September 6, 2010: Having your cake and financing it too: State awards cake baker for Christie inauguration a BEIP grant

Earlier this year, Gov. Christie suspended New Jersey’s film tax credit for the fiscal year 2011 – a reasonable move given the staggering budget situation that the state faced. The movie and TV industries protested. Actors, producers, lobbyists and small business owners testified against eliminating the credit.1 When lawmakers passed a budget without the credit, NBC’s Law & Order: Special Victims Unit moved its production back to New York.2

August 30, 2010: And Then There Were Ten: The gradual (and inevitable) decline of dual office holding in New Jersey

Senate President Stephen Sweeney recently announced his retirement – from his other elected office, Director of the Board of Freeholders in Gloucester County.

That the ranking Democratic lawmaker in the state could hold two elected offices at once is unthinkable in almost every other state in the nation. Not so in New Jersey. Here, dual office holding has traditionally been viewed as a peculiarity, much like buying tags to use the public beaches or not being able to pump your own gas.

At least one of those traditions will end, hopefully sooner rather than later.

August 23, 2010: Extending Bush Tax Cuts for Top 2% Shortchanges the Economy

When Democrats in New Jersey raised the top rate on the state income tax last year, it was billed as a one-year, temporary increase on millionaires. When it expired this year, Democrats voted to renew the increase for another year. Republicans, emboldened by Gov. Christie’s veto threat, said “no.” They reasoned that Democrats purposefully wrote the expiration into the legislation, and so it should be allowed to expire.

In Washington, D.C., the partisans argue opposite sides of the “expiration” debate.

Republicans a decade ago enacted what came to be known as the Bush tax cuts, the signature domestic policy legislation of the Bush Administration. That legislation enacted tax cuts with an expiration date at the end of this year. Republicans want to renew the legislation. Democrats in Congress (echoing Republicans in New Jersey) argue the bill was written with an expiration date, and so it should be allowed to expire.

If it feels a little like a funhouse mirror, well, there’s a reason.

August 16, 2010: More Federal Money, But Not Enough Federal Money

Congress last week passed legislation that will send an additional $685 million to New Jersey – $399 million in increased Medicaid funds and $286 million to save teacher jobs. If properly implemented, these additional federal funds will save jobs; help the state’s ravaged economy and protect services to the most vulnerable.

But New Jersey’s share of the Medicaid relief was $181 million less than lawmakers expected, and that could punch a substantial hole in the state’s already anemic revenues.

August 9, 2010: Privatizing Transportation Minutia: An Ideological Distraction?

Task forces, study groups and commissions on privatization often result from an ideological belief that private companies have a monopoly on efficiency that government cannot match. New Jersey governors have given lip service to private sector efficiency, often saying its ability to provide services cannot be matched by the public sector. Despite the recent financial services debacle brought about largely by the private sector, Gov. Christie is following past leaders.

The New Jersey Privatization Task Force created by Gov. Christie by executive order on March 11, 2010 was instructed to do a comprehensive review in 81 days of opportunities for privatization within state government. The report identified $210 million in estimated annual savings from 40 services currently provided by public employees.