Thursday, February 28, 2013

Christie Acts To Help NJ Shore Prepare For Summer

Taking action to support shore businesses as they make preparations for the 2013 tourism season, Governor Chris Christie today signed Executive Order No. 126 allowing seasonal alcoholic beverage licensees to begin serving alcohol on March 1, two months ahead of the traditional allowance of May 1.

“Some of the most adverse effects in terms of lost commerce and economic activity from Superstorm Sandy were on our shore businesses that rely on seasonal alcoholic beverage licenses. These small businesses were unable to remain open for the full extent typically permitted under their licenses – May until mid-November – because of the mandatory evacuations, power outages, and other disruptions caused by Sandy through difficult weeks,” said Governor Christie. “We’ve listened to our small business community on the shore and are taking action today to deliver relief this season by providing for a two-month expansion for seasonal alcoholic beverage licensees, allowing them to begin opening and conducting business beginning on March 1 rather than waiting until the typical May 1 start.”

Under the provision of the Executive Order, for calendar year 2013, the date on which seasonal alcoholic beverage consumption licensees shall be permitted to commence serving alcoholic beverages shall be advanced from May 1, 2013 to March 1, 2013 and shall end on November 14, 2013, inclusive.

A First! NJ Latino Alliance Endorses GOP's Christie

The Latino Leadership Alliance PAC (LLA-PAC), the political arm of the Latino Leadership Alliance of NJ (LLANJ) offered an historic endorsement today of Governor Christie's re-election campaign. The traditionally Democrat-leaning group, and most prominent Latino organization in New Jersey, previously backed Democrat Jon Corzine in 2009 and has never before backed a Republican candidate for any statewide office. Additionally, the Alliance has never endorsed a gubernatorial candidate of either party with the full, unanimous backing.

Today's important endorsement is a clear indication that Governor Christie understands the importance of building and incorporating all coalitions in order to better solve today's issues. Our shared prosperity, not only in the state of New Jersey, but in our great country, lies not only in our industries and our businesses but also in our great diversity. It is important that Republicans, as a national party, continue to forge these partnerships in our communities in order to make our party as diverse as the population it seeks to represent.

“We are heartened that we finally have a Governor who is truly committed to
ensuring that New Jersey government is as diverse as the State's population...
The Governor is effective because he has been able to set aside rigid partisan
political boundaries to address the needs of the people, from the victims of
Hurricane Sandy, to the needs of small businessmen and women. Governor
Christie has demonstrated without a doubt that he understands the needs of
the Latino community." - Martin Pérez, President of the Latino Leadership Alliance of NJ

The Star Ledger: Christie says Republicans need to do more to appeal to Hispanic Voters
“It’s been the Republican Party that has always stood at the forefront of choice for parents on educational opportunity and it’s been the Republican Party that has always believed in the rights of the individual,” the governor said. “And that everyone here in the Latino community, a community that is steeped in faith, understands that our faith in the country comes from the power of the individual to be able to pursue their faith openly, vigorously, and in way they believe helps to build and strengthen their families.” see full article here

Politico: Chris Christie: Republicans Must Welcome Latinos
"Christie joins other Republicans who have called for the GOP to do more to include Latinos, which they view as a key constituency for elections...his message seems to have be met with open arms [as] he picked up a gubernatorial endorsement from Latino Leadership Alliance Political Action Committee..." read full article here

White House: Phony Is As Phony Does . . .

Vatican Radio: 'The See Of Rome Is Vacant'

From Vatican Radio
As of 8 PM Rome Time (19:00 GMT) Thursday, February 28th, 2013, the See of Rome is vacant.
The Pope emeritus, Benedict XVI, is temporarily residing at Castel Gandolfo, in the palace used by Popes as a summer retreat. When renovations on the monastery inside the walls of Vatican City are complete, Benedict XVI will take up residence there.
Though he has renounced the office of Bishop of Rome, along with all its powers and responsibilities, the Pope emeritus keeps the name he took at the beginning of his reign: Benedict XVI.
He also continues to be styled, His Holiness.
Click here to read more.

Newman Society: Join In Prayer As Pope Departs

A special message from the Cardinal Newman Society:

Today Pope Benedict XVI steps down from the papacy. With great love for our holy and wise professor-pope, whose leadership and teaching have meant so much to Catholic families and educators, we offer him three things today:

1. Please join us in the prayer composed by The Cardinal Newman Society's chaplain. (For a prayer card, send us your address.)

2. Tim Drake reports on reflections on Pope Benedict's legacy by Catholic college presidents.

3. Our pledge to Pope Benedict: the work he so fervently encouraged--the renewal of faithful Catholic education--will go on!

In this our 20th anniversary, The Cardinal Newman Society is committed to redoubling our efforts to promote and defend the best of Catholic education.

And we're joined by faithful Catholic educators nationwide. If you're near Benedictine College in Kansas today, be sure to listen for the bell ringing in honor of the Pope. Or look for academic events studying Benedict's legacy at Ave Maria University and other Newman Guide colleges.

Each of us can do his part in service to God and His Church. Today we do it in tribute to our beloved Pope Benedict. May God bless our Holy Father!

- Patrick J. Reilly, President

Who's Behind Those Threats From The White House?

In addition to Bob Woodward, Lanny Davis now says that he was threatened by a "senior White House official" lest he criticize the administration. We're betting that the "senior official' responsible for the alleged threats is none other than Valerie Jarrett and that her name will eventually be revealed. 
This woman has reportedly been out of control for quite some time and arguably, she should have never, ever been placed in such a powerful position. 
Sadly, she seems to reflect the tone of the White House these days. 
Surely a new low.

Video: Pope's Final Address To Cardinals In Rome

Greeting the College of Cardinals in the Vatican on Thursday morning, Pope Benedict XVI repeated that the Church is in the world, but not of it. 
The Holy Father took leave of his closest collaborators, remembering that it was a joy to walk together over the years and expressing the hope that the College might, like an orchestra, achieve a higher harmony and concord. 
As for the Church, he repeated the words of the theologian Romano Guardini, who wrote that it is a living reality, always becoming, but whose deepest nature remains always the same. 
Benedict XVI concluded by promising obedience and reverence to the new Pope.

Benedict XVI: Final Address To Cardinals In Rome

Here is the Pope's final address to the assembled College of Cardinals in Rome:

Dear beloved brothers,

I welcome you all with great joy and cordially greet each one of you. I thank Cardinal Angelo Sodano [dean of the college], who as always, has been able to convey the sentiments of the College,Cor ad cor loquitur [heart speaking to heart]. Thank you, Your Eminence, from my heart.

And referring to the disciples of Emmaus, I would like to say to you all that it has also been a joy for me to walk with you over the years in light of the presence of the Risen Lord. As I said yesterday, in front of thousands of people who filled St. Peter's Square, your closeness, your advice, have been a great help to me in my ministry. In these 8 years we have experienced in faith beautiful moments of radiant light in the Churches’ journey along with times when clouds have darkened the sky. We have tried to serve Christ and his Church with deep and total love which is the soul of our ministry. We have gifted hope that comes from Christ alone, and which alone can illuminate our path. Together we can thank the Lord who has helped us grow in communion, to pray to together, to help you to continue to grow in this deep unity so that the College of Cardinals is like an orchestra, where diversity, an expression of the universal Church, always contributes to a superior harmony of concord. I would like to leave you with a simple thought that is close to my heart, a thought on the Church, Her mystery, which is for all of us, we can say, the reason and the passion of our lives. I am helped by an expression of Romano Guardini’s, written in the year in which the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council approved the Constitution Lumen Gentium, his last with a personal dedication to me, so the words of this book are particularly dear to me.

Guardini says: "The Church is not an institution devised and built at table, but a living reality. She lives along the course of time by transforming Herself, like any living being, yet Her nature remains the same. At Her heart is Christ. "

This was our experience yesterday, I think, in the square. We could see that the Church is a living body, animated by the Holy Spirit, and truly lives by the power of God, She is in the world but not of the world. She is of God, of Christ, of the Spirit, as we saw yesterday. This is why another eloquent expression of Guardini’s is also true: "The Church is awakening in souls." The Church lives, grows and awakens in those souls which like the Virgin Mary accept and conceive the Word of God by the power of the Holy Spirit. They offer to God their flesh and in their own poverty and humility become capable of giving birth to Christ in the world today. Through the Church the mystery of the Incarnation remains present forever. Christ continues to walk through all times in all places. Let us remain united, dear brothers, to this mystery, in prayer, especially in daily Eucharist, and thus serve the Church and all humanity. This is our joy that no one can take from us.

Prior to bidding farewell to each of you personally, I want to tell you that I will continue to be close to you in prayer, especially in the next few days, so that you may all be fully docile to the action of the Holy Spirit in the election of the new Pope. May the Lord show you what is willed by Him. And among you, among the College of Cardinals, there is also the future Pope, to whom, here to today, I already promise my unconditional reverence and obedience. For all this, with affection and gratitude, I cordially impart upon you my Apostolic Blessing.

About That CPAC 'Snub' Of Chris Christie . . .

Some people have been asking us what we think of CPAC's "snub" of Chris Christie inasmuch as the Governor has not been invited to address this year's Conservative Political Action Committee conference upcoming in Washington.
Well, we're not sure Christie was planning on attending CPAC in the first place. 
In any event, we don't think it's a big deal. 
It's CPAC's conference. They can invite (or not invite) who they want or don't want. When we think of CPAC we don't automatically think of Christie. We think of people like Ron Paul, Ted Cruz, Gingrich,  Palin, Santorum -- people like that. 
Yes,  we're goin to CPAC. Do we agree with everything they put out or embrace? Of course not. But they are a part of our set of beliefs and they are a part of the conservative cause. 
Course, we still love Christie and regard him as a conservative. 
But we also believe that "conservative" is big enough to embrace it all -- or should be.
It's far too early to debate which possible 2016 candidates will win the favor or conservatives.
This will all be sorted out in the next three years and in the primaries.
Christie's advantage is that he's proven that he can attract middle-of-the-road voters and Rs and Ds.
But Bush and Rubio can probably also attract middle-of--roaders. And there are also other Republicans who can do that
Ryan may be problematic only because he is now associated with a losing ticket. 
Fortunately, the GOP has a very strong bench coming up -- strong and diverse. 
The Republican Party is a strong, vibrant party and it's not about to wither away. 
On the other hand, the Dems have only two cards to play: Biden or Hillary; both old and overexposed 
(a couple of beat-up old boomer and pre-boomer/liberals). 
Christie needs to move to the center now to win NJ big. And he will. 
Then he will reposition himself if he decides to go to the Big Dance. It's all strategy (or strategery, as W called it). 
It'll all work itself out. 
The GOP will be fine.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Video: The Pope's Commemorative Message To Faithful

Good evening to all of you and thank you for coming! Many thanks as well to Catholic Action for having organized tonight's vigil.

Fifty years ago tonight, I, too, was in this square, with my eyes turned toward this window, as the Good Pope, Pope John, spoke to us those unforgettable words – full of poetry, of goodness, words from his heart. We were all happy that night and full of enthusiasm – the great ecumenical council had begun, and we were sure of a new springtime for the church, a new Pentecost with a new presence of the liberating grace of the Gospel.

We're happy today, too – we should carry joy in our hearts. I would say, however, that our joy is a more sober one, something more humble. Over these fifty years, we have learned and experienced that original sin exists, and that it translates itself into personal sins which can become structures of sin. We have seen that even in the Lord's field there is discord, that even in the net of Peter we find bad fish, that human weakness is present even in the church, that the ship of the church journeys in the face of an opposing wind, amid storms that threaten the ship. And sometimes we have thought that 'the Lord is asleep and has forgotten us.' But this is only one part of the experience of these fifty years. We've also been made to experience the presence of the Lord, the gifts of his goodness and strength.

The fire of the Holy Spirit, the fire of Christ is never one that devours nor a destructive one. It's a quiet fire, a small flame of goodness, of goodness and truth, that transforms with its light and warmth.
We have seen that the Lord doesn't forget us – even today, his way is humble. The Lord is present, he gives warmth to our hearts, shows us life, creates charisms of goodness and charity that shine in our world, which are for us a guarantee of the goodness of God.
Yes, Christ lives with us today and we can be happy because, even now, his goodness remains and is strong. And finally, I dare to make my own the unforgettable words of Pope John: 'When you go home, give your children a kiss and tell them that it's from the Pope.'
With this sense from my whole heart, let me give you my blessing....
Goodnight to you all – thank you!

Classic Christie: The BEST Thing About Being The Gov.

New Jersey Governor Chris  Christie today at a town hall meeting in Morristown.

Pope Benedict's Final General Audience

Vatican Radio has provided a translation of the Pope Benedict XVI's last General Audience of his pontificate to a packed Saint Peter's Square.

Here is an except from the General Audience:

"In recent months, I felt that my strength had decreased, and I asked God with insistence in prayer to enlighten me with His light to make me take the right decision – not for my sake, but for the good of the Church. I have taken this step in full awareness of its severity and also its novelty, but with a deep peace of mind. Loving the Church also means having the courage to make difficult, trying choices, having ever before oneself the good of the Church and not one’s own.

"Here allow me to return once again to April 19, 2005. The gravity of the decision was precisely in the fact that from that moment on I was committed always and forever by the Lord. Always – he, who assumes the Petrine ministry no longer has any privacy. He belongs always and totally to everyone, to the whole Church. His life is, so to speak, totally deprived of the private sphere. I have felt, and I feel even in this very moment, that one receives one’s life precisely when he offers it as a gift. I said before that many people who love the Lord also love the Successor of Saint Peter and are fond of him, that the Pope has truly brothers and sisters, sons and daughters all over the world, and that he feels safe in the embrace of their communion, because he no longer belongs to himself, but he belongs to all and all are truly his own.

"The 'always' is also a 'forever' - there is no returning to private life. My decision to forgo the exercise of active ministry, does not revoke this. I do not return to private life, to a life of travel, meetings, receptions, conferences and so on. I do not abandon the cross, but remain in a new way near to the Crucified Lord. I no longer wield the power of the office for the government of the Church, but in the service of prayer I remain, so to speak, within St. Peter’s bounds. St. Benedict, whose name I bear as Pope, shall be a great example in this for me. He showed us the way to a life which, active or passive, belongs wholly to the work of God.

"I thank each and every one of you for the respect and understanding with which you have welcomed this important decision. I continue to accompany the Church on her way through prayer and reflection, with the dedication to the Lord and to His Bride, which I have hitherto tried to live daily and that I would live forever. I ask you to remember me before God, and above all to pray for the Cardinals, who are called to so important a task, and for the new Successor of Peter, that the Lord might accompany him with the light and the power of His Spirit.

To read the entire transcript, click here.

Governor Chris Christie's Complete Budget Address

Following is Governor Chris Christie's complete Budget Address to the New Jersey State Legislature:

Lt. Governor Guadagno, Madam Speaker, Mr. President, members of the Legislature, fellow New Jerseyans:

I am pleased to present to you my budget for Fiscal Year 2014.

The budget continues a journey you began with me three years ago – to get New Jersey’s house in order; to turn Trenton upside down; to make hard but better choices so that we could put our state back on a path to growth.

For the fourth year in a row, the budget maintains the fiscal discipline we need to restore New Jersey. Fiscal sanity has indeed returned to Trenton.

For the fourth year in a row, this budget is balanced and imposes no tax increases on the people of New Jersey. I want every New Jersey citizen to remember just how different things were before we arrived. 115 tax and fee increases in eight years. Skyrocketing spending. $13 billion in deficits left on our doorstep by the irresponsibility of the past.

We must never take for granted what we have already achieved. Reduced spending. New jobs. Balanced budgets four years in a row. And lower taxes. It is truly a new day for New Jersey.

For the fourth year in a row, the budget funds the key initiatives necessary to rebuild our state and restore our prospects for future growth and greatness.

It provides a record amount of funding for our schools.

It once again fully funds the pension contribution we agreed to in the landmark pension reform we enacted together in 2011. In fact, no previous governor has contributed what we have contributed to our pension fund.

This budget also triples our job creating business tax cuts and incentives for growth that we put in place two years ago.

It also provides for those most in need: our lowest-income families, those with chronic illnesses, and people with developmental disabilities.

In total, the budget I am submitting to you today provides $32.9 billion in state spending. While we are meeting the needs of our people in this budget, we are doing it by spending less than the state spent in Fiscal Year 2008. Let me repeat that for you. Six years later, a budget that still spends less. Where else is this happening in America? This is what happens when you have a government that tells people the truth, that makes the hard choices and actually manages our government.

When we looked around four years ago, we saw New Jersey in dire straits. Remember?

Jobs and families were leaving the state. Property taxes had increased 70% in the previous ten years. The state had increased taxes and fees 115 times in the prior eight years. The budget was in deficit even though the state had increased its debt nearly tenfold in the prior two decades.

We knew what we had to do. The results of the old path of higher taxes and higher spending were all around us -- and they were disastrous. As the late, great General Norman Schwarzkopf once said, “The truth of the matter is that you always know the right thing to do. The hard part is doing it.”

Those who were supposed to be responsible for controlling taxes and spending before we came to office fundamentally deceived the people of our state. They said yes to everything – yes to higher taxes. Yes to more spending. We must not return to that era of recklessness and deceit.

Starting three years ago, the people of New Jersey rolled up their sleeves and we did it, we did it together.

We knew we needed to get state government spending under control. Together, we recovered from an era of taxes and deficits; restored balance to our finances; and rebuilt those things that will contribute to economic health in the future.

First, we immediately impounded $2.1 billion in reckless spending by the previous administration and its legislative budget leaders and balanced the Fiscal Year 2010 Budget with no new taxes. 

We then quickly proposed a Fiscal Year 2011 Budget that had real cuts in every single department of state government and balanced an $11 billion budget deficit. Once again, we did it without raising taxes on the people of New Jersey. We also laid the groundwork for better choices ahead. We were able to put forward budgets in Fiscal Year 2012 and 2013 that held the line on spending but provided needed amounts for priorities like our children’s schools and reformed pensions.

Now, the results are clear. New Jersey has turned around, and is growing again.  

What hasn’t grown is government. In fact, government has shrunk. Today there are 5,200 fewer state government employees than when we took office. In fact, there are over 20,000 fewer government employees across all levels of government. We promised smaller government to our people and we delivered.

The private sector and the private economy are a much different story. They have grown. Since January 2010, New Jersey has added 103,000 new private sector jobs. The last two years – 2011 and 2012 – have been the best two years of private sector job growth since 1999. We have defeated New Jersey’s jobless decade through fiscal responsibility and pro-growth tax policies.

This budget will help continue that growth. The budget provides additional tax relief for the engine of our economy – small business. This marks the third year of implementing the bipartisan, job-creating tax reforms we enacted together and keeps us on the path to provide more than $2 billion in tax relief to business in New Jersey.

And this budget is balanced without gimmicks. In the past, too often the deficit was declared closed one year only to reappear the next when the band-aids were peeled off. No more. The state’s reliance on one-time revenues has been dramatically reduced – they made up 13% of the budget under the budget leaders four years ago. Today, it is only 3% of the budget that I put before you. We have done the hard work to put us on the path to responsible and priority-focused budgets. No gimmicks this year means less trouble and better choices next year, and in our future.

Mark Twain once joked, “Always do right. It will gratify some and astonish the rest.”

By doing right, by taking on the hard choices together, we have made our choices better today.

Just three years ago, our pension system was in ruins. Governors and the budget leaders in the legislature had been making little or no contributions. The system was not sustainable.  Our police officers, our firefighters and our teachers were right to ask if their pensions would even be there when they retired.

Together, on a bipartisan basis, we enacted needed and historic pension and health benefit reforms. By making modest, but important and sensible changes to retirement age and incentives, to COLAs, to contributions from government employees, we saved the taxpayers $120 billion and put the pension system on much more sound footing. And we have continued to invest wisely in a diversified fashion, outperforming most other states and large endowments. 

Today, our pension system is on a path to restored health. So I can say with confidence and some pride to you today that this budget contains a record pension payment by the state: $1.676 billion for Fiscal Year 2014, the largest pension contribution ever made by New Jersey. This will fund the third year of the landmark, bipartisan pension reform we enacted two years ago, and on the terms we agreed to. 

And one message to those naysayers and perpetual cynics who refused to fund the pension on their own watch and opposed our reforms to protect the monied special interests: our citizens are fortunate that your type of politics is dying in Trenton. Our pension system is alive as a result.

It is a key step in showing what can be done if we come together to face up to our long-term liabilities, and address them head on in a spirit of principled cooperation. 

We did this on property taxes too, enacting not only the 2% Property Tax Cap but the interest arbitration reform to make the cap work.

And again, the results are evident. In 2011, after a decade of 7% annual increases, New Jersey homeowners saw the lowest increase in two decades, down to 2.4%. And last year, we did even better: statewide, property taxes increased by only
1.4%, the lowest in twenty-four years.

This didn’t just happen by accident. It happened because we took action. We enacted the cap. We enacted pension reform. We capped excessive school superintendent salaries. And we continued, even in challenging times, to fund the senior freeze – which we will again do in this budget.

It seems to me our leaders in Washington, DC could learn from our example here. Their failure to take on the nation’s budget challenges and address the unsustainability of the nation’s long-term liabilities is nothing short of inexcusable.

It’s past time for Washington to get its act together. That will take two things: Bipartisanship. And leadership. Unfortunately, both are missing today.

Here at home, there is still much to be done to improve our fiscal health even more. This year, I ask you to take action on my proposal to prevent towns and counties from imposing user fees to blow through the 2% Property Tax Cap. Why not close this loophole? What are you waiting for? It is also time to finish the job with the property tax tool kit that will help municipal governments keep property taxes down in the long run. 

So far, you have taken action on only six of the 20 bills which embody the toolkit. And the public is still waiting for action on legislation to remove barriers that prevent municipalities from sharing services, and to once and for all, end the practice of six figure checks for government employee sick days. The accumulated municipal government liability for sick and vacation leave in New Jersey is almost one billion dollars. It is time to finish the job and enact these needed reforms this year. These commonsense reforms can bring our property taxes down even further and perhaps even reduce them. If you fail to act, everyone in New Jersey will know who obstructed the solutions to our property tax problems.

One last word on the subject of taxes. Last year, I proposed cutting our income tax by 10%. When some objected, in the spirit of compromise and conciliation, I agreed to the essence of the Senate plan on tax cuts. Then, in a fit of political partisanship, some in this chamber decided to deny New Jerseyans the tax cut they so desperately need and deserve.

It is clear to me that on this subject we simply disagree. I believe New Jerseyans are overtaxed. Many of you in this chamber repeatedly vote for tax increases. So, let me be direct with you – I have compromised and offered your plan for tax cuts. You have reneged on your promise to me and the people of New Jersey. I will not shut down the budget process to continue this argument; the people’s business and our least fortunate citizens’ needs are too vitally important in the aftermath of Sandy. But, if you change your mind and concur with my conditional veto, my Administration will figure out how to pay for this long overdue tax relief. If you do not, I am content to let the voters decide this in November.

We have learned from experience that taking on problems now will leave us better off in the future. We have seen that it works. The first step is to change the mindset, to change the conversation. And that means putting the people we serve first, and then getting down to work.

In the past year, of course, our economy has been challenged by Superstorm Sandy. In the face of this unprecedented emergency, we have stood together: recovering, rebuilding, restoring.

I want to thank the members of this legislature and our congressional delegation, on both sides of the aisle, for their support of the $60.4 billion emergency relief package which congress enacted last month. We stood firm, and we stood together.

I want to make sure we can move ahead quickly, and without endangering resources for other key priorities.

So today, I am proposing the establishment of a $40 million Sandy contingency fund for those expenses not reimbursed by the federal government. This will ensure that we can move ahead with maximum speed, and that those things that fall through the cracks do not bankrupt families, businesses or local governments.

This will allow us to get small businesses back on their feet, without delay.

It will allow us to continue to make progress on restoring key roads and infrastructure, regardless of federal timelines.

It will help us rebuild the shore. I grew up going to the shore every summer, and I still do. It is the heart of New Jersey. It still beats strong, in every one of us.

The shore will come back – as I’ve said, it will come back stronger than ever. And I will tell you this: I expect to go the Jersey Shore every summer for the rest of my life, including this summer of 2013.

Sandy cast a bright light on the dedication, bravery and professionalism of our first responders. To each and every one of you, we are grateful.

To honor your service, we need to make sure there are more of you – so in this budget I propose an over 35% increase in funding to train the volunteer emergency medical personnel of tomorrow.

While Sandy is a challenge that has confronted us today, the most important investment we can make for our long term future is in education.

Therefore, for the third year in a row, I am increasing state aid to New Jersey’s schools. This budget provides an increase of $87 million for school aid, bringing total state aid to education to almost $9 billion – an all-time record, for the second year in a row. With this budget, 378 school districts will see funding increases and no district in New Jersey will experience a decline in K-12 formula school aid for Fiscal Year 2014.

With this record commitment to funding must come an unyielding dedication to reform. Here too, we have made great steps in these last three years, but our job is far from finished.

I have repeated to you my belief that a quality education in New Jersey should not be a function of your zip code but a product of your hard work and enthusiasm.

To make good on this belief, I am including $2 million to fund a pilot program of opportunity scholarship grants for needy students. Any child in a chronically failing school should have the choice to  find a better one, whether it be out-of-district or non-public. These grants will show that choice can work, even – indeed especially -- in some of our most underperforming school districts. I have been fighting for three years to end the abandonment of these children and their families. Today, that fight continues.

I am providing today $5 million for an “Education Innovation Fund” in New Jersey, to implement the best, new, innovative teaching models in all of our schools – including the use of technology and the internet. Technology has transformed every other industry in America, to all of our great benefit. Let’s make sure it transforms education as well, for the better.

These two initiatives, combined with record-setting support, are part of a reform agenda that must be an urgent priority for this legislature.

We must continue to support, fund, and implement the historic tenure reform that we enacted on a bipartisan basis last year.

We must also continue to authorize, fund, start, and support our charter schools in New Jersey.

Our student achievement ranks high among the states, but it does not rank high everywhere in our state.  And we should settle for nothing less than being the very best in education, in innovation, and in achievement no matter where you live, this is the key to a brighter future for New Jersey.

Now, in higher education, I am once again proposing to increase student assistance through the Tag Grant Program. The budget calls for an increase of $17 million in Tag funding. And I am restoring aid to independent colleges with a $1 million increase in their funding.

The voters also agreed with me that we needed to invest capital in our state colleges and universities. For the first time in a quarter century, they voted overwhelmingly to invest in our children’s future. We will put to work this spring over $1.6 billion in state and private funds to build classrooms, laboratories and other facilities to grow and modernize our higher education system.

The correlation between the ability to get a job, a higher income, and educational attainment is clear. So let’s make the path to college available to every New Jerseyan who’s willing to do the work to get there.

Ensuring a quality education is one means of creating opportunity for the state’s most vulnerable populations. Another is ensuring adequate quality health care.

New Jersey is a leader in the nation in reforming our Medicaid program. Last year the federal government approved our innovative and strategic reform proposal, which does right by the people the program is designed to serve. We have taken groundbreaking steps to ensure high-quality, cost-effective and comprehensive health care for New Jerseyans by focusing on controlling costs, promoting community-based care, preserving hospital funding and integrating primary and behaviorial health care.

For example, as a result of our reforms, instead of having the standard Medicaid program that forces seniors into nursing homes as the only option when they need long-term care, our seniors will now have a choice. They will be able to stay in their homes and communities while receiving the services and support they need.

It’s simple. We are putting people first.

Which is why, after considerable discussion and research, we have decided to participate in Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. While we already have one of the most expansive and generous Medicaid programs in the nation, including the second highest eligibility rate for children, we have an opportunity to ensure that an even greater number of New Jerseyans who are at or near the poverty line will have access to critical health services beginning in January 2014.

For a single adult, 133% of the poverty level is under $16,000 a year. These people are consistently among those who need help the most – men and women who have suffered trauma in their lives, live with mental illness, rely on New Jersey’s emergency rooms for primary health care needs, or those citizens who lack insurance or access to treatment.

Expanding Medicaid will ensure New Jersey taxpayers will see their dollars maximized. Federal funding will cover 100% of the costs of this expansion for the first three years and then leveling to 90% in 2020. 

Let me be clear, refusing these federal dollars does not mean that they won’t be spent. It just means that they will be used to expand health care access in New York, Connecticut, Ohio or somewhere else. Accepting these federal resources will provide health insurance to tens of thousands of low-income New Jerseyans, help keep our hospitals financially healthy and actually save New Jersey taxpayers money. In fact, taxpayers will save approximately $227 million in Fiscal Year 2014 alone. 

Let me be clear, I am no fan of the Affordable Care Act. I think it is wrong for New Jersey and for America. I fought against it and believe, in the long run, it will not achieve what it promises. However, it is now the law of the land. I will make all my judgments as governor based on what is best for New Jerseyans. That is why I twice vetoed saddling our taxpayers with the untold burden of establishing health exchanges.

But in this instance, expanding Medicaid by 104,000 citizens in a program that already serves 1.4 million, is the smart thing to do for our fiscal and public health. If that ever changes because of adverse actions by the Obama Administration, I will end it as quickly as it started.

Even without the Affordable Care Act, we have continued to work to provide health care to the uninsured, including many thousands of low-income children through New Jersey family care. This budget continues that effort by providing a $47 million increase for family care.

And our commitment to prevention in health care extends beyond Medicaid – it is across the board.

Emma’s Law requires babies in New Jersey to be screened for 60 disorders that can cause serious health problems. This budget increases funding for newborn screening by $1.6 million so that it can be done at no additional cost to New Jersey’s parents.

This budget supports our health care clinics that serve over 1.4 million patient visits each year. Total support for Federally Qualified Health Centers is now at $50 million – an all time high.

We are also protecting last year’s significant increase for cancer screening under the New Jersey Cancer Education and Early Detection Program. The budget provides $12 million for cancer outreach, screening, and follow-up services.

And this budget provides substantial funding for our hospitals – some $966 million. To maximize our share of federal matching funds, we have reformed the way we calculate distributions so that hospitals are reimbursed based on the level and quality of care they provide to patients.

We are also bringing those with disabilities into the economic mainstream. So since the beginning, my Administration has paid particular attention to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and mental illness.

I have signed a bill to eliminate offensive and archaic references in our laws and regulations. We have created a central registry of offenders who willfully abuse, neglect or exploit a person with intellectual disabilities. We have expanded housing opportunities for people with disabilities. And we have made New Jersey an “employment first” state – which is better for families, employers and people with disabilities. 

Today, I am proud to announce that we have settled an eight-year-old Olmstead lawsuit with Disability Rights New Jersey. The suit claimed that New Jersey was not complying with U.S. Supreme Court mandates to allow people with developmental disabilities to live in the least restrictive and most appropriate setting. In response, we have increased funding for community-based services; we have reduced the waiting list for in-home supports and services, and we have expanded group homes and supported living options.

We all know New Jersey’s sad history of over institutionalization. We have institutionalized more citizens than any state other than Texas. It is shameful. It is ineffective. And, in this Administration, it is ending. We are allowing people with disabilities to live where they and their families want them to live: at home, in the community, among family and friends. So this suit is settled.

But to continue this progress, my budget includes $83 million for community placements and services for those with developmental disabilities.

Some of our worst health and mental health problems are related to another problem: drug addiction.

Last year, I proposed to you that we require treatment for convicted drug offenders. It seems a lot smarter to me to allow those battling drug addiction the chance to reclaim their lives through treatment rather than wasting away in prison. I appreciate your passing this landmark legislation, and was happy to sign it into law last summer.

This budget supports the expansion of the Drug Court Program to implement this law – increasing funding by over $4.5 million for drug court.

However, you failed to adopt a bail reform package designed to keep the most violent, sociopathic offenders behind bars while awaiting trial. Failure to put this measure on the ballot is inexcusable and it makes every New Jerseyan less safe and our justice system less effective. As New Jersey’s former U.S. Attorney, I know law enforcement. I know how to combat violent crime. Along with Attorney General Chiesa, we have instituted programs which have crime declining, corruption on the run and thousands of guns off the street with our gun buyback program. Violent criminals on the streets make every citizen less safe and put witnesses at risk. If there is room on the ballot for other issues, there is certainly room for a bail reform amendment, which will give prosecutors and judges the tools to keep violent sociopaths behind bars. Please do not fail our citizens again – how many more New Jerseyans need to be maimed or killed by repeat offenders before we act? Put bail reform on the November ballot and let New Jersey citizens vote for greater public safety for themselves and witnesses of violent crime.

At the end of the day, a budget is a blueprint for how to move forward. And this is our plan.

It holds the line on spending, while funding the most important priorities like education for our kids and the reformed pension plan. It encourages growth with tax reductions, and helps us rebuild from Sandy. It continues those things that will hold down property taxes. It makes a record contribution to our pension system, accounting for 85% of all our increased spending. It reforms those programs which help the most vulnerable – encouraging prevention, work, and treatment -- even while providing the needed support so all New Jerseyans can participate in a growing economy and building a better future. And it does all that while spending less of the people’s hard earned money than we did six years ago.

Fiscal discipline. Investments in growth. Inclusion of all. Bipartisan solutions today—not a return to the reckless budgeting practices of the Corzine years. These are our principles. They are working. They are building a better New Jersey for everyone.

I know for some it is tempting to go back to the old ways. “Let’s loosen the purse strings; we can spend more if you let us tax more,” they say. But we have seen the result of this approach, and it is ugly. It doesn’t work.

It is tempting for others to fight over every item on this agenda. To play the old partisan games. To block progress in search of a better headline. To put their political future ahead of the future of the state. But we know that doesn’t work either. Just look at the results in Washington. Is that what we want in New Jersey? Do we really want to return to the tax and spend Trenton of the four years before we arrived?

Our approach has been to stand up and say what we believe in. To plant our feet on the ground and hold fast to our principles. To fight for what you believe in. But, when you see the other side moving a little closer to you, to recognize that progress and reach out your hand in compromise. To find the answer, instead of keeping the issue. Indeed, to be the answer.

That requires being willing to act, and willing to lead. 

The reforms we put in place, the investments we make, the discipline we instill, may not all yield results this year or in this term, but they are vital nevertheless. They are part of our obligation to leave state government, to leave New Jersey, to leave this country, better than we found it.

For these past three years, we have been about results, and we are not going to change now. And the people are better off for it.

We have turned Trenton upside down. We have gotten the budget under control, and we have begun to address the long-term health of pensions. We have spurred a wave of over 100,000 new jobs. And we have taken the steps to hold down property taxes. We have improved our schools at the same time. 

Let’s not stop now. Let’s not turn back. Let’s not fail to be bold with the challenges ahead. Let’s finish the job. 

The people of New Jersey have trusted us. They have put their faith in us to come together. It’s truly remarkable what we have accomplished in these last three years. The state is growing again. But we can make things even better. 

So let’s continue to fight for our principles. Let’s work on a bipartisan basis. And let’s get to work for the people who gave us these jobs in the first place. We have weathered the worst storm in our state’s history with bold leadership, decisive action and bipartisan cooperation. The sky ahead is limitless if we just have the courage to stay the course.

Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the great state of New Jersey.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Kerry Shills For Preppy New England Clothing Line

Now our new Secretary of State is shilling for a high-priced preppy clothing line.
You got that right.
And wouldn't you know: The line is oh-so-popular in ultra-chic Mahhhhtha's Vineyaaaahhhd? Ohhh, yeah - the summer stomping grounds of the glitterati.
After one audience member in Germany complimented Kerry on his pink (appropriate color) tie. the graduate of the noted St. Paul's School in New Hampshire and Yale University praised the sartorial virtues of Vineyard Vines, a Connecticut purveyor of — in its own description — "preppy" clothes that has a pink whale for a logo.
And the cost of each tie?
Well, Kerry left that out.
But we'll tell you: Seventy five bucks, exclusive of shipping and handling.
BTW: We hear that most of the clothes are made in China. here's how Urban Dictionary describes it: "Once considered generally cool, this brand of preppy retail clothing has since become symbolic with certain upper-class groups dedicated to furthering only themselves.
Almost exclusively made in China. Poorly made and ill-fitting, they usually come in obnoxious pastels."

Jewish Museum To Focus On Freedom And Food

The National Museum of American Jewish History is excited to announce a full schedule of programming this March.  

As the centerpiece of our season, held in conjunction with the continuing special exhibition Beyond Swastika and Jim Crow: Jewish Refugee Scholars at Black Colleges, the Museum will be presenting Freedom Seder Revisited – a multi-cultural celebration of freedom. Presented with Operation Understanding, Freedom Seder will feature speakers from the local community and leader of the original 1969 Freedom Seder, Rabbi Arthur Waskow.

■ Freedom Seder Revisited

Thursday, March 28 – 6:30 p.m.
$15/$10 Members
At the Museum

April 4, 1969, was the first anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It was also the third night of Passover, the Jewish holiday that commemorates the story of the Exodus in which the ancient
Israelites were freed from slavery in Egypt. At the intersection of these two events in 1969, hundreds of
people of all ethnic and religious backgrounds gathered in a church in the heart of Washington, D.C. to
celebrate freedom.
For the first time, the ancient Jewish story of liberation was intertwined with a current struggle for liberation: Black America’s fight for equal rights. This monumental event is now known as the original Freedom Seder. Jews around the world are told they must teach the Passover story to their children, to the next generation. In 1969, leaders interpreted that message in the context of the Civil Rights Movement. They brought together a group of people from all backgrounds to celebrate a common desire and right: freedom. How do current generations relate to the freedom experiences of their predecessors? What does freedom mean to them? What stories would they share? Join us for an evening of commemoration, stories, and a multi-cultural celebration of freedom.

Confirmed speakers to date include:
  • Rev. Alfred T. Day, III, Pastor, Historic St. Georges United Methodist Church
  • Rev. Mark Kelly Tyler, Ph.D., 52nd Pastor, Mother Bethel AME Church
  • Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Founder and Director, The Shalom Center; Leader and author of the original 1969 Freedom Seder 
Presented with Operation Understanding. This program has been supported in part by the Pennsylvania Humanities Council, the Federal-State Partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

In partnership with the 
Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts and in conjunction with the special exhibition Beyond Swastika and Jim Crow: Jewish Refugee Scholars at Black Colleges.

NMAJH In The Community

What Is Your Food Worth? Programming

What is Your Food Worth? is a two-year long conversation about food, ethics, sustainability, and eating Jewish presented by Temple University's Feinstein Center for American Jewish History in partnership with The Gershman Y, NMAJH, and Congregation Rodeph Shalom. 

■ Art, Jews, and Food with Daniel Belasco

Sunday, March 10 – 11:00 a.m.
$15 in advance/$20 at the door

A new generation of foodies and artists is recovering the essence of Jewish food and reinventing it as tasty, ethical, and even chic. In the hands of young artists, a knish becomes an aesthetic form and conceptual symbol of Jewish identity. Independent curator and art historian Daniel Belasco presents cutting edge art and visual culture that considers food as central to Jewish life in the 21st century, ranging
from farms to deli design to performance.

At The Gershman Y, 401 South Broad Street, Philadelphia

■ The Future of Food with Mark Bittman

Wednesday, March 13 – 7:30 p.m.
Free and open to the public. RSVP is required.
New York Times' award-winning food writer Mark Bittman brings his searing insights to Philadelphia to address the question What is Your Food Worth? With equal attention to food production and consumption, he explains how eating a healthier and more socially conscience diet is better for the planet, whether you're concerned with your own body, public health, animal welfare, or the environment.
To register and for more information click here.

At Congregation Rodeph Shalom, 615 North Broad Street, Philadelphia

■ Roundtable on A Consumer’s Republic

Thursday, March 28 – 4:00 p.m.
No registration required.

Ten years ago, Lizabeth Cohen (Dean of Radcliffe College and Professor of History, Harvard University) published her landmark book, A Consumer's Republic. This important study put consumption at the center of the history of post-war America and its ideas about citizenship and the nation. Cohen will discuss the book and its impact and extend its analysis to the question What Is Your Food Worth?

At Feinstein Center, Temple University Main Campus, Weigley Room, 9th floor, Gladfelter Hall

Other Exciting Public Programs Coming Up:

■ An Evening with Mandy Patinkin and Intercultural Journeys

Sunday, March 17 – 3:00 p.m.

A current star in the Showtime series Homeland, Mandy Patinkin is a world-renowned actor and singer on stage, television, and in films. Patinkin will be joining Intercultural Journeys this month for a special performance at the William Penn Charter School’s Kurtz Center for the Performing Arts. Though currently known for his role as CIA agent Saul Berenson in Homeland, Patinkin – an Emmy and Tony-award winning star of television and Broadway for over 30 years – is known for his solo concert tours, performing both Broadway and traditional Yiddish music. This groundbreaking collaboration with Philadelphia-based International Journeys, an organization whose mission is to promote dialogue among diverse cultures through the arts, provides a perfect complement to Patinkin’s personal philosophy of nonviolence.

This performance will feature Patinkin’s selections of Broadway, Yiddish, and Arabic music, accompanied by Broadway pianist Paul Ford, as well as Intercultural Journeys’ Middle Eastern ensemble consisting of Intercultural Journeys’ Founding Artistic Director and Philadelphia Orchestra cellist Udi Bar-David; Arab-Israeli violinist and IJ Board member Hanna Khoury; and Syrian-Venezuelan percussionist Hafez El Ali Kotain.

Tickets can be purchased online at

Press Contact: Kristen Golia,, C: 215-732-2550

At William Penn Charter’s David L. Kurtz Center for the Performing Arts, 3000 W. School House Lane, Philadelphia

■ Do You Dream in Color?: Insights From a Girl Without Sight
Tuesday, March 19 – 7:30 p.m.
FREE – no tickets required
In partnership with the Free Library of Philadelphia

Blind since birth, mezzo-soprano Laurie Rubin has been praised for her “compelling artistry” and “communicative power” (The New York Times), and her “especially acute intuition about the power and subtleties of sound” (Los Angeles Times). In her memoir Do You Dream in Color?, Rubin shows how her resolve to continually redefine expectations has enabled her to achieve international success, live independently, ski, design jewelry, and fulfill her ambition to sing on stages around the world.

Laurie is co-founder and co-artistic director of Musique a la Mode Chamber Music Ensemble, which has a concert series in Manhattan’s East Village, and Ohana Arts, a performing arts festival and school in Honolulu, Hawaii.

At the Free Library of Philadelphia, 1901 Vine Street (between 19th and 20th Streets on the Parkway), Philadelphia

■ jkidphilly@NMAJH

Friday, March 15 10:30-11:30 a.m.
Museum admission not required.

Join jkidphilly for a casual playdate at the Museum where kids and families can socialize and enjoy stories, songs, and snacks.Most appropriate for children ages 5 and under. Museum Admission not required to participate. Admission and Café discounts available for playdate participants. Kids are always free.

Current Exhibitions:

Beyond Swastika and Jim Crow: Jewish Refugees at Black Colleges
Through June 9, 2013
This exhibition shows how Jewish refugees and African-American students navigated the challenges of life in the segregated south and supported one another as they searched for freedom and opportunity, efforts that informed and inspired the early years of the Civil Rights Movement.

Jewish Artists in America 1925-1945: Selections from the Collection of Steven and Stephanie Wasser         
            Through June 30, 2013
Featuring 21 paintings and prints, the exhibition includes works by American Jewish artists who participated in the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s and 1940s. 

The Museum will be closed on the first day of Passover – Tuesday, March 26.

The National Museum of American Jewish History, located on historic Independence Mall in Philadelphia, brings to life the 350-year history of Jews in America.  Tracing the stories of how Jewish immigrants became Jewish Americans, the Museum invites visitors of all heritages to share their own stories and reflect on how their histories and identities shape and are shaped by the American experience. An open door for all, NMAJH honors the past and contributes to a better future by sharing the power of imagination and ideas, culture and community, leadership and service, in ways that turn inspiration into action.