Murphy: Democratic School Funding Plan ‘Better Than Nothing’

By Christian Hetrick • 06/16/17

Observer

Phil Murphy.

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Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Murphy carefully answered a question about reworking school funding in New Jersey, saying Friday that a deal struck by the Legislature’s Democratic leaders this week is “better than nothing.”

Speaking to reporters in Newark before taping an interview on NJTV, Murphy gave his first public comments on the agreement since Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto announced it late Wednesday.

Their proposal would provide $100 million in additional school aid than what Gov. Chris Christie has included in his budget plan for the coming fiscal year, and an extra $25 million for preschool education. It also would redistribute $46 million in so-called adjustment aid, redirecting some money from districts considered to be overfunded under the School Funding Reform Act of 2008 and giving it to underfunded districts.

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Christie Wins Legal Battle to Renovate State House

By Salvador Rizzo • 06/14/17

Observer

The New Jersey state house dates to 1792.

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A state judge has dismissed several lawsuits challenging Gov. Chris Christie’s decision to renovate the New Jersey state house at a cost of more than $300 million, making it unlikely that any further legal action could stop the demolition and restoration work scheduled to begin within days.

After hearing oral argument Wednesday, Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson said the bipartisan group of lawmakers challenging Christie’s plan — Assemblyman John Wisniewski and state Sens. Kip Bateman, Richard Codey, Mike Doherty and Ray Lesniak — raised important public concerns about the way the Christie administration sold bonds to cover the high cost of the restoration without legislative or voter approval.

But Jacobson said the court could not provide any meaningful relief, since the $300 million in bonds for the renovation project were sold shortly after the state Economic Development Authority voted to authorize them on May 11.

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Christie says Gateway Tunnel faces no delays despite lack of dollars in Trump budget

TRENTON  -- Gov. Chris Christie on Tuesday professed "confidence" that the proposed Gateway Tunnel under the Hudson River will proceed without delays, even though President Trump's most recent budget eliminated a crucial source of funding for it.

"I had a very good conversation last week with (U.S. Transportation) Secretary (Elaine) Chao, said Christie, speaking to reporters at the groundbreaking of renovations at Newark's Liberty International Airport on Tuesday.

"I absolutely believe that we will be partnering with the federal government and the state of New York to build a Gateway Tunnel and that there won't be any delays of our current time frame."

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Guadagno, Murphy Kick Off General Election Race

By Christian Hetrick • 06/13/17

Observer

Kim Guadagno and Phil Murphy at a New Jersey Chamber of Commerce event on June 9.

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HAMILTON — Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno and Democrat Phil Murphy on Tuesday circled each other up close for the first time since winning their gubernatorial primaries.

In an unofficial start to the general election campaign season, the two major candidates pitched their plans to an audience of about 200 at a New Jersey Business and Industry Association reception. Their speeches mostly reprised their talking points from the campaign trail, albeit with a bit of tailoring to the crowd of business leaders at the Hamilton Manor.

Guadagno claimed Murphy’s proposals, including fully funding the public worker pension system, would cost the state roughly $50 billion.

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A Submarine in Hackensack Is Told to Leave. But How?

HACKENSACK, N.J. — For a newcomer driving through this landlocked city in suburban New Jersey, a short drive from Manhattan, it is an unexpected sight.

Just off River Street, behind the New Heritage Diner, it looms like something out of the Battle of Midway: the U.S.S. Ling, a World War II-era submarine longer than a football field, squatting in a shallow stretch in the upper reaches of the Hackensack River.

This 312-foot hulk of gray steel has been berthed along the river’s shoreline since the early 1970s, when the Navy offered it to a group of local veterans. They were looking to use it as the theme of a new naval museum with the help of the owners of The Record of Bergen County, whose headquarters long stood on this riverside property.

But the Ling has become a 2,500-ton problem, on course to be torpedoed by a luxury development project.

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EPA Delays Federal Ozone Standard, Slows NJ’s Efforts to Reduce Smog

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America Was ‘Not Normal’ Long Before Donald Trump Got Elected, Cory Booker Says

By Will Bredderman • 06/09/17

Observer

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker.

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New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker used his address to a Manhattan audience today to push back on the popular anti-President Donald Trump slogan “this is not normal”—asserting that the lack of federal gun control laws and the phenomenon of mass incarceration have made the United States an outlier in the industrialized world for decades.

The Democratic senator and former Newark mayor was one of a number of politicians to grace the stage at the Personal Democracy Forum today, a summit to discuss the impact of technology on American civic life. Booker praised the gathering’s organizers, but took issue with a line in the program that characterized the present political situation as “not normal”—asserting that conditions have long been “not normal” in his home city and other majority-minority communities across the country.

“To say that the election of Donald Trump marked the beginning of an abnormal time is what gets me upset,” he said, recalling a shooting on his own block two days ago. “There’s shootings on blocks in America every single day. There are people being murdered in our city—in our country—every single day. And we have normalized it.”

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Critics Want Christie’s State House Repairs Halted. Governor Says, ‘I Don’t Care.’

TRENTON — Beneath the gilded dome, windows are boarded up, and some have frames held together with clips and duct tape. The roof leaks. Paint is chipping. Masonry is cracked.

The deteriorating condition of the State House, parts of which were built when George Washington was president, has been apparent for years, and it was something that was groused about and worked around.

As Gov. Chris Christie enters the waning months of his tenure, he has seized upon the state of the State House, vowing to leave behind better conditions for his successor. He has described the long-delayed overhaul of the offices where he has worked for nearly eight years as the kind of politically fraught project that only a second-term governor could take on.

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Explainer: Decoding NJ’s Budget Babble — a Dictionary of Useful Terms

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NJ Transit rebuffs mayors, sticks to train diversion plan

Mayors representing towns on the Morris & Essex lines said they came away "disappointed" from a meeting with NJ Transit officials about plans to divert those trains to Hoboken when Amtrak starts track work in Penn Station New York next month.

"We made a strong push on sharing the burden and equity (across all rail lines)," Maplewood Mayor Victor De Luca said after Wednesday afternoon meeting. "They are pretty locked into the diversion of all the M&E trains to Hoboken."

De Luca and municipal officials from  South Orange, East Orange, Orange, Summit, Chatham, Livingston, Westfield and other towns were joined at the meeting by Assemblyman John McKeon, D-Morris-Essex, and State Senator Thomas Kean, R-Union.

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