Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Christie Inaugural Funds Go To Charities

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and First Lady Mary Pat Christie today presented checks to three charitable organizations from contributions generated through activities of the 2010 Christie-Guadagno Inauguration Committee.
With today’s presentation, the Community Food Bank of New Jersey, Daytop -Village New Jersey and the National Guard Readiness Council, have received a combined total of $448,852 in donations from the Committee.
“Rebuilding New Jersey Together: Pride Through Service and Community,” was the theme of the Inaugural, which emphasized Governor Christie’s commitment to community partnerships as well as the importance of public service.
Traditionally, proceeds from inaugural events have been devoted to political fundraising, Governor Christie noted, before handing the checks over today at a ceremony held at the New Jersey National Guard Armory in Lawrenceville.
“I hope this starts a tradition in New Jersey inaugurals,” the Governor said. “There’s plenty of time to raise funds for political parties and candidates. We should use the moment to raise funds for charity and groups which we know do good things for our citizens most in need or for those facing hardships in their lives.”
“Partnering with these three admirable organizations is an example of how service can rebuild our communities and advance our great State,” the Governor added The Inauguration Committee directly donated $100,000 to each of the three organizations. The balance for each organization came from direct donations and from inaugural attendees who were barred by the Governor’s adoption of state’s pay-to-play regulations for purposes of the inaugural from paying the full $500 ticket cost. They were asked to consider donating the $200 balance of the ticket price to the chosen charities.
“Today’s event is the result of our commitment to make the Inauguration a celebration of service, community, and New Jersey,” said First Lady Mary Pat Christie. “I’m glad that we could be here to present these three worthwhile charities with donations to support their work.” “Whether it’s distributing groceries to an out-of-work parent, providing counseling services to an adolescent in need, or making sure military families are cared for, these contributions will go a long way to benefit the working people and families of New Jersey,” Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno said.
Of the nearly $500,000, the Community Food Bank of New Jersey received $170,201; Daytop Village received $136,800; and the National Guard Family Readiness Council received $141,851. Once all final receipts and expenses are accounted for, additional contributions to the three organizations will be distributed.
More about the Inaugural donation recipients:

Community Food Bank of New Jersey

The Community FoodBank of New Jersey was founded by Executive Director, Kathleen DiChiara, in 1975 when she began distributing groceries out of the trunk of her car. Today, the FoodBank distributes over 23 million pounds of food and groceries a year, ultimately serving 1,656 non-profit programs including 436 programs served by its Partner Distribution Organizations (PDOs). Through their combined efforts, they assist three-quarters of a million low-income people in 18 of New Jersey’s 21 counties.

Daytop Village New Jersey

The mission of Daytop-New Jersey is to deliver a comprehensive substance abuse co-occurring treatment and education program to male and female adolescents. The program is individualized, family-based, cost-effective, peer-oriented and multi-disciplinary in nature. Special emphasis is placed on treating those adolescents without adequate financial resources and/or in need of an alternative to incarceration. Daytop-NJ treats male and female adolescents in need providing a variety of comprehensive programs.

National Guard State Family Readiness Council

The council, a non –profit organization consists of 20-25 volunteers of individuals that try to make a difference in the lives of New Jersey’s citizen soldiers, airmen and their families. Since its inception in 2004, the Council has raised more than $1,000,000 for programs to benefit National Guard families. The focus of the Council’s support efforts has been the organization’s Family and Business Grant Program, awarding more than $1,000,000 to New Jersey National Guard members or to their families facing financial hardships during military deployment.

Doherty: Make Governor Highest Paid

The Governor of New Jersey draws a healthy, six-figure salary.
And that's appropriate.
But some state employees and/or employees of various agencies, boards and commissions have been known to draw higher salaries.
Now, New Jersey State Senator Mike Doherty, a member of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, announced that he is drafting new legislation that would prohibit any state employee from making more than the governor.
“It is simply ridiculous that an employee of the state would qualify for a higher salary than the governor,” Doherty began. “The Governor of the State of New Jersey has by far the hardest job in the state and the most responsibility. The state payroll should reflect that fact.”
The proposed legislation would require that any employee of the State of New Jersey, a political subdivision of the state, any commission, authority or board be paid less than the governor’s salary. Currently the governor’s salary is set at $175,000 per year. The governor also qualifies for an additional $95,000 yearly allowance for entertaining and other expenses.
“This is a simple common sense response to published reports concerning the salaries of public officials at, sometimes obscure, public agencies,” Doherty continued. “This measure will save the taxpayers money and it will help to prevent some of the abuses, including absurdly high pensions, which seem to have become common place throughout the state. I hope my colleagues see the value in this proposal and support its passage.”

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Christie: Reward Frugal Districts

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie today announced a proposal to provide additional state aid to school districts that negotiate salary freezes as part of their fiscal year 2011 budgets. The additional aid would help offset reductions in state aid as part of the Governor’s proposed FY2011 Budget by providing aid dollars in an amount equal to the Social Security and Medicare payroll deductions that would have been paid on the salary increase were a freeze not adopted.
“In these difficult economic times, when fewer resources are available and difficult choices are required, local school districts and education associations are being asked to share in the sacrifices needed to protect our educational priorities,” said Governor Christie. “It is our obligation to provide every possible incentive to assist those districts who are doing the right thing, making concessions to achieve savings in their schools, and joining together to avoid program and staff cuts.
“The additional dollars that result will be provided to help offset state aid reductions and give additional help to keep another teacher position, music or sports program, or help offset other areas that would otherwise be cut,” the Governor said.
The State of New Jersey pays Social Security payroll taxes in the amount of 6.2 percent on employee earnings up to $106,800 and Medicare payroll taxes in the amount of 1.45 percent with no cap. Therefore, the total payroll levy from these two taxes is a combined 7.65 percent on employee earnings.
The Governor’s proposed FY2011 budget includes expenditures for these anticipated Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes. By reducing payroll expenses via a salary freeze, the state would experience savings on these tax levies and apply those funds in the form of additional aid in the districts where those savings occur. As a result, this proposed aid would not come at any additional cost to the state.
As an example, a school district that saves $1 million through a one-year salary freeze would receive additional state aid of $76,500 as result of these savings. Statewide, if $500 million of savings were achieved through salary freezes, additional aid would total $38,250,000.
The proposal will require legislative approval through language in the state budget, including a provision allowing school districts to appropriate the additional funds following the adoption of local school district budgets occurring prior to the passage of the state budget.

NJ Assembly GOP Tackels Pension Mess

Our thanks to all the Democrat members of the New Jersey State Legislature who joined with our friend, Assemblywoman Dawn Marie Addiego and others to take the first steps toward pension reform in the Garden State.
Let us hope that bi-partisan cooperation continues to move our state toward fiscal sanity. Bravo!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Chag Kashruth Pesach!

Greetings and best wished to all our friends who celebrate Passover.

One of the most important Jewish holidays, the Passover celebration during eight days of Pesach commemorates the Jews' liberation from slavery.

This festival is also known as ‘Chag he-Aviv’, ‘Chag ha-Matzoth’ and ‘Z’man Cherutenu’.

Happy Passover to all!

Who's The REAL Party Of 'No'?

We hear a lot about the "Party of No" lately.
But maybe the phrase is being misdirected.
Because maybe it perfectly describes ultra-liberals and their Democrat Party. Think about it:
NO salt.
NO sugar.
NO transfats.
NO smoking.
NO states' rights.
NO tax cuts.
NO lower deficit.
NO smaller government.
NO recognition of American exceptionalism.
NO free speech except "politically correct" speech approved by "elites".
NO tolerance for opposing points of view.
NO lower unemployment anytime soon; get used to it.
NO respect for proven allies like Britain and Israel.
NO reaching across the aisle for consensus.
NO worship of God and NO religion except for the worship of The One and the doctrine of Liberalism.
NO bi-partisan approval for major legislation and
NO faith in individual and personal responsibility as all power is ceded to the Nanny State.
Nope, nope, nope disguised as hope, hope, hope.

An Authentic French Brasserie!

Over the weekend we dined at the Caribou Cafe in center city Philadelphia and we had a wonderful time.
Caribou is an informal, street side restaurant with a French flair.
It features the culinary creations of Olivier Desaintmartin, a native of Champagne who has studied with the great chefs from France such as Guerard, Chibois, Lenôtre and Lecoze…
When he'd had enough of the white table cloth set, Desaintmartin focused on more hearty comfort food -- the kind that he grew up with; that the French eat every day.
And that's what you'll find at Caribou.
His dishes come from Provence, Gasconny, Loire, Burgundy, Brittany, Paris, Lyon and more… simple but elegant and tasty.
From Onion soup, Quiche and warm Frisee Salad to Cassoulet, Steak frites or Skate fish with capers, Olivier follows the seasons and you will find Steak tartare or Salade Niçoise in the summer and Boeuf Bourguignon, Duck Magret au Cassis, and Cassolette de Champignons in the winter.
At anytime of the day you might want to sit at the bar, enjoy “gourmet sliders ” and sip a draft Krönenbourg or a Chimay. The wine selection by the glass is extensive and the French aperitifs list is selective.
Olivier’s authentic French cuisine is the best value on Walnut Street.
In fact, we think it's the best value in the entire region.
We enjoyed the Steak frites, roasted chicken, warm salad, the wonderful Kronesbourg and delightful sugared crepes with chocolate sauce.
We lingered and savored every delicious moment. And, the service was attentive, helpful and personable.
This is an authentic, intimate, inviting spot with a nice selection of fresh dishes, all reasonably priced.
We highly recommend it!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Listen To My Newest Podcasts

I recently conducted interviews with two local movers and shakers as part of my "Hot Interviews with Very Cool People" series for the Philadelphia Bar Association.
Dr. Karen Wiley Sandler, the Chancellor of Abington College of Penn State University discusses the college's vital role in the region, its place within the university and its exciting future. You will learn a great deal about this historic educational entity and its plans for continued growth. You will also be surprised to discover some of the current-day leaders who have graduated from Penn State Abington as well at the breadth and diversity of courses and programs offered.
Michael Rosenzweig, President and CEO of the National Museum of American Jewish History talks about the museum's journey from its birth in 1976 to the threshold of its dramatic new home on Independence Mall. Designed my a renowned architectural firm, the new museum (which opens in November, 2010) is destined to be an instant attraction within America's most historic square mile. But the museum won't be just about history. Instead it will be an ever-changing showcase for the American journey that tells the story not just of the Jews in America but, by extension, of every ethnic group that came to call America "home."
Listen to these podcasts and others in my series by clicking here.

Rare Sendak Mural Discovered, Preserved

The Rosenbach Museum & Library in Philadelphia has embarked on a landmark conservation project to restore a rare mural created in 1959 by Maurice Sendak, famed author and illustrator of Where the Wild Things Are and 108 other books. With finished measurements of approximately 3’ x 10’, the mural depicts a processional of children and animals, including figures that become familiar in Sendak’s later work, such as Jennie the dog, who leads the parade, and other recurring characters, like a bear and lion. Originally painted in the children’s bedroom of a private New York home, the mural was completed by Sendak just before he became a household name.
Rediscovered in 2005, the mural was donated to the museum by Nina Chertoff and Laurence Chertoff, the now-adult children for whom the mural was painted, and is the only known Sendak mural. The Rosenbach Museum & Library, the sole repository of Maurice Sendak’s original artwork, spearheaded the mural conservation project in 2006. The mural will be permanently installed in the lobby of the Rosenbach in the Fall of 2010.
Mural conservation and restoration is a complex and intricate process. For the safety of the Sendak mural during its removal and transportation from New York to Philadelphia, the entire wall on which it was painted was removed in two thick, plaster-covered masonry slabs, weighing about 800 pounds in total. The conservation process will involve removing all but the outermost layer of the wall on which the mural itself is actually painted to lighten the load when the mural is hung on the wall at the Rosenbach after it is fully conserved. The two pieces of the mural will be reunited within a metal frame. Flaking and loosening areas of the painted surface will be stabilized and areas of loss will be inpainted.
Milner + Carr Conservation LLC, a Philadelphia-based conservation firm, is overseeing the restoration process. Currently stored at a conservation lab, the work will be performed by Cassie Meyers, a mural specialist, formerly of the Getty Conservation Institute. Maurice Sendak will make the final restorative touches to the mural himself. Restoration work continues through the Spring and Summer of 2010.
The entire Sendak mural restoration project is being filmed for a forthcoming documentary by videographer Michael O’Reilly of Portia Productions. The documentary will feature interviews with Nina Chertoff and Laurence Chertoff for whom the mural was created, footage of the removal of the mural, and an inside-peek at the conservation and installation process. The documentary will be available to the public in the Fall of 2010.
Funding for the Sendak mural restoration project is generously provided by the William B. Dietrich Foundation. The Rosenbach will launch a fundraising campaign to complete the project in the Spring.
Maurice Sendak chose the Rosenbach Museum & Library to be the repository for his work in the early 1970s thanks to shared literary and collecting interests. His collection of nearly 10,000 works of art, manuscripts, books and ephemera has been the subject of many exhibitions and has been enjoyed by visitors of all ages. One of the most famous creators of contemporary children's books, Maurice Sendak has challenged the norms of children's literature over time and continues to entrance both children and adults to this day. His innovative techniques and honest portrayal of childhood emotion are celebrated worldwide and have earned him several prestigious honors, including the Caldecott Book Medal (1964), the international Hans Christian Andersen Medal (1970), the National Medal of Arts (1996), a Library of Congress "Living Legend" medal (2000) and the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award for Literature (2003).

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Perils Of Governance By Guilt

Guilt is powerful.
Some religions have made it their bedrock philosophy.
But in a strange way, it's just another name for compassion.
We feel uneasy to be blessed with more material gifts than others, even if we've worked hard to obtain them and our fellow humans have made choices that have placed them in the crosshairs of disaster. It's called "being my brother's keeper." And while it sometimes rewards the undeserving, it's generally a good thing.
Guilt was also a catalyst for the civil-rights revolution. It helped feed the understanding that the manifest unfairness of slavery and Jim Crow had to be eliminated. That's the good sort of guilt, even though it sometimes can take on a life of its own and can morph into a different sort of inequity, like racial preferences.
But guilt-fueled governance is a bad thing when it leads you down the road to bankruptcy. And that's just what will happen to this country after the full effects of the health-care bill passed by Congress are felt, primarily by those who can least afford it.
To read the rest of Christine Flowers' column from today's Philadelphia Daily News, click here.

NJ GOP Leaders: Come Together, Negotiate

New Jersey Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean and Senate Republican Budget Officer Tony Bucco issued the following statements encouraging school board and employees’ unions to enter into talks to dodge mass layoffs.
“In several New Jersey communities, teachers and parents are coming together to find a balanced approach to protect the quality of classroom education for our children,” Kean stated. “With shared sacrifice, we can find the innovative solutions to keep teachers in the classroom with the tools they need to provide a quality education.”
Kean cited reports that every employee of the West Essex Regional School District agreed to a wage freeze for the next school year to prevent layoffs or cuts to instructional programs. Similar proposals have been adopted in South Orange-Maplewood, Hoboken, and Montclair. “Teachers and small business employees face the same burden of the highest property taxes in order for their families to live here. We must make New Jersey more affordable for all middle-class families. These conversations are proof that New Jerseyans can meet the challenge of balancing our budget without higher taxes. My colleagues and I urge teachers, school employees and residents to reopen negotiations to find common ground.” said Senator Tony Bucco.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Of Presidents And Their Enemies

Liberal friends have been tossing barbs my way on Facebook once again.
I don't mind it. It goes with the territory.
But I don't have the time to set out my views on EVERY social media outlet available.
So, I tell them to read my blog and my print columns for my view of things.
Inasmuch as I don't have a staff and can't be at two places at once, I need to place my views where they have the widest audience and the most impact. That's one of the reasons why I'm on Blogs Lucianne Loves -- one of my favorite sites!
Well, here's what I want to say right now: Obama set out to be a transformational president. He made that very clear all along.
So, no one should be surprised that Obama and the Democrats today are just as reviled now as FDR and the Dem/liberals/unionists and, yes, socialists were in their day. That's the closest comparison. FDR was despised by huge groups of people and he and the Dems then had many threats against them as well.
Some people hated FDR so much that they could not even bear to say his name. They simply referred to him as "that man." And when they said "that man," everybody knew who they were talking about.
Obama is following classic Saul Alinsky (radical) principles but he has incorporated them into the power suites of Washington. FDR was inspired by one of the original progressives - Wilson. Wilson (an academic idealist) was quite radical in his own way. Obama was inspired by FDR. And FDR defied the United States Supreme Court in much the same way that Obama is attempting to defy the Court now. It's a very similar script.
FDR had Hopkins and Ickes. Obama has Axelrod and Emanuel.
FDR had an elitist liberal cabal around him and so does Obama.
BTW: LBJ was hated as well. I was there. I know. We used to chant: "Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?"
But let's not forget that it was another transformational president, Ronald Reagan who was nearly killed by an assassin. And he sorta chuckled his way through it. He never complained, never bellyached, never carped about his enemies, never whined.
He threw back his shoulders, put a smile on his face, charmed the nation and gave the world a model of leadership that's still worthy of emulation.
Yes, even Obama cites Reagan as a role model.
But as the years drift by, Reagan stands apart. And he towers over all of them.

Christie Gets School Boards' Support

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has released the following statement praising the support of the New Jersey School Boards Association in encouraging collaboration and compromise between school boards and local education associations in finding budget solutions:
“Only by compromise and working together can we protect our educational priorities and avoid the path to higher property taxes, staff and teacher layoffs and undercutting the quality of our children’s education. In the end, hunkering down and grudgingly adhering to the narrow self-interests of the few, versus standing up for the wider public interest, will indeed hurt our children. We know that there are many rank and file teachers out there who know in their hearts that a practical response and short-term sacrifice is the right approach and in the interests of the entire community of teachers. Unfortunately, this position is not shared by those who profess to lead and represent them. Working together, we can all get through this and minimize the pain of our fiscal crisis on our schools, employees and our children.
“I want to thank the New Jersey School Boards Association for their support and encouragement in finding workable, common sense budget solutions for local school districts. I encourage collaboration and compromise between school boards, teachers and the local collective bargaining units in adopting my recommendations so that we can see our way through these difficult times. I am heartened and gratified that the NJSBA has joined me in promoting these solutions.”

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Rob Andrews' Vote: Bought And Paid For?

In the wake of Rob Andrews’ outlandish vote in favor of nationalized healthcare, First District Congressional Candidate Dale Glading is questioning whether cash contributions from lobbyists influenced the career politician’s decision.

“Rob Andrews supported ridiculously expensive and undemocratic legislation against the will of South Jersey voters,” said Glading. “Now we know why Rob turned a deaf ear to the voters who elected him. His vote for this horrible bill was purchased by the deep pockets of the health care industry.”

According to a report in The New Jersey Star-Ledger, Rob Andrews has received $954,930 in campaign contributions from health care lobbyists. (“N.J. lawmakers play key roles in passing U.S. health care bill,” 3/21/10). Having accepted almost one million dollars from the health industry, concerned South Jerseyans want to know who Rob Andrews really works for: the taxpayers or the special interests?

“That kind of money doesn’t come without strings attached,” added Glading. “After 20 years as a Washington insider, Rob Andrews has lost touch with the working men and women of the First District. Today, he’s nothing more than a puppet of the lobbyists and special interest groups.”

Harry Kalas' Poem For Fans

Some time ago someone anonymously posted Harry Kalas' poem in our comment section and now, on the eve of the baseball season, we present it here for everyone to enjoy once again:

This is to the Philadelphia Fan
To laud your passion as best I can
Your loyalty is unsurpassed
Be the Fightins in first or last
We come to the park each day
Looking forward to another fray
Because we know you’ll be there
We know you really care
You give the opposing pitcher fits
Because as one loyalist shouts, ‘Everybody hits’
To be sure in Philly, there might be some boos
Because you passionate fans, like the manager, hate to lose
Your reaction to the action on the field that you impart
Spurs us as broadcasters to call the game with enthusiasm and heart
We feel your passion through and through
Philadelphia fans, I love you.

-Harry Kalas

Christie Challenges NJ School Districts

In a letter distributed Tuesday, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie called on local school districts and education associations to come to the table to work together in finding cost savings and new efficiencies, spending reductions, and budget solutions that protect education in the classroom and prevent property tax increases.
“While the budget challenges for school districts across the state are significant, they are not insurmountable. Achieving the needed savings and finding budgetary stability will require all parties to step up, pitch in, and work toward the common goal of protecting our educational priorities,” said Governor Chris Christie. “I’m confident this middle road can be found if school districts and local education associations come to the table, find common ground, and act quickly to find the difficult, but needed savings in these budgets.”
Through the Department of Education, Governor Christie has already directed the Executive County Superintendents to exercise their authority to closely examine school district budgets that have been submitted in order to identify and disapprove excessive administrative spending and budgeted expenditures that are not essential to education.
“In these difficult economic times, we cannot afford to overlook savings that can be achieved through reductions in administrative and non-educational spending. The Executive County Superintendents, in cooperation with Commissioner Schundler, will be working with school districts to achieve savings in those areas first,” added Governor Christie.
In addition to cutting spending that is not essential to education, Governor Christie called on school boards and local education associations to act on the following cost-savings initiatives prior to April 3, the final date by which all school boards must have their budgets adopted:
· Implementing a salary freeze for fiscal year 2011 in all collective bargaining agreements; · Requiring that school district employees make contributions to their health benefits that equal those required of State employees under the New Jersey State Health Benefits Program. These are the types of concessions and shared sacrifice being asked of all public employees. Senate Bill 3, signed into law yesterday, requires a minimum contribution to health benefits no later than upon the expiration of all public employee contracts.
The new law will save local taxpayers an estimated $314 million in the coming fiscal year.
By extending a similar contribution requirement to all public employees, including those covered by existing contracts, additional savings can be achieved and, together with a one year salary freeze, mitigate any anticipated property tax increases and avert cuts to classroom instruction.

Additionally, Governor Christie has instructed Education Commissioner Schundler to issue guidelines to each school district to implement this call to action. These guidelines will provide a framework for districts and bargaining units to work together, find common ground, and identify the needed reform and savings to protect the quality of education for New Jersey children.

This IS The World's Cutest Dog!

By popular demand: Here he is again.
His name is Moose.
And, as far as we're concerned, he really is the world's cutest dog.
Moose is a Lancashire Heeler and he belongs to Adam Cirucci.
He's not only cute but he's also remarkably lovable and affectionate.
Yet, since he's a herder dog, he's also a wonderful (and surprisingly rugged) outdoor dog. He loves to run in the woods or race along the riverbank.
And he's very bright and inquisitive. He has a habit of getting his nose into all sorts of business. He also learns commands rather quickly but is perfectly capable of having a mind of his own.
Above all, he is a very loyal pup -- grateful for the care and attention that has been lavished on him, attentive to his master, ever eager to please and always ready to brighten the day.
In short, he's easy to love.
And it's perfectly fine if you feel that your dog is the cutest and if you have all these feelings and more when you think of your pet.
We wouldn't expect anything less.
That's as it should be and all's right with the world!

Healthcare: Many Stood Tall!

Many members of Congress did themselves proud during the health care debate.
Among them was Rep Thaddeus McCotter. Bravo!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Runyan: Pelosi Must Go

Join Team Runyan from Runyan for Congress on Vimeo.

Jon Runyan is getting his message out.
And there's no mistake about where he stands.
He comes across as strong, determined and down to earth.
Yes, he's running for Congress in South Jersey and, from every indication he will be a formidable candidate. This is going to be exciting.
Stay tuned!

Biden Drops F Bomb, Again

Listen closely to this clip. Very closely.
What's wrong with Joe Biden?
Why does he insist on using disgusting and profane language?
Why can't he bring himself to attach some semblance of dignity and decorum to his office?
And why doesn't anyone reign him in?
Or is the the kind of language that's the norm at the White House now?
We know that Rahm Emanuel and others on the President's staff drop the F bomb frequently. It seems it's become a sort of badge of honor in the West Wing.
But, honestly -- can no one control Biden?
Must he always make a fool of himself?
How many insults, gaffs, malaprops, mess ups and profane words and phrases must we endure?

Healthcare: Many Stood Tall!

From the CCGOP Chairman's Blog:

On Sunday, Congressman Frank A. LoBiondo (who has always paid for his own healthcare insurance, and has never accepted the taxpayer-funded plan offered to Members of Congress) issued the following statement prior to voting NO on the healthcare reform bill:

“Today’s vote is historic in that it is a missed opportunity to truly reign in health insurance costs, increase quality of care, and really improve the healthcare system for countless Americans.

“President Obama and the Congress could have and should have crafted bipartisan solutions to make healthcare more affordable and more accessible for everyone. We could have and should have already enacted common-sense policies such as allowing insurance to be bought across state lines, repealing the anti-trust exemption for insurance companies, medical malpractice reform, and removing restrictions on coverage for those with preexisting conditions. The Democrat leadership made the calculated decision against this approach and thus, we have now arrived at this severely-flawed healthcare bill before us today.

“Regrettably, this bill takes away the choice for patients and doctors to decide the best course of treatment, while empowering more than 100 new bureaucracies and an unelected, unaccountable ‘health czar.’ This bill takes away the choice of individuals to decide if they even want health insurance coverage, while empowering the IRS to penalize and prosecute those who refuse. This is the absolutely wrong approach to our nation’s healthcare policy.

“After a year of national debate, town hall meetings and public theatre disguising as bipartisan outreach, this final legislation continues the same egregious provisions that South Jersey residents and the American people have long rejected. I cannot ignore the legitimate concerns of our healthcare providers; the negative impact to existing healthcare programs for our service members and veterans; the over $500 billion in cuts to Medicare which threaten our seniors; or the over $560 billion in tax increases on struggling small businesses and cash-strapped families. I cannot and do not support this bill.”

Monday, March 22, 2010

What To Do When March Madness Ends Early

So, yeah, just last week, last Thursday, a mere five days ago I listed the four, count 'em FOUR teams I would be rooting for in the NCAA tournament....

And then there were none.

By Saturday evening the last two standing, Wake Forest and Villanova had left me high and dry. Wake kept me up most of Thursday night with a spirited game against Texas only to curl up and die in the second round against Kentucky. And Villanova proved that sadly they were just as bad as they looked in the first round when they played St. Mary's on Saturday. Ugh! Brackets = busted. So what next?

Well, here is what I'll be doing now that I no longer have a stake in the tournament:

1.) Watching Be Good Johnny Weir - Mondays at 10:30 pm on Sundance or on On Demand.
Hey, don't knock it. Be Good Johnny Weir is surprisingly well... good! And not nearly as soul sucking and mind numbing as most other reality TV.
2.) Cooking recipes from The Pioneer Woman - The Pioneer Woman is my serious new obsession. Worse even that March Madness. The recipes, ah, the recipes - last week I made Baked Lemon Chicken, this week Springy Shells - delicious, hearty food that even I can make. Plus hilarious posts on life on the ranch, homeschooling and photography and best of all The Pioneer Woman's improbable love story. Ladies should read it to keep hope alive, guys should read it to learn what to do. If in doubt - just read it, ok?
3.) Reading Perfection by Julie Metz. Beautiful writing though the subject matter (the death of Metz's husband and subsequent discovery of his multiple affairs) can be tough, I am holding out for the happy (or even just happier) ending.

Is your team heading to the Sweet 16? If not what are you doing with your free time?

Toomey Denounces Obamacare Vote

U.S. Senate candidate Pat Toomey denounced the partisan House vote yesterday on a health care bill that does little to reform our broken health care system.
“The Democrats are declaring today’s vote historic, and they are right,” Mr. Toomey said. “For the first time in our history, one political party has used every trick in the book to force a brand new government entitlement program though Congress despite bipartisan opposition. The extreme politics of one-party rule has succeeded in passing a bill that will raise the cost of health care for many Americans, impose billions of dollars in new tax increases, and give government unprecedented power over people’s health care decisions. Today is not a cause for a celebration but a cause for concern about the state of our economy, our health care, and our political system.”
The bill:
  • Contains $569.2 billion in tax increases
  • Contains $523 billion in Medicare cuts
  • Uses accounting gimmicks to hide the true cost of the bill
  • Still contains a host of sweetheart deals, including special handouts for Louisiana, Montana, Connecticut, and Tennessee.
  • Will result in job losses by imposing a huge penalty on businesses that cannot afford to provide their workers with health coverage
  • Will result in a huge increase in health care premiums for individuals
“I pledge to the people of Pennsylvania,” Mr. Toomey continued, “that if I’m elected to the U.S. Senate, I will work to eliminate the job-killing tax increases, deficit spending, Medicare cuts, premium increases, and sweetheart deals in this bill, and replace them with commonsense bipartisan health care reforms that lower premiums, give doctors and patients more control of health care decisions, and do not further burden our troubled economy.”

Sunday, March 21, 2010

America's Connection To Ancient Rome

Our nation's founding fathers were fascinated by the stories, the heroes, the experiences and the art, architecture and culture of ancient Rome.
They borrowed freely from Roman literature and mythology and were inspired by the Roman republic and its system of laws and governance.
Our ties to the Roman empire are actually deeper and more enduring than you might suspect.
Ancient Rome & America, the wonderful new exhibition at Philadelphia's National Constitution Center, showcases the cultural, political, and social connections between the lost world of ancient Rome and modern America.
Rome, like the United States, overcame a monarchy to become a republic.
Long after the fall of ancient Rome, its heroes and legends have continued to influence future generations. From the battlefields of the revolution to the chambers of Congress, Rome became a part of America’s foundation. Through marble sculptures, paintings, jewelry, coins, and ceramics, Ancient Rome & America draws striking comparisons between Roman and American culture, from theories of government to slavery and civil war, to continental expansion and worldwide influence.
The exhibition features more than 300 artifacts from Italy and the United States, bringing together a never-before-seen collection from Italy’s leading archaeological institutions in Florence, Naples, and Rome, paired with objects from over 40 lending institutions in the United States. In this exhibition, you will view antiquities that you normally would not be able to see without traveling to Europe.
We've seen the exhibition and we can report that it is through, informative, illuminating and thought-provoking. In short, it's a real eye-opener.
Covering over 8,000 square feet, Ancient Rome and America is organized into five galleries: Introduction, Building a Republic, A Classical Revival, Expansion and Empire, and Epilogue.
This is an exhibition that is easily worth a significant investment of your time. It's really one of the largest and most substantial exhibitions that the NCC has ever hosted.
America and Ancient Rome runs through August 1 and the NCC is open seven days a week.
Don't miss it!

American Cars Most Dependable

For years, I've purchased American cars -- Ford and Mercury brands, to be exact.
And for years I've said they are good, reliable cars.
And for years I've also said that you don't have to buy a foreign brand.
And all along I've encouraged others top buy American.

Now from Bengt Halvorson at the Car Connection comes the proof of what I've been saying:
No, buying American won't get you an undependable disaster-on-wheels; in fact, it's likely to get you a more reliable, trouble-free car.In the latest proof of this, from marketing-information authority J.D. Power and Associates, seven of the ten models with the lowest number of problems, on average, come from Ford and GM.
That list of most dependable vehicles, from J.D. Power's 2010 Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS), includes the Buick LaCrosse, Buick Lucerne, Cadillac DTS, Ford Five Hundred, Lincoln MKZ, Mercury Milan, and Mercury Montego.
The study gauges dependability by counting problems experienced—broken into 198 different classifications—by the original owners (more than 52,000 in all) of three-year-old (2007 model year) vehicles. From that, J.D. Power calculates the total number of problems experienced per 100 vehicles to find overall dependability.
Power pointed out that Cadillac, Ford, Hyundai, Lincoln, and Mercury all do well in dependability but their consumer perceptions lag and these brands are often avoided as a result, as the firm has found in its annual Avoider Study. J.D. Power ranked vehicle models in 19 different segments, such as "large pickup" or "compact premium sporty car."

Saturday, March 20, 2010

NJ: Christie Pushes Tighter Budget

"I don't think you elected me for my matinee idol looks or my charm," Governor Chris Christie told a large crowd at the Mt, Laurel Public Library in South Jersey yesterday.
And then New Jersey's new governor added: "I think you elected a couple of former prosecutors as governor and lieutenant governor to turn things upside down in Trenton and clean up the mess."
And that's exactly what Christie says he intends to do.
Joined by Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno, Christie noted that both he and Guadagno have young children. "So, we care about education and we care about the future of our state," he explained. "And this job keeps you away from your kids more than you'd like. When my kids ask me someday why I wasn't there, I don't want to have to tell them that it was simply because I wanted to get my portrait on a wall in the State House with a brass plate under it. I took this job to do something, not to be something."
Christie told the crowd that, for New Jersey, "the day of reckoning is now."
"We have the second highest income tax in the nation; the second highest sales tax in the nation; the 16th highest business tax and the highest property tax," Christie explained. "We don't have a revenue problem in this state. We've got a taxing problem. And I'm not going to raise taxes just so government can continue to spend."
The Governor said the state must slash expenditures and he called for pension reform, civil service reform and local spending caps that would limit spending increases by municipalities to 2.5% per year. The cap would require an amendment to the state's constitution that would have to be approved by the state's voters in November.
Christie said that Massachusetts imposed such a cap 30 years ago and went from being one of the top five states in the nation in terms of property taxes to number 33 among the 50 states. "It can be done," Christie said.
But the Governor saved some of his keenest observations for the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA), the state's teacher's union. "They get about $730 in dues from each one of their more than 185,000 full time members," Christie said. "Do the math: It comes to more than
$100 million every year. Except for the State House, they've got the largest building in Trenton. They have a mighty big two-by-four to go after anybody who sticks his neck out to criticize them. And now that neck is mine."
But the Governor said he is undeterred.
He says it's wrong for the teachers to keep getting salary increases year after year while not contributing to their medical plans and reaping the benefits of a generous state pension.
He cited the Marlborough School District in Monmouth County where he says teachers closed the deal on a five year contract that gives them a 4.5% salary increase every year while maintaining a non-contributory health care plan.
"They say I want to cut education funding," Christie noted. "But this isn't about kids and education. It's about two classes of citizens: Those who get automatic salary increases and generous benefits for life and those who pay for it."
Christie said that government at every level must stop growing, stop spending and hold itself accountable to strict budgetary principals.
He pointed out that last year, during the worst recession in decades, local towns and municipalities across the state hired 11,3000 additional employees.
Meanwhile, over the past 20 years the state budget has increased 322%.
Now Christie and Guadagno have inherited a $10.7 billion budget deficit.
"This has got to stop," Christie concluded.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Runyan Kicks Off Campaign

Rarely have I seen the Republican Party as super-charged and united as I did last night when a huge crowd gathered at a hotel ballroom just off Exit 4 of the New Jersey Turnpike to hear pro football great Jon Runyan announce his candidacy for Congress.
Every media outlet in the region was on hand for the announcement and the room crackled with excitement as Big Jon stepped up to the microphone.
So, now it's official: Runyan will challenge freshman Democrat Congressman John Adler in a race that will be watched nationally.
This former Philadelphia Eagles star is a huge presence, in more ways than one. Runyan's got the name recognition, the backing and the money to be a formidable candidate in what has been a Republican district. The GOP in Burlington, Ocean and Camden counties have united behind Runyan to reclaim this seat in a district that stretches almost from the Delaware River and New Jersey's western border with Philadelphia on one side, clear across the state to the Atlantic Ocean on the other side.
There is no doubt about it: Runyan has star quality. He's a big, rugged, broad-shouldered guy. But one senses a human-sized sensitivity with this guy as well. Maybe it comes from all the community and charity work he's done.
And last night, Jon Runyan did not disappoint. He came across as articulate, attentive and knowledgeable.
Runyan says he's running for Congress because he's tired of career politicians spending freely, raising taxes, sending us into debt and expanding government at an alarming rate. And he wasted no time in pinning Adler (who served in the New Jersey State Senate for many years) to the failed policies of Governors Jim McGreevey (who was forced to resign in his first term) and Jon Corzine (who was thrown out of office after one term).
Yes, New Jersey's now in Big Trouble. The state is teetering on the brink of financial collapse.
And Runyan sees Adler as part of a group that's now bringing those same failed policies to Washington.
Runyan got a big laugh from the crowd when he pointed out that Adler's first vote as a Congressman was to elect Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House. Well, we all know how that turned out. Pelosi and her Democrat colleagues have managed to rack up the lowest approval ratings of any Congress in modern times.
There's something refreshingly unslick about Jon Runyan.
He doesn't seem calculated. He doesn't seem calibrated. He doesn't seem rehearsed.
You get the sense that he's doing this not to fulfill some kind of pre-ordained personal plan but because he really cares; because he wants to make a difference.
Let's put it this way: I don't think Jon Runyan spent grammar school or high school dreaming of serving in Congress some day.
And I can't imagine Jon Runyan answering to a political boss, just as I can't imagine anybody pushing this guy around.
Yes, Runyan's facing a tough challenger in Adler who is smart, clever and extremely well-financed. And yes, Adler will be buttressed by Big Labor and all the resources of the Democrat Party and its many related special interest groups. And yes, Adler has consistently triumphed by working very hard to get where he is.
But Runyan has fended off a few challenges and triumphed over a a few big opponents himself.
And he's done quite well, thank you. In fact, he's managed to go to the Super Bowl twice.
I wouldn't count him out.

Christie Again Vetoes NJ Expenditures

Moving forward in his effort to curtail unnecessary and inappropriate spending at state boards, commissions and authorities, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has exercised his eighth veto since taking office.
Yesterday, the Governor vetoed five professional services contracts approved by the New Jersey Turnpike Authority at its February 23, 2010 meeting.
“The New Jersey Turnpike Authority decided to approve contract costs that ignore New Jersey Administrative Code guidelines for negotiating fair and reasonable fees,” Governor Christie said. “We simply can no longer tolerate this unreasonable spending and must hold these agencies accountable for their actions.”
Governor Christie’s veto concerns the award of five contracts: $2.34 million to Churchill Consulting Engineers for supervision of construction services for certain guiderail improvements and pavement restoration contracts; $980,000 to Hill International for supervision of construction services for construction of the Holmdel Motor Vehicle Maintenance Facility and installation of the PNC Bank Arts Amphitheater improvements; $476,000 to KS Engineers, P.C. for supervision of construction services related to certain contracts for sign panel replacements and overhead variable message sign support structures fabrication; $735,200 to Dresder Robin Environmental Management, Inc for operation, maintenance and compliance monitoring of environmental remediation systems at the Montvale and Vauxhall service areas on the Garden State Parkway; and $545,000 to Hatch Mott MacDonald for operation, maintenance and compliance monitoring of environmental remediation systems at the Brookdale North and Brookdale South service areas on the Garden State Parkway.
The fees ranged from 11.5% to 84% higher than the fees proposed by other highly-ranked firms competing for the contracts.
“The Governor's action reinforces the kind of change that I've been working to bring to the Turnpike since the new administration took office,” said Transportation Commissioner Jim Simpson.
No veto power was exercised as to any other actions taken by the Authority at its meeting on February 23, 2010.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Who's Dead? Alive? Biden Doesn't Know!

Joe Biden is a national embarrassment.
His gaffes have now become the stuff of legend.
When he isn't trashing the State of Israel, he's making a damned fool of himself.
And when he IS trashing the State of Israel, he's doing the same thing.
He can't seem to open his mouth without looking and sounding like a horse's ass.

Remembering St..Joseph On His Day

Teacher Clara O' Sullivan arranges items of the St. Joseph's altar at St. Angela Merici School in Metairie (LA) last year. The school's fourth grade classes, under the direction of Clara O'Sullivan and Charlene Rouse, constructed the altar in preparation for St. Joseph's Day. St. Joseph altars date back to Sicily where they were first erected to thank St. Joseph for mitigating a famine.
New Orleans Times-Picayune

Tomorrow, March 19 is St. Joseph's Day.
St. Joseph's Day is to Italians what St. Patrick's Day is to the Irish. In fact, St. Joseph's Day is the Italian St. Patrick's Day.
St. Joseph's Day is a Roman Catholic feast day commemorating the life of St. Joseph, the foster father of Jesus and husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
People with very strong religious association, often those of southern Italian descent, typically celebrate St. Joseph's Day. March 19 is said to be St. Joseph's birthday.
During a famine in Sicily, when food was scarce and many people were starving, the poor people had only their faith to rely on. St. Joseph was known as the protector of the Holy Family and Italians had strong family relationships, so they prayed for St. Joseph to intercede for them so they could have successful crops.
Their prayers were answered, and the famine came to an end. In gratitude, people promised to make annual offerings of their most precious possession – food – in St. Joseph's honor.
Tomorrow, the faithful erect "St. Joseph Tables," which are set to honor St. Joseph. They are filled with beautiful and often elaborate foods, including meatless dishes such as stuffed artichokes, pasta and fish, as well as breads, cookies, pastries, cakes and other delicacies.
Each table is blessed by a priest and presided over by a statue of St. Joseph.
A stalk of lily blossoms, votive candles and a lace tablecloth are other typical items used to decorate the feast table.
When you visit a St. Joseph's table, you often receive gifts of fava beans and breads.
Fava beans play an integral part of the celebration because this was the food that saved the Sicilians from starvation. The bean is said to bring good luck, and it is believed that if the St. Joseph's bread is kept in the home, the family will never starve.

Who We'll Be Rooting for in the NCAA Tournament

We're lucky enough to have immediate family members who have graduated from all of these wonderful schools.

Go Owls!
Go Wildcats!
Go Commodores!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Toomey Bashes Obama On Israel

U.S. Senate candidate Pat Toomey has criticized the Obama Administration for its unusually harsh reaction to Israel’s decision to build new homes in Jerusalem, and contrasted that with the Administration’s feckless policies toward Iran.
Over the past year, the Obama Administration has put forth meaningless deadlines for Iran to meet regarding its brazen pursuit of nuclear weapons, only to turn a blind eye when Iran ignored those deadlines. Further, this administration has stood by largely silently as the Iranian theocratic dictators stamp out the pro-democracy movement within its midst. Pat Toomey has vigorously and repeatedly urged a stronger policy toward Iran (National Review Online, 10/15/09) (Morning Call, 12/04/09).
Now, the Obama Administration has plunged relations with Israel, our best ally in the region, to what is being called their lowest point in 35 years. And over what? Israel’s decision to build 1,600 homes for its citizens.
“Over the past year, we have watched the Obama Administration coddle Iran with meaningless gestures while the fanatics in Tehran continue their pursuit of nuclear weapons unabated,” Mr. Toomey said. “But when America’s strongest ally in the Middle East makes an internal decision about its own capital city, the administration unleashes a heavy barrage of denunciations.
There is something seriously wrong when President Obama gives Iran a free pass, but places excessive demands on Israel. It’s as if this administration sees Jewish homes in Jerusalem as a bigger threat to international peace than nuclear weapons in the hands of terrorists. It’s illogical and outrageous.”
Toomey continued, “The worst aspect of this unwise step by President Obama is that it will undoubtedly undermine the cause of a negotiated settlement to the Arab-Israeli conflict. "President Obama’s moves will embolden the radical elements among the Palestinians and their backers in Iran and Syria to insist on even more unilateral concessions from Israel, and to offer no concessions of their own.
"Obama has it exactly backwards – he should make it clear to the Palestinians that they can expect no progress in peace talks until they first meet the most basic commitments toward living in peace and security alongside Israel.”

Christie: We Will Do What We Promised

Here are key excerpts from New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's Budget Address yesterday:

“Today, we are fulfilling the promise of a smaller government that lives within its means. Today, we begin doing what we promised we would do. The defenders of the status quo have already begun to yell and scream. They will try to demonize me. They will seek to divide us rather than unite us. But even they know in their hearts, if not yet in their minds – it is time for a change.

“Never forget, some of those shouting the loudest are the architects of the disaster we are now suffering. Do we really want another decade of economic failure? No, this spring it is time to clear away the underbrush to make room for growth.

“So, today, we stop sweeping problems under the rug. We will not hide our problems until another day. And we are certainly not increasing the tax burden we place upon our people.

“Today, we are taking necessary and decisive action to reduce state spending and reform state government. The problems we have hidden for twenty years are evident for all to see. The day of reckoning has arrived.

“We did not dig the hole in which we find ourselves in a day or a year. The massive gap between our resources and our appetite has built up over twenty years. It has been dug by a lack of discipline and unwillingness to say no; made deeper by poor policy choices along the way and quick fixes to avoid tough decisions.

“And now that hole is a grand canyon. The distance between New Jersey’s projected revenues for next year and the state’s spending obligations under current law, if nothing is changed, is $10.7 billion. As a percentage of the prior fiscal year’s $29 billion budget, it is a massive deficit – the largest deficit of any state in America, and the largest in our own history – by far. No fiscal crisis we have had in New Jersey’s history compares to this one.

“My budget proposes to review state government from top to bottom, and bring it under control. My budget proposes that we reform the way New Jersey government operates; and that we demand reform from the local governments we fund as well.

“My budget proposes that we end the days when New Jersey is a national leader in per person taxes, per person debt, and unemployment – and that we instead turn New Jersey into a national leader in job creation, growth, and opportunity.

“The time for change has arrived, and it is time to get to work.

“This plan requires sacrifice by all New Jerseyans. But it is a shared sacrifice. And while holding the line is difficult today, it is necessary for a better tomorrow.

“The watchwords of this budget are shared sacrifice and fairness. Individuals contribute, businesses sacrifice, local governments tighten their belts, and we end our addiction to spending. Everyone comes to the center of the room – we jump off the cliff together to stave off certain fiscal death for the hope of economic salvation tomorrow.”

Christie Proposes "Tough Medicine"

Faced with the daunting combination of a soaring deficit years in the making and the continued effects of the national recession, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has proposed a $29.3 billion state budget that fundamentally alters spending habits while preserving core services and social safety nets and advancing fiscal reforms to put New Jersey back on the path to prosperity.

Chief among the Governor’s proposed reforms – to shield taxpayers from excessive local spending and tax increases – is a constitutional amendment to impose hard caps of 2.5 percent on municipal, county and school district property tax increases. Combined with other reforms, including those planned for public employee pension and health benefits, Governor Christie is providing municipalities and school districts a tool kit of reforms to control spending and property taxes.

“It is time for every level of government to accept the severity of our fiscal problems, understand and take responsibility for what got us here, and resolve to fix the problems through a fundamental shift in priorities and thinking,” Governor Christie said. “It will not be easy, and it will certainly make some people unhappy. But the alternative – more budget tricks and gimmickry to mask our fiscal problems – risks leaving our children and our children’s children with a legacy of crushing debt and economic decline.”

Governor Christie’s Fiscal Year 2011 Budget proposal, as announced today before a joint session of the Legislature, cuts spending across hundreds of state programs and operations, reducing the current year anticipated state-supported spending of $29.86 billion by $1.6 billion or 5.3 percent. It is also $2.9 billion or 8.9 percent less than the adjusted FY 2010 appropriation of $32.1 billion, when non-recurring federal stimulus funding is included.

From a full-funding starting point, all reductions amount to more than $10.73 billion, illustrating the severity of the structural budget deficit that resulted from the relentless expansion of state government over the last decade. Debt growth has accelerated under the crushing, cumulative weight of our overgenerous pension and benefits obligations, aid increases to municipalities and schools have flowed without reform, and the chronic use of debt and non-recurring funding sources have hobbled the budget balancing process.

Even under these enormous fiscal pressures, the budget proposal strives to protect those who are most in need. The budget:

• Preserves the health care safety net by increasing hospital Charity Care from $605 million to $665 million;

• Continues enrollment and benefits for all eligible children into both Medicaid and NJ FamilyCare;

• Preserves access to medications for seniors by maintaining program eligibility for prescription drugs;

• Expands the food stamp program to 185 percent of the federal poverty level;

• Continues to maintain funding for welfare grants to families; and

• Keeps New Jersey parks and beaches open.

The budget proposal reforms and converts the Homestead Rebate Program into a direct property tax credit that ends the costly and fiscally irresponsible practice of borrowing more than a billion dollars each year to send out checks.

School and Municipal Aid

Closing the funding gap, however, still meant extremely difficult choices that will impact funding to municipalities and schools. Nonetheless, Governor Christie seeks to implement meaningful reforms that will blunt the impact of these aid reductions.

Faced with the loss of more than $1 billion in federal stimulus funds used as one-time funding for education, this year’s spending plan dedicates nearly $70 million more in state funds to education aid than last year. Still, the use of stimulus funds last year without a plan for replacing that funding means New Jersey school districts will face a net reduction of $820 million. Great care was taken to ensure that no one school district would lose more in formula aid than 4.99 percent of its original Fiscal 2010 budget.

The proposed budget finds savings from a $446 million reduction in municipal and county aid. The municipal aid decline was filtered to ensure that communities would see no more than a $250 increase in local property tax bills. At the same time municipalities, local school districts and higher education institutions will be given a Tool Kit of mandate relief and regulatory flexibility that includes:

• Constitutional caps on spending and local taxes,

• Pension and benefits reform,

• Civil service reform,

• Collective bargaining reform, and

• Management reform

Budget savings totaling $2.85 billion appear across virtually every state program and department and the Legislature. To balance the budget, the Administration also had to forgo a more than $3 billion contribution to the state’s defined benefits plan. These are not choices the governor wants to make, but tough medicine is needed because the disease is so severe.

“There is no sugar-coating this budget,” said Governor Christie. “It is a painful but vital step if our state is to regain its financial and economic footing. We are truly at a crossroads. We must make the right choices, come together and act decisively at this place in time or forfeit an opportunity that may never come again. We cannot allow a lack of vision, courage or political will to supplant the responsibility we owe to our citizens and our children.”

AIPAC: Obama Statements 'Of Serious Concern'

An important message from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC):
The Obama Administration's recent statements regarding the U.S. relationship with Israel are a matter of serious concern.
AIPAC calls on the Administration to take immediate steps to defuse the tension with the Jewish State. Israel is America's closest ally in the Middle East.
The foundation of the U.S-Israel relationship is rooted in America's fundamental strategic interest, shared democratic values, and a long-time commitment to peace in the region.
Those strategic interests, which we share with Israel, extend to every facet of American life and our relationship with the Jewish State, which enjoys vast bipartisan support in Congress and among the American people.
The Administration should make a conscious effort to move away from public demands and unilateral deadlines directed at Israel, with whom the United States shares basic, fundamental, and strategic interests.
The escalated rhetoric of recent days only serves as a distraction from the substantive work that needs to be done with regard to the urgent issue of Iran's rapid pursuit of nuclear weapons, and the pursuit of peace between Israel and all her Arab neighbors.
We strongly urge the Administration to work closely and privately with our partner Israel, in a manner befitting strategic allies, to address any issues between the two governments.
As Vice President Biden said last week in Israel, "The cornerstone of the relationship is our absolute, total, unvarnished commitment to Israel's security. Bibi, you heard me say before, progress occurs in the Middle East when everyone knows there is simply no space between the United States and Israel. There is no space between the United States and Israel when it comes to Israel's security."

Christie Launches Budget Web Page

In conjunction with his budget address, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has launched a new web page dedicated to keeping the citizens of New Jersey informed about the budget reform process. The Rebuilding New Jersey’s Economy Webpage will have documents and applications available to the public including:

· Video of Governor Christie’s budget address

· Speech transcripts

· Video messages from various department commissioners

· Budget solutions

· Press releases

· Frequently asked questions and answers

The webpage will be continually updated as Governor Christie and the state departments implement their solutions for FY 2011.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Photos: Big Anti-Obamacare Rally At Congressman's Office

I've just returned from a huge anti-Obamacare rally where hundreds of ordinary citizens gathered outside the office of New Jersey Congressman John Adler in Marlton.
Their message to the freshman Congressman was simple: NO Obamacare; start over; go back to the drawing board; we don't want it!
These citizens told me they've had it with backroom deals, secret giveaways, deceitful tactics and government power grabs.
They're disgusted. They're angry. They're resentful. And they demand to be heard.
Many of them wore buttons that said "Listen to me."
And their signs (more than I could ever document here) tell the story.
While the demonstration continued, hundreds of drivers honked their car horns or yelled out support as they drove by.
If you look at the people in the photos, you will see that they do not appear to be "kooks" or "radicals." They're ordinary, hard-working taxpayers.
For the record, Congressman Adler voted against Obamacare last time and he says he will vote against the Senate bill this time According to this mornings Courier-Post newspaper, however, Adler "left open the possibility of supporting the bill that would make fixes to the Senate bill, if it includes more cost-containment measures."
Adler was said to be in Washington today and was not at his Marlton office. Nonetheless, members of his staff were available on site and were courteously soliciting input from the demonstrators.
It's no secret that Adler faces a tough re-election battle in November.
This demonstration should send a clear message to other members of Congress: If you voted "yes" last time, you'd better change your vote. And even if you voted "no" last time, the pressure on you will continue.
BTW: Americans for Prosperity and its New Jersey chapter under the direction of Steve Lonnegan helped to organize this event today.