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Category Archives: New Jersey
Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) is vulnerable as he faces his first re-election, but similar to Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), he still does not have a top tier GOP challenger. This is a Blue State which will be difficult for any Republican to win in a presidential election year when turnout is far higher.
The President defeated Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) in New Jersey by a 57% to 42% margin, and the state is still regarded as an Obama stronghold. Continue reading
Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI) is announcing his retirement today, which means the awful Russ Feingold could come back to inflict more damage on our national security. Continue reading
Democratic Caucus Rejects Minor Spending Cuts: “We Have Got to Stop This Insanity Now” by Congressman John Adler (D-NJ)
Editorial Note: Freshman Congressman John Adler (D-NJ) and three of his colleagues were rebuked yesterday by a unanimous vote in the House Democratic Caucus. Adler was joined by Reps. Gary Peters (D-MI), Jim Himes (D-CT) and Peter Welch (D-VT) and they were seeking to eliminate $1.4 billion in spending which had been placed on top of President Obama’s budget request. Continue reading
For the past 180 days, no other state capital has matched the excitement and change of Trenton, New Jersey. On his 6th month anniversary this week, Gov. Chris Christie (R) expressed gratitude for the reforms which have been enacted and promised to bring “even more change” in the future. Continue reading
The battle for New Jersey begins on Thursday. After three months of town hall meetings where he aggressively campaigned for budget cuts and his reform agenda, Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) this morning called the Democratic state legislature into special session.
Christie has already closed half of the state’s $11 billion budget gap. Now he is asking for a 2.5% property tax cap along with 33 proposals to help local governments cut taxes and reduce their budgets. Over 200 Mayors including liberal Cory Booker (D-Newark) are backing the Governor’s reform package, and it is also supported by 67% of NJ residents.
Christie says he may be a one term Governor, but NJ can no longer remain the nation’s number one high tax state. In every town meeting he reminded residents that taxes are going up again this year because of the legislature.
The Governor is also seeking a Constitutional amendment on this November’s ballot which would stop property tax increases. It would force towns and schools to scale back salaries and benefits of their unionized workforces. It would create permanent change by making future tax increases dependent on a public referendum.
It would have to pass the legislature by July 7th to make it on to the November ballot. Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D) met with the Governor this morning and said:
He wants us to be in session every day until July 7th. He can force us into special session but he can not force us to vote on his measures. We will give his proposals a hearing but the Constitutional amendment is not going to be on the ballot this year, because it’s not realistic or reasonable.
Sweeney says voters should trust Democrats to do the right thing. Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Cryan (D) was in the same meeting and told the press the special session is an example of Christie’s arrogance and it will not be productive. Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D) says “The Constitutional cap is out.”
Tom Moran of the Newark Star-Ledger says after Christie’s unexpected victory in cutting the budget, “Democrats are retreating in chaos. They stumble through the hallways of the capitol like a defeated army, complete with grousing about their generals.”
“We have not found our footing,” said Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D). “I think a lot of people underestimated Chris Christie.” Gov. Christie says the state can no longer continue with business as usual where spending on schools and public employees keeps skyrocketing.
He wants them to cut back on administrative costs, salaries and benefits. Public employees do not pay for their health benefits, but Christie wants them to pay 1 to 1.5%.
Christie says lower and middle class working families have had to cut back while public employees have been exempt. He also says wealthy residents have been fleeing the state for years. The Governor says “This is the moment. This is it. We’re in the middle of a crisis.”
New Jersey Goes to War: America’s Fiscal Future is Now Being Decided in the Garden State by Gregory Hilton
PHOTO: New Jersey has the highest tax burden in the nation, and Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) wants to slash the state budget. In response, public employees have declared war on his administration.
While most Americans were enjoying the Memorial Day weekend, the state of New Jersey went to war. President Barbara Keshishian of the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) declared war on Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ) on behalf of all public employees. The NJEA President is outraged because the Governor has proposed a 2.5% cap on future salary and benefit increases.
In March an NJEA teacher said Christie should die, and Keshishian visited the Governor’s office to apologize. The Governor asked if the teacher had been fired. When Keshishian said no, she was thrown out of Christie’s office. In her war declaration, Keshishian said: Continue reading
The Battle for New Jersey: GOP Governor Chris Christie Takes His Case to the People by Gregory Hilton
PHOTO: New Jersey residents are the nations most heavily taxed. They are near the top in income, property, sales and corporate taxes. Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) is attempting to change that.
One of the most important legislative battles in the nation is now occurring in New Jersey. This is the height of the state budget season and a balanced budget must be produced by June 30th. Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) is attempting to slash spending and stop the growth of public employee salaries and benefits.
He also wants to limit annual property tax increases to 2.5 percent. Last year Christie defeated incumbent Gov. Jon Corzine (D) who spent over $30 million on his re-election campaign and President Obama made four trips to the state on behalf of the Democrat.
The Governor needs 21 votes in the Senate and 41 votes in the Assembly to pass his reforms. This will be difficult because Democrats are the majority party in both Houses. In the Senate there are 23 Democrats and 17 Republicans. There are 47 Democrats and 33 Republicans serving in the General Assembly.
Voters would also have to approve a property tax cap. To assist his effort in passing the reforms, Christie is attempting to hold town hall meetings in every county. He is telling citizens that state pensions and medical benefits are going to be a huge structural liability for many decades. He is also describing his plan to fire 7000 state workers (the exact number hired by his predecessor), and he may have to cut staff salaries by 20%. The real problem is not salaries, but the generous pension benefits.
The Governor is one of the few politicians who has the courage to take an unpopular stand against public employee unions. He promised to do this during last year’s campaign, and has begun a meaningful discussion on what the state can not afford.
He has offered specific proposals on how to cut government spending, and plans to ease New Jersey’s tax crush. The Christie plan includes pension reforms, requirements for public employees to contribute more toward their benefits, and a two-thirds legislative supermajority for all future tax increases. Decades ago New Jersey was ranked the number one state in the nation for economic growth, but those days are long over.
Spending ballooned after passage of a state income tax. Corzine was elected in 2005 with a pledge to cut property taxes by 40%, but they ended up being increased by 20%. He left office with an almost $10 billion deficit, and Christie said New Jersey is a prime example of what happens when liberals have complete control of a state government. To his credit, Corzine now admits there was “reckless borrowing,” and says “Let’s call it like it is: Everyone’s property taxes are too damn high.”
Now that he is in the Governor’s office, Christie has signed an unprecedented executive orders to freeze and cut spending. He has revoked funds from local school districts, hospitals and NJ Transit and declared a “state of fiscal emergency.”
The Governor wants to force more than 500 school districts to spend their surpluses in place of state aid. He repeatedly tells town hall meetings that the state is on “the edge of bankruptcy. We must come to terms with the fact that we cannot spend money on everything we want. The days of Alice in Wonderland budgeting in Trenton end.”
A recent Rutgers University study demonstrated that many upper income people have left the state since 2004. The Wall Street Journal explained this, “So what happened in 2004? The study doesn’t purport to explain what caused the wealth movements. But the state’s most notable economic policy event that year was an increase in its top income tax rate to 8.97% from 6.37%, on incomes starting at $500,000. That’s a 40% increase.”
Jim Hughes, a dean at Rutgers University, says “The tax the rich solution that we often hear has only resulted in a significant decline in the state’s wealth. We’ll probably see a continuation of the trend, until there are no more high-wealth individuals left.”
Christie’s message is that the state needs lower taxes to lower unemployment, and he wants to provide hope for the over 500,000 NJ residents who are unemployed. He says “Private-sector jobs are going to be created by giving our entrepreneurs more of their own money back. The tax cut I propose is one that provides more money to small business.”
Can He Accomplish Anything With a Democratic Legislature?
In most states there are significant limits on what a GOP Governor could accomplish if they were confronted with a hostile state legislature. In California, the Republican Governor and the legislature are at a standstill. Republicans claim all they can hope for is the death of bad bills an government expansion. There is a big difference between California and New Jersey. The Garden State has one of the most powerful chief executives in the nation. Christie is able to rewrite legislation and cut spending with the stroke of his pen. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger wishes he had that ability.
Former Congressman Bob Franks (R-NJ) has died at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. He had been in fine health until being diagnosed in February with an aggressive form of cancer. I am glad he lived long enough to see the victory of Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) and to realize the budget cutting policies he advocated throughout his life were correct. Continue reading
The Garden State is coping with a massive budget deficit, and tax revenues have been declining because of the recession. Another major reason is that wealthy residents have been leaving the state because of significant increases in income, sales, property and “millionaire” taxes. According to the Wall Street Journal, New Jersey “was once a fast-growing state but has now joined California and New York as high-tax, high-debt states with budget crises.” Prior to 1976, there was no state income tax and now it is 10.75%. The top 1% of taxpayers pay more than 40% of the state’s income tax.
More than $70 billion in wealth left New Jersey between 2004 and 2008 as affluent residents moved elsewhere, according to a report by the Center on Wealth and Philanthropy at Boston College. The report shows that about 302,780 households left New Jersey between 2004 and 2008, and the average net worth of the departing households was $618,330. These wealthy residents have been moving primarily to Florida and Pennsylvania and their departure is a dramatic change for a state once considered the nation’s wealthiest. “The wealth is not being replaced,” said John Havens, who directed the study. “It’s above and beyond the general trend that is affecting the rest of the northeast.”
“This study makes it crystal clear that NJ’s tax policies are resulting in a huge decline in the state’s wealth,” said Dennis Bone, chairman of the state Chamber of Commerce and president of Verizon NJ. “That’s probably why we have these massive income shortfalls in the state budget, especially this year,” he said. Until the tax structure is improved, he said, “we’ll probably see a continuation of the trend, until there are no more high-wealth individuals left.”
Back to the Future: Michael J. Fox, Liberal Democrats and the Great Stem Cell Battle by Gregory Hilton
Many people are doubtful of claims now being made by liberal Democrats regarding global warming, health care and reducing the budget deficit. They are skeptical because we have been down this path before.
The utopian rhetoric of the Democratic Party’s left wing has not been based on facts, and it often results in real harm to taxpayers. For example, there has been tremendous hype concerning global warming and this was especially true in Al Gore’s movie “An Inconvenient Truth.”
It has now been documented that many of Gore’s claims were grossly exaggerated. The movie graphics show cities being flooded and sea levels rising by 20 feet, while the UN IPCC was predicting a modest rise of 8 inches over 100 years, and even that is doubtful.
Another issue tremendously hyped by liberals concerns federal funding for embryonic-stem-cell research (ESCR). As usual, the debate has been about politics and has little to do with science. President Obama signed an executive order last March reversing the Bush administrations ban on research related to embryonic stem cells.
In August of 2001, President George W. Bush barred the National Institutes of Health from funding research on embryonic stem cells beyond the 60 cell lines which existed at that time. Bush was advised to do this because embryonic stem cells are known to cause cancer and brain tumors, and they require the permanent use of dangerous immunosuppressive drugs. Their genetic programming does not work in adults.
Nine years have passed so this is an excellent time to review the track record. Actually, if you count research using animal embryos, the data goes back to 1981. To date, no one has been successfully treated because of embryonic-stem-cell research.
The claims made about the potential immediate benefits of ESC were described as fairy tales by many prominent scientists and researchers, but they were an excellent political issue which helped Democrats capture the center in 2004, 2006 and 2008. The left wing started to focus on ESCR after a 2004 Mark Mellman poll for the Democratic National Committee demonstrated that 70% of the American people supported increased funding for stem cell research.
The Democrats made science a political issue and it was at the forefront of Sen. John Kerry’s (D-MA) 2004 challenge to Bush’s re-election. The leading spokesman for the Democrats was the actor Michael J. Fox, who is suffering from Parkinson’s disease. He frequently implied that there would be immediate progress if federal funding was obtained.
Fox is best known for the “Family Ties” and “Spin City” television series, and the “Back to the Future” movies. He was a star at many events for liberal candidates in 2004 and that year’s Democratic convention was addressed by Ronald Reagan, Jr., the son of the then recently deceased GOP President. He was given a prime time speaking slot.
The young Reagan said Republicans were cruel to deny sick people treatments because of “theological objections.” He said this “may be the greatest medical breakthrough in our or any lifetime – the use of embryonic stem cells.” These cells could “cure a wide range of fatal and debilitating illnesses: Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, lymphoma, spinal cord injuries, and much more.”
Rep. James R. Langevin (D-RI) introduced Reagan by saying taxpayer subsidies for ESCR would make him walk again. Langevin has been paralyzed from the waist down since the age of 16 when he was seriously injured in an accidental shooting.
Then Senator John Edwards (D-NC), the 2004 vice presidential nominee, said on October 11th of that year: “If we do the work that we can do in this country, the work that we will do when John Kerry is president, people like Christopher Reeve are going to walk — get up out of that wheelchair and walk again.”
Senator Kerry said President Bush “turned his back on science” at a time when “millions of lives” are stake. A national Kerry TV ad stated: “It’s time to lift the political barriers blocking the stem cell research that could treat or cure diseases like Parkinson’s.” The Bay State Senator said “We stand at the next frontier, but instead of leading the way, we’re stuck on the sidelines. The majority of the American people support stem cell research, and it’s high time we had a president of the United States who does, too. We can’t afford any more stubborn refusal to face the facts.”
Once again, Michael J. Fox was always in the spotlight. He made numerous campaign appearances and was featured in TV ads for successful Senate candidates Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ). A typical Michael Fox TV ad is below:
FOX: As you might know, I care deeply about stem cell research. In Maryland, you can elect Ben Cardin, who shares my hope for cures. Stem cell research offers hope to millions of Americans with diseases like diabetes, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. But George Bush and Michael Steele would put limits on the most promising stem cell research. They say all politics is local, but that’s not always the case. What you do in Maryland matters to millions of Americans, Americans like me.
CARDIN: I’m Ben Cardin, and I approve this message.”
Republican candidates were never against stem cell research. The first break through happened in 1957, and the first president to fund this research was George W. Bush. You would never know that if you listened to the 2004 and 2006 TV ads. The GOP fully supported funding for adult stem cell and cord blood research, but they wanted embryonic stem cell support to be within moral and ethical limits.
Embryonic stem cell researcher Ron McKay of the National Institutes of Health said the idea that stem cells would offer hope for Alzheimer’s patients was a “fairy tale.” Dr. Mehmet Oz appeared with Fox on the Oprah Winfrey show and demonstrated why ESCR would not be useful for Parkinson’s patients.
John Kerry lost the 2004 election but the ESCR campaign culminated in passage of California’s Proposition 71. This allowed the state to borrow $3 billion for ESCR. A California Institute for Regenerative Medicine was established, and now after five years of research there have been no cures, no therapies and little progress. They were established to focus 100% of their work on ESCR, but now this has been largely abandoned.
Other ESCR advocates are at last embracing research on adult stem cells which they once opposed. As I indicated, ESCR has been a highly effective issue for Democrats. Survey research indicates that similar to global warming, ESCR helped them attract significant support from independent voters, and they successfully portrayed Republican candidates as insensitive and uncaring.
The Bush Administration maintained that ESC were not a productive area of research because their nature is to reproduce rapidly to form a whole new human being. Even if they did cure a disease, the person would still have to worry about lethal side effects. There were also moral concerns because many people saw the destruction of an embryo as the ending of a human life.
Bush spoke of religious groups who were opposed to ESCR because it involved the destruction of human embryos, which they claim have a right to life. The Catholic Church vigorously opposes ESCR and Pope Benedict XVI said the destruction of human embryos to harvest stem cells is “not only devoid of the light of God but is also devoid of humanity” and “does not truly serve humanity.”
Researchers were later able to reprogram adult skin cells to act like embryonic stem cells which ended the moral concerns. There is no longer any need for a program that focuses only on embryonic stem cells, which is what the liberals were seeking.
Furthermore, the Bush restrictions were only on federal funding of stem cell lines which required the sacrifice of new embryos. Private and state funding was allowed, and considerable research has taken place overseas. The claim that research on new embryos was the most promising has never been supported by evidence.
Republicans tend to be pro-life, and that is why they favor stem cell research. They believe in saving human life, and they want cures to be found. That is why the Bush Administration provided funding for adult stem cell research which did not involve the moral concerns of working with embryos.
The focal point for the Bush administration was adult stem cells which have been successfully used since 1957, and they have cured some cancers. They are now being used to treat 83 different diseases.
They have been used to rebuild livers damaged by otherwise irreversible cirrhosis. Adult stem cells from nasal passages have been used to repair spinal cord injuries, and Type 1 diabetes in mice has been treated by using adult spleen cells. They have also put Crohn’s disease into remission and they have repaired heart attack damage.
The Bush Administration emphasized that it was best to concentrate on adult stem cells because they had a track record of not being rejected by a patients body while ESC often cause rejection and multiply uncontrollably similar to a cancer.
The hype of the past campaigns has now died down. The groups which once fought only for ESCR have now shifted to adult stem cells where there is universal agreement on their value. Unlike the past, science will hopefully not be a political issue in the 2010 campaign.