New Jersey May Raise Cigarette Taxes to Highest Level in Nation

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

Feb. 25, 2020

Maria Ovalles stacks packets of cigarettes at Cibao Mini Market in North Bergen, N.J. Smokers could soon be paying more.Credit...

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UNION, N.J. — Zahir Shabazz smokes about three packs of cigarettes each week. Each time, he hands a cashier $10, give or take, and a slim pack of Newports appears, feeding a habit of nearly 30 years.

He said he knows it is time to quit. “It’s too much,” he said.

But Mr. Shabazz, 42, of Union, N.J., could soon wind up paying even more.

Gov. Philip D. Murphy is expected to release a proposed budget on Tuesday that includes a $1.65 increase in New Jersey’s cigarette tax, two policy advisers said. If it is approved, the tax on each pack would climb to the nation’s highest statewide level, $4.35. Smokers would also pay a state sales tax.

The extra tax would generate an estimated $218 million a year and would push New Jersey into a tie for No. 1 with New York and Connecticut, which both collect $4.35 a pack in taxes. The lowest cigarette taxes are in Missouri, which charges 17 cents a pack.

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Phil Murphy, New Jersey Governor, Says He Has a Kidney Tumor

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

Feb. 22, 2020

Gov. Phil Murphy of New Jersey delivering the State of the State address last month in Trenton.Credit...

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Gov. Phil Murphy of New Jersey said on Saturday that he would undergo surgery next month to remove a tumor on his kidney.

“I’ve got a tumor on my left kidney and will undergo a partial nephrectomy in early March to remove it,” Mr. Murphy, a Democrat, wrote on Twitter. “The prognosis is very good and I’m profoundly grateful to my doctors for detecting the tumor early.”

He added that “over 50,000 New Jerseyans will hear the words ‘you have cancer’ this year, so I’m far from alone here.”

Mahen Gunaratna, the governor’s communications director, said the three-centimeter tumor was discovered during a recent checkup. He says that it is impossible to know whether the tumor is cancerous until it is removed, but that in 90 percent of similar cases, it is.

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Trump’s bloodthirsty budget is a fact check on his lies | Editorial

Posted Feb 23, 2020

No matter which Democratic presidential candidate ends up at the top of the ticket, remember this in the upcoming election:

President Trump’s 2021 budget proposal is the most accurate encapsulation of what he’s running on – more lies.

Forget the promises of “insurance for everybody,” or his vow that “We will not be touching your Social Security or Medicare in Fiscal 2021 Budget.”

It’s all there, in black and white. We have his budget, and it shows he’s been lying. Again.

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State Starts to Apportion All $60M Affordable-Housing Funds in 2020 Budget

COLLEEN O'DEA | FEBRUARY 24, 2020 

NJ Spotlight

Building affordable housing

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As Gov. Phil Murphy prepares to present his New Jersey budget tomorrow — one that housing advocates hope will spend the maximum amount on building affordable homes — the administration has begun working with local officials and builders on divvying up $60 million in the current budget for construction.

Last year, Murphy became the first governor in about a decade to actually allocate essentially all of the money collected in realty-transfer fees that are supposed to be earmarked for building affordable homes in a state that has some of the most expensive housing in the nation. Last week, his administration released a detailed plan for spending the $60 million in the state Affordable Housing Trust Fund.

The administration is going to use the money to help fund smaller rental and ownership projects of 25 or fewer units that often have difficulty obtaining financing. These projects tend to be developed by community-based organizations that have a strong connection to housing-equity issues in their communities and seek to fill gaps in existing home stock.

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N.J. officials say state faces ‘high’ level of threat from extremist groups, white supremacists

Posted Feb 21, 2020

Citing the deadly attack in December on a kosher supermarket in Jersey City, as well as the arrests last year of a number of white supremacists allegedly plotting violent attacks, New Jersey officials Friday said homegrown extremism remains the biggest terrorism threat to the state.

The Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, in its annual assessment report, said of the 44 domestic terrorist incidents reported in the United States last year, four had a nexus to New Jersey.

“The ever-changing threat landscape in New Jersey and around the country requires us to adjust our strategies to anticipate new threats while remaining ready to combat those already existing,” said Jared Maples, who heads the state’s homeland security agency.

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Oprah loves this N.J.-based after school program so much, she just gave it $5M

Posted Feb 20, 2020

 

Judith Griffin was at a loss for words for about 90 seconds when she got the phone call last September.

Rebecca Sykes, then president of the Oprah Winfrey Charitable Foundation, was on the line with some jarring news.

Winfrey decided to give $5 million to Pathways to College, a nationwide after-school program Griffin established in 2003 to support students of color in school districts with limited resources. It prepares them for college and shows them how to stay there so they can be successful in life.

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When Did Bloomberg Turn Against Stop-and-Frisk? When He Ran for President.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

Feb. 19, 2020

Michael R. Bloomberg in November at the Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn, where he renounced the police practice of stop-and-frisk for the first time.Credit...

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Days before he announced his presidential campaign in November, Michael R. Bloomberg, the mayor of New York City from 2002 through 2013, renounced one of his signature policies: stop-and-frisk, in which police officers stopped and searched millions of New Yorkers, the vast majority of whom were black or Hispanic and had not committed a crime.

But as his campaign has grown — he qualified on Tuesday for this week’s Democratic debate — and stop-and-frisk has become a major piece of ammunition for his opponents, Mr. Bloomberg has begun to imply that he turned against the policy much sooner than he did.

He has also taken credit for the near-disappearance of the practice by the time he left office at the end of 2013 (the practice plummeted because of a court case whose outcome Mr. Bloomberg fiercely opposed), and claimed that the only reason he didn’t apologize before 2019 was that no one asked him about it (not true).

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Murphy proposes stable of ethics reforms

By Nikita BiryukovFebruary 19 2020

New Jersey Globe

Gov. Phil Murphy.

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Gov. Phil Murphy announced a swath of ethics reforms for Trenton that include the elimination of the legislative exemption provided by the Open Public Records Act, more strenuous financial disclosures for lawmakers and a ban on shadow lobbying, among others.

Legislators are provided two exemptions under OPRA. The first shields communications with constituents.

The other allows legislators to block the disclosure of any document created in the course of their official duties.

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‘Hi Haters’: Why New Jersey’s Twitter Account Is Like No Other

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

Feb. 19, 2020

Megan Coyne, left, and Pearl Gabel have injected sassiness into the state’s official Twitter account, significantly increasing its number of followers.Credit...

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The two women who run New Jersey’s official state Twitter account, Megan Coyne and Pearl Gabel, know all about the reputation their home state has developed over decades.

They are all too aware that New Jersey has often been derided as “the armpit of America” and ridiculed for the odor that the moniker implies. Though they both identify as “Jersey girls,” they know that phrase calls up a stereotype that many residents deeply resent.

They realize that when outsiders reference “dirty Jersey,” it’s not generally a term of endearment. The first glimpse of the state for many visitors is a trip from Newark Liberty International Airport along aging highways that pass a vast and unattractive industrial waterfront.

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Murphy won’t say if he’ll punish allies over ‘toxic workplace environment’ allegations

Posted Feb 18, 2020

As he introduced sweeping new proposals to make it tougher to get away with sexual harassment in New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy on Tuesday declined to say whether he would punish or distance himself from aides and allies accused of creating a “toxic workplace environment" during his 2017 campaign.

But Murphy insisted his campaign took those concerns “seriously” and “addressed them.”

“Every time anyone raised, has raised, (or) will raise today or anytime in the future any concerns whatsoever about workplace conditions, every single time those concerns have been taken seriously, they’ve been addressed, and they’ve been run to ground,” the Democratic governor said during a news conference in Trenton. “And that will continue to be the case.”

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