. In addition, the company will receive credits called solar renewable energy certificates, or SRECs, which have value in the energy marketplace. The plan calls for them to be valued at $475 for each megawatt generated, about 50 percent higher than SRECs that are included in a solar program run by the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU).
"This reminds me of one of my favorite American heroines, Harriet Tubman," the senator told 1,800 cheering supporters when her mike was restored.The similarlity is truly astounding.
"She made it to freedom after having been a slave and she got to New York and she could have been so happy . . . but she kept going back down South to bring other freed slaves to freedom.
"And she used to say, 'No matter what happens, keep going,' " Hillary Clinton said. "So we're going to keep going until we take back the White House!"
Labels: Hillary Clinton
The Battle For Newark
Corzine Lucky To Be Alive
Our thoughts are with the Governor Corzine and his family. We wish him a full and speedy recovery.
New Jersey’s Boom in Illegal Immigrants
Hightstown has enacted a no-questions-asked policy on immigration status and is now considered a “sanctuary city”. The borough, with a population of 5,300, “allows its undocumented residents to officially interact with local police and access city services without fear of being reported to federal authorities”.
One illegal immigrant at the complex where the raids were staged called on the police recently to help place a family member in alcohol rehabilitation; others have reported domestic abuse, extortion, theft and other crimes. Some are calling the town's pro-immigrant mayor for advice on City Hall weddings and landlord troubles. Hightstown has added services aimed at immigrants.Hightstown Mayor Robert Patten, a Republican, is under the impression his community would be a ghost-town without illegal immigrants, while Governor Jon Corzine is spending taxpayer money to build affordable housing. New Jersey’s illegal immigrant population, estimated at close to 1 million, has apparently already discovered plenty of affordable housing in places like "Paradise Town".
Blue Jersey’s ‘Hopeful’ sees Hightstown’s “sanctuary city” policies as providing “A Better Approach to Immigration” than communities actively working with federal law enforcement to reduce problems associated with illegal immigrants. “The result: Crimes are reported, and the town is flourishing.” From the sounds of it, Hightstown is flourishing with crime. We fail to see how turning a blind eye to immigration status s is a better approach, assuming the valid reasons for our immigration laws and the public‘s desire to see them enforced.
Illegal immigration in New Jersey has grown so dramatically in size and impact that the League of Municipalities recently formed a task force to study the cost to municipalities of providing education, law enforcement, health care and other services to illegal immigrants. Readers may remember our post about “One Loud Councilperson's Opinion” after voters rejected Hightstown’s school budget for the second straight year. If there’s an advantage to illegal immigration for legal residents and taxpayers, we’ve yet to hear it.
Fausta writes, “Hightstown is subverting the principle of the rule of law”. “The message is clear: the immigrants are taught that the law applies to someone else.” “Having, supporting and countenancing a group of people whose entire existence is predicated on evading the rule of law” is “erosive to our society”.
It’s also expensive, especially for a state that’s basically bankrupt. Steven A. Camarota, research director for the Center for Immigration Studies said, "You're also talking about a group of people who often work off-the-books but are getting access to expensive city services. It's not fair to everyone else paying the bill."
The Bush Administration Conspiracy de Jour
“On 1 March 07, I was scheduled to fly on American Airlines to Newark, NJ, to attend an academic conference at Princeton University, designed to focus on my latest scholarly book, Constitutional Democracy, published by Johns Hopkins University Press this past Thanksgiving."The name Walter Murphy is on the list either for a reason or through a bureaucratic mistake. Let’s assume for the sake of discussion the name is on the list for a reason.
"When I tried to use the curb-side check in at the Sunport, I was denied a boarding pass because I was on the Terrorist Watch list. I was instructed to go inside and talk to a clerk.”
It could be there’s a suspected terrorist by the name of Walter Murphy (IRA for example) and that’s why the name is on the list. That would be the simplest explanation and similar to the problems Sen.Ted Kennedy encountered.
Professor Murphy, emeritus of Princeton University, believes he’s being “singled out for governmental harassment” because he made a speech critical of President Bush.
"I presented my credentials from the Marine Corps to a very polite clerk for American Airlines. One of the two people to whom I talked asked a question and offered a frightening comment: "Have you been in any peace marches? We ban a lot of people from flying because of that." I explained that I had not so marched but had, in September, 2006, given a lecture at Princeton, televised and put on the Web, highly critical of George Bush for his many violations of the Constitution. "That'll do it," the man said."For Prof. Murphy’s take to be plausible you have to believe:
- · The name on the list is unique to the professor.
· Prof. Murphy’s speech actually came to the attention of the “no-fly” list makers, prompting his name to be added.
· The exchange between the airline clerk and Prof. Murphy truly happened as quoted.
· Airline clerks have it on good authority that participants in "peace" marches and those making speeches critical of President Bush are often placed on the “no-fly” list solely for these reasons.
· The ”no-fly” list is not only loaded with these names for scrutiny at check-in, but “we ban a lot of people from flying because of that”.
· Well known critics of President Bush and “peace” activists aren’t on the list or banned from flying because that would be too obvious. This form of harassment is reserved by the Bush administration for little known critics and “peace” marchers, with the prior exception of Sen. Kennedy.
· Prof. Murphy isn’t jumping to predisposed conclusions and has no political agenda for publicizing this story.
Labels: Conspiracy Theory
The Burlington Township School Attack Scenario
The mock terror attack involved two irate men armed with handguns who invaded the high school through the front door. They pretended to shoot several students in the hallway and then barricaded themselves in the media center with 10 student hostages.The scenario for the drill could have ended right there, but it didn’t.
Two Burlington Township police detectives portrayed the gunmen.
To make the drill more realistic, about 10 students volunteered to act as hostages or wounded victims. Several faculty members helped simulate a complete school lockdown, followed by an evacuation.
Two Burlington Township police detectives portrayed the gunmen. Investigators described them as members of a right-wing fundamentalist group called the “New Crusaders” who don't believe in separation of church and state. The mock gunmen went to the school seeking justice because the daughter of one had been expelled for praying before class.It’s this last part of the script that has people upset. It was totally unnecessary for the purpose of conducting the drill, but it does beg the question - why was it added to the scenario?
Blue Jersey’s Steve Hart believes it was a nod to the “reality-based community”:
And yet the public, working on the evidence of its eyes rather than the blinkered ideology of the Bush cultists, constantly has to be reminded to be afraid only of certain kinds of terrorists. It has the temerity to notice that while Islamist violence abroad is certainly dangerous, we have plenty of homegrown terrorists with light complexions and flag decals on their vehicles to worry about as well. This annoying tendency of the reality-based community keeps conservative pundits and bloggers in a near-continuous state of sputtering Yosemite Sam outrage.As someone who regularly refers to conservatives as knuckle-draggers and Jesus whoopers, we’ll discount Hart’s calm analysis just a tad. It is clear though why Hart thinks the additional information in the scenario was necessary - some may have been reminded of the Beslan school hostage crisis and massacre or of the recent bulletin by Homeland Security to law enforcement warning that Muslims with "ties to extremist groups" are signing up to be school bus drivers. To Hart that’s a big no-no.
This fear-crazed brand of wingnut political correctness is in full noxious flower this week as Michelle Malkin - whose eruptions of nonsensical outrage occur as regularly as blasts of steam from Old Faithful.
Burlington Township officials probably were afraid of being attacked by the “reality- based P.C. crowd” for stirring up fear about Islamic theorists. So, the right-wing praying,” New Crusaders” who don't believe in the separation of church and state, bit was added. The additions to the scenario certainly made Hart happy. But you can’t please everyone, Blue Jersey’s “huntsu” says the “the scenario is stupid” and based on “a right-wing lie”.
Burlington Township should have stuck with the basic scenario and let people fill in their own blanks as to who the gunmen were and what their motivations might have been.
New Jersey’s Pension Funding Crisis
The shortfall developed since 2001, as the collapse of the stock market drained $22 billion from the funds. Lawmakers compounded the problem by using accounting gimmicks to skip required annual payments into the funds and to cover billions of dollars in additional costs from increased retirement benefits they granted to public employees.The Ledger fails to mention two other major factors driving up the state’s pension costs – the number of active public employees added to the pension rolls and the salary increases granted to state and local government workers.
The number of active employees added to New Jersey’s pension plans increased by 41,000 from July, 2001 to July, 2005, according to the latest audited enrollment numbers available from the state. New Jersey’s public workforce has continued to grow by the thousands from that point until today.
In addition to adding more employees, increasing salaries upon which pensions are calculated has further exacerbated the funding crisis. State and local public employees have been granted incremental salary raises on top of wage scale increases that greatly out pace inflation and far exceed the average raises received by employees in the private sector. Taxpayer income and state revenue haven’t kept up with these escalating public employee payroll costs, including pension obligations.
Making matters worse, Governor Jon Corzine has recently offered state workers a salary package that will provide the average employee with a 35 percent increase in salary over the next four years - 13.6 percent in wage scale increases, the balance in incremental salary increases.
The so-called “give backs” in the contract, a 1.5 percent of salary contribution for healthcare benefits and a 0.5 percent increase in employee contributions for pension, are more than covered by with the 13.6 wage scale increases in the new agreement. Raising the retirement age from 55 to 60 for new hires will “save” peanuts, $77.3 million per year by 2022.
As the Star-Ledger points out, lawmakers also unilaterally enhanced pension benefits without a means to actually pay for the increased costs. In July of 2001, completely outside of the union contract negotiation process, the legislature recklessly granted a huge 9 percent increase in pension benefits and lowered the retirement age, effective October 1, 2001.
The state’s pension funds certainly took a hit when the stock market (DJIA) went from, a then all-time high of, 11,722.98 on January 14, 2000 to 10,593.72 on July 1, 2001 and finally, to a five-year low of 7,286.27 on October 9, 2002. But has the state invested its pension funds so poorly that little of that reported $22 billion loss was regained as the market began its climb back to record highs? The market closed yesterday at 12,530.05.
Using accounting gimmicks to skip necessary state payments into the pension funds certainly didn’t help matters, but state contributions are in addition to employee contributions and fund investment gains. How many billions would taxpayers have needed to contribute since 2001, when the pension plans were fully funded, though 2007 in order to close a $25 billion to $56 billion funding gap?
Assuming the state’s estimated investment return rate of 8.25 percent, New Jersey taxpayers should have been contributing about $3 billion every year beginning in 2002 to close a $25 billion gap and about $7.1 billion annually if the pension fund deficit is $56 billion. And that’s just to pay for pensions – the state’s obligation for retiree healthcare benefits is now estimated to be $78 billion.
State officials should have been honestly stating pension obligations and making necessary pension fund payments. Had that happened, perhaps tens of thousands of additional public workers wouldn’t have bee hired, salary increases wouldn’t have been so extravagant, healthcare and other fringe benefits would have been scaled back to a sustainable level, retirement ages wouldn’t have been lowered and pension benefits wouldn’t have been increased.
Now we all know the extent of the problem and we know the cause. It should be obvious to everyone, taxpayers can’t afford the spending binge New Jersey’s politicians have been on since 2002. Lawmakers got us into this mess and it’s within their power to clean it up. Not with more tax increases and hocking state assets, but with meaningful public employee headcount, salary and benefit cuts. That’s only solution and every politician knows it now, if they weren’t aware of it before.
Our elected officials have a choice to make and so will voters come this November. Let your representatives know where you stand!
Blue Jersey Blows It Again
What better way for ‘huntsu” to prove his point than to provide links to sources contradicting his theory?
Such as this link to a September 14, 2006 post by Wally Edge on Politics NJ:
Christie is a Republican who served as a Morris County Freeholder and as a leader of George W. Bush's 2000 presidential campaign in New Jersey, but accusing the corruption-busting federal prosecutor of playing partisan politics is a tough sell.Or to provide this link to a January 12, 2006 article in the Westfield Leader:
“After helping to put 86 elected officials in jail during his first term as U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, Chris Christie last week vowed to continue his fight against public corruption.”In his most recent post, “huntsu” has compiled a spreadsheet of so-called "investigations" by Chris Christie’s office since 2002. The list is an odd mix of indictments, convictions and other stuff in the news. It’s also loaded with errors and is useless for any meaningful analysis. Below are just a few random examples of the errors contained in their “investigations list”.
David Chang is listed for giving illegal campaign contributions to former Senator Robert Torricelli and Audrey Yu is listed for a related obstruction of justice charge. The spreadsheet indicates neither has been convicted. Of course both were convicted in 2000. However, the Chang and Yu cases predated Christie’s term as U.S. Attorney.
Former Camden mayor Milton Milan is listed for public corruption, but the list falsely indicates there was no conviction. Milan was convicted of various corruption charges in 2000, again predating Christie’s term as U.S. Attorney.
The Democratic State Committee and Jim McGreevey are both listed for “Machiavelli-gate”, but apparently “huntsu” is counting each line item as a separate “investigation” with no outcome. David D'Amiano, is listed as being convicted for arranging bribes, albeit without noting he was the middleman in Machiavelli-gate.
West Long Branch Mayor Paul Zambrano is listed as taking bribes, but not as convicted - Zambrano pled guilty as charged.
West Long Branch councilman Joseph DeLisa is twice listed for taking bribes. He’s shown as not convicted on page 2 and convicted on page 3. DeLisa pled guilty and was sentenced to15 months in federal prison.
Patsy Townsend, Monmouth County deputy fire marshal is listed for taking bribes, but not listed as convicted. Townsend pled guilty.
We could go on, but there’s little point in spending more time on Blue Jersey’s conspiracy theories, useless “investigations” spreadsheet, faulty analysis and baseless charges against U.S. Attorney Chris Christie.
The Upper Hand and Other Myths Busted
We were curious what Stoller was going to claim, because we weren’t familiar with any conservative New Jersey blogger that managed to get anything against Corzine onto the airwaves and into print. But a left-wing New Jersey blogger certainly did. We posted the E&P quote, without any commentary, to tweak “jmelli’s” nose, not to brag. Here’s why.
On October 24th we posted Is Corzine the Next McGreevey?. The post contained a tip we received that “something big is about to happen, and when it hits; it’ll make Jim McGreevey look like a Cub Scout compared to Jon Corzine.” For reasons known only to “jmelli”, he claimed he knew what that “something big” was and proceeded to post a rumor about Jon Corzine on Blue Jersey, MyDD and Kos.
About a week after our Is Corzine the Next McGreevey? post, quotes from Mrs. Corzine appeared all over the media. She spoke of Jon Corzine buying endorsements, compromising his ideals to get elected by cutting deals with political bosses and the affair with Carla Katz that led to the breakup of their marriage. We couldn't imagine anyone would suggest our post prompted the media to print the damaging interviews with Mrs. Corzine.
But, shortly thereafter, the rumor “jmelli” posted made its way onto NJN TV reports, received a reference in the New York Times and finally made it on Drudge. Taegan Goddard’s Political Newswire and Steve Adubato even wrote about the rumor.
At the end of the gubernatorial campaign, Corzine was dogged by this rumor “jmelli” so effectively spread in the left-wing blogosphere. That rumor never appeared on Enlighten-NewJersey, but we did post another email tip: “Reporters are after a videotape of Corzine, inebriated, making statements that will damage him beyond belief with African Americans. (Carla Katz supposedly makes an appearance.). “
The tape never surfaced and the story never entered the MSN. It also wasn’t mentioned in the brief NYT piece, Conservative Blogs Are More Effective, hyped by Editor and Publisher. Although, Stoller is quoted complaining about “the right-wing infrastructure”.
Since then Carla Katz hasn’t stopped making appearances in the news, but our “video tape” post only became fodder for Blue Jersey bloggers. As a matter of fact, Blue Jersey’s “jmelli” still enjoys telling stories about the Corzine tape, embellishing it as the years go by. Check out his latest version in his post New Jersey's Newest Smear Outlet?
In 2005, anonymous conservative blog and bottom of the right wing-smear-machine-totem pole Enlighten-NJ posted rumors alleging that "a videotape of Corzine, inebriated, making statements that will damage him beyond belief with African Americans" was about to come out. It didn't take long for the Drudge Report to pick it up and push it to Fox and finally mainstream media outlets. Instead of admitting how wrong they were, they bragged about it.How long will it take for “jmelli” to put up links to the Corzine video tape story that he claims appeared on Drudge, Fox and mainstream media outlets? Of course he can’t, because it never happened and he knows it never happened.
We weren’t bragging, we were laughing at "jmelli’s" skillful use of the left-wing blogosphere. We still are.