Christie, Lawmakers Plan to Offer Amazon $5 Billion Tax Break

By Christian Hetrick • 09/27/17

Observer

 

Gov. Chris Christie and legislative leaders will offer tax breaks worth $5 billion to Amazon if it builds its second headquarters in New Jersey, a plan that would expand a controversial subsidy program.

The Legislature’s top Democrats and Republicans announced Wednesday that they back Christie’s plan to loosen restrictions on the Grow NJ program, carving out new exceptions for “transformational projects” such as the Amazon headquarters. Under a proposed bill, Amazon could receive $10,000 for each job it created each year for a decade, a rate that could cost the state $5 billion over the life of the project if Amazon lives up to its promise to create up to 50,000 jobs wherever it goes, according to a letter to Christie from legislative leaders. New Jersey has awarded more than $8 billion in economic subsidies since Christie took office in 2010.

States and cities are scrambling to attract Amazon, which recently announced it’s looking for a second home. The company promises to hire as many as 50,000 workers and invest $5 billion in capital expenditures. An Amazon headquarters could have a $9 billion economic benefit to the state, according to a letter Christie wrote Friday.

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Federal Funding for National Children’s Health Program Now at Risk

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Murphy Ahead By 19 Points Over Guadagno in New Poll

By Christian Hetrick • 09/25/17

Observer

Phil Murphy

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Democrat Phil Murphy maintains a wide lead over Republican Kim Guadagno in the New Jersey governor’s race with six weeks to go until Election Day, according to a poll released Monday.

Murphy leads Guadagno by 19 points — 44 percent to 25 percent — according to a Suffolk University/USA Today Network survey of 500 likely voters. The totals include voters who support and “lean” toward either candidate. Nearly one-quarter of likely  voters were undecided, the poll found. Five other candidates polled at 2 percent or less.

The poll also found a whopping 84 percent of likely voters — including 77 percent of registered Democrats — think Sen. Bob Menendez should resign if convicted on corruption charges. Menendez is on trial and accused of taking official actions to advance the interests of his top donor, who treated the senator with gifts, trips and campaign contributions.

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Gateway Official Says There’s ‘No Plan B’ if Federal Funding Falls Through

NJSpotlight

Regular maintenance on the Portal Bridge can slow or stop traffic on the Northeast Corridor.

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Building the proposed Gateway rail tunnel is more urgent than many people realize, according to a key transportation official, because a full 10 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product hangs in the balance.

John Porcari, executive director of the Gateway Program Development Corp., told state legislators yesterday that there is no “Plan B” if the federal funding for the new tunnel and other major infrastructure upgrades isn’t approved by Congress.

Although the U.S. House of Representatives has approved up to $900 million in the latest federal budget for the project — due to support from Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-11), who is chairman of the House appropriations committee — the funding still must be approved by the Senate and the Trump administration. The Trump administration did not include funding for Gateway in its initial budget, setting off alarms among supporters of the project.

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Murphy Questions Why State Takeovers Target ‘Communities of Color’

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Essex College Administrator Is Placed on Leave Amid Investigation

The Essex County College administrator accused of causing problems at the troubled two-year school was placed on paid administrative leave on Tuesday by the trustees while an investigation is conducted into allegations of financial abuse.

The administrator, Joyce Harley, the vice president for administration and finance, was accused by the school’s president of buying a half-million-dollar copier without prior approval, taking improper leaves and paying her personal cellphone bill with school money. Anthony Munroe, the college president, made the accusations against Ms. Harley in a Sept. 6 letter to the board of trustees. She has denied any wrongdoing and last week countered, accusing Mr. Munroe of misusing relocation funds.

The investigation is the latest twist in years of turmoil at Essex County College, which began in 2010 with the resignation of its longtime president, A. Zachary Yamba. The continuing conflict has caused the Middle States Commission on Higher Education to warn that the college is in danger of losing its accreditation because it lacks financial controls, has a poor governance structure and conflict-of-interest rules, and struggles to retain students. The Newark college, which has about 15,000 mostly black and Hispanic students, has also been warned by the U.S. Department of Education for submitting late audits.

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New Jersey Has the Worst Finances in the Nation, Report Says

By Christian Hetrick • 09/20/17

Observer

The Assembly chamber in the New Jersey statehouse.

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New Jersey is nearly $209 billion in debt and has the worst finances of any state in the nation, according to a report released Tuesday.

Truth in Accounting, a think tank that analyzes government finances, ranked all 50 states based on their debt per taxpayer. The group’s latest report said New Jersey taxpayers carry $67,200 each in debt, a burden has almost doubled since 2013, when it was $36,000 per taxpayer.

New Jersey’s massive debt load largely stems from pension and retiree health care costs for state workers. The report said the state has $118.8 billion in unfunded pension benefits and $70 billion in unfunded retiree health care costs. The think tank accused New Jersey of using “accounting gimmicks” when calculating its finances, and said the state’s books are off by $57.6 billion when it comes to public debt.

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Christie Opposes GOP Bill to Repeal Obamacare

By Christian Hetrick • 09/20/17

Observer

Gov. Chris Christie.

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Gov. Chris Christie on Wednesday came out against a Republican Senate bill that would repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, telling reporters the health bill would harm New Jersey residents and take away billions of dollars in federal funding from the state.

Christie, a close ally of President Trump, publicly stated his opposition to the bill for the first time as GOP lawmakers make a last-ditch effort to scrap former President Obama’s health law. Republicans must pass the bill by Sept. 30 or the measure will lose expiring legislative protections from Democratic filibusters. Several GOP health bills have gone down in flames this year after failing to get enough support in Congress, despite Republicans promising for years to repeal the law known as Obamacare.

The latest GOP bill, authored by Senators Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), would repeal major elements of the ACA, including the requirement that Americans must carry health care coverage or face penalties. It would also scale back the expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare, as states would instead receive Medicaid funding through block grants.

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Obama May Campaign With NJ Gubernatorial Candidate Murphy

By Alyana Alfaro • 09/19/17

Observer

Former President Barack Obama.

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Former President Barack Obama may soon join Democratic candidate for New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy on the campaign trail, Murphy spokesman Dan Bryan confirmed on Tuesday.

“We can confirm that it is in the works but there are no details as of now,” Bryan told Observer. News of a fall event was first reported by the Hill but, according to Bryan, the event has not been confirmed and no date and location information has been released.

An event appearance by Obama would be Murphy’s latest and most high-profile endorsement to date. Earlier this year, Murphy was endorsed by former Vice President Joe Biden and former Vice President Al Gore.

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More than Skin Deep: Structural Racism and Poverty in New Jersey

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