TRENTON – Nothing screams “fun” like the governor’s annual budget message. So, let’s excitedly talk about what he will say at 2 p.m. today. Yup, he will be banging the drum on his millionaire’s tax for the third year in a row, hoping to raise another $500 million or so. That money could sure help, as he wants to give more aid to schools, to battered NJ Transit and to the underfunded public pension system that drags down the state budget each year. Yet, the governor doesn’t seem interested in raising the sales tax or hit New Jersey companies with even more corporate business taxes. And so the dance begins again with Senate President Steve Sweeney, as both sides negotiate until the music stops on June 30, when fiscal ’21 must be adopted. 

STATEWIDE – On the heels of the governor’s message, and just in time for the annual “Walk to Washington” chamber event on Thursday, a new report shows New Jersey has the worst competitive business climate in the region. (Add surprised “Gasp” here.) That’s according to the New Jersey Business and Industry Association (NJBIA), reporting New Jersey is the pits with all these taxes. Want a business with a fighting chance to thrive? It seems Delaware is the place, followed then, in order, by Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts and then good ol’ New Jersey. Why are things here so darn impossible? Well, New Jersey has the highest top income tax rate (10.75%), top corporate tax (10.5%), state sales tax (6.625%) and property taxes paid as a percentage of income (5.05%). NJBIA says this is the third time it has done this analysis, and things get worse each time. Meanwhile, just last week, a coalition called for piling more taxes on those who are financially succeeding here, making a place like Delaware start to seem remotely interesting.

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NEW BRUNSWICK – So, what’s a freeholder, anyway?  Most of us have absolutely no clue, which is likely why Middlesex County is now sponsoring an essay contest for local teens. Students in 8th, 11th and 12th grades will be tasked to write about freeholders, figuring out what the heck they do. Here’s the essay question: “If you were a Middlesex County Freeholder, what would you want to accomplish and why?”  Winners will be deemed “Freeholder for a Day,” which is certainly a great way to impress the chicks. If that’s not enticement enough, there’s also cold, hard cash. One 8th grade winner gets a $250 scholarship, the older students can rake in $500 apiece. A key lesson here: Government and money go hand-in-hand.

PRINCETON – Relishing the irony of winning Princeton University’s coveted Woodrow Wilson Award, Anthony Romero said, “There’s a good chance Woodrow Wilson is, right now, spinning in his grave like an Olympic figure skater.” Romero, you see, is the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union and just won his alma mater’s highest undergrad honor. Accepting that award Saturday, The Princetonian reports, Romero called the former New Jersey governor and 28th President, “equal parts racist and visionary.” He explained that the ACLU got its start in 1920 to “oppose xenophobic, anti-immigrant, flagrantly unconstitutional (policies) Wilson oversaw and engineered.” So, Romero said: “I accept this award with glee.”

Briefing Breather: Woodrow Wilson is the only President buried in Washington, DC, interred at the National Cathedral. 

STATEWIDE – There’s an obvious reason why they don’t build waste-transfer stations in rich communities like Upper Montclair. Or a sewage-treatment plant in Alpine. It’s the same reason trash incinerators get built in our “burdened communities,” a euphemism for our poor towns and slums. The burden is pollution, with a host of problems ranging from noxious smells to increased cases of cancer. This may sound hopelessly naïve, but the government is supposed to ensure that lower-income residents get some sort of fair shake. Some state leaders have hatched a lofty plan to balance the scales: A bill in the State Senate would prevent anyone from building, say, another power plant in a community already struggling with toxic stress, without first determining the cumulative effect of that new facility. NJ Spotlight says this proposal is far from perfect, but it’s a first step, if it can somehow muster the votes in the state Legislature.

IN THE MEDIA

SYRACUSE NY – A $75 million gift to educate tomorrow’s journalists is earning accolades for New Jersey media mogul Donald Newhouse. His family’s S.I. Newhouse Foundation’s new pledge to Syracuse University is the largest lump-sum gift in its 150-year history. The Somerset County billionaire and his family own Advance Publications, one of the world’s largest private media empires. That includes The Star-Ledger and scores of national newspapers, magazines, and TV and radio stations. The latest gift is earmarked for Syracuse’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, named for Newhouse’s late father, Samuel I. Newhouse, whose 1962 donation of $15 million helped build that media complex. The $75 million comes as Pew Research says our nation’s news biz shed nearly 42,000 jobs since 2008. Perhaps our media moguls could also devote some mega-millions to ensure better-educated future journalists don’t have to supplement their income by working the midnight shift at some fast-food joint.

IN OTHER IMPORTANT NEWS

TROY, NY – It seems like anyone hankering for a chicken sandwich can find one in just about any strip mall or street corner busy enough to require a traffic light. But we live here, thankfully, not upstate New York. That’s where a group of bored college athletes on the track team concocted a plan to get chicken sandwiches at Albany International Airport, ABC News reports. The only way they can gain entrance to the food court is with a valid plane ticket. So they found the cheapest one-way flight they could: $98 to Fort Lauderdale. Each guy threw in $5.50 for the ticket, making it possible for one of them to gain entry and buy $227.28 worth of food, including 15 sandwiches, 15 large fries, 13 orders of 12-piece nuggets, a bag of cookies and a lemonade. A lovely lunch was then likely held at baggage claim. 

Watch the video here.

THIS DAY IN HISTORY

It was this day in 2010 that Viktor Yanukovych is sworn in as the 4th President of Ukraine, ultimately becoming a household name in the United States.

WORD OF THE DAY

Acumen – [AK-yoo-mun] – noun

Definition: Keenness and depth of perception

Example: I have a superior acumen that enables me to solve the most bizarre and puzzling of New York Times crossword puzzles.

 

WIT OF THE DAY

“He is the biggest liar of all the American presidents. . . the worst terrorist in the history of mankind . . . a madman, an imbecile and a bum. . . His ideas are from the era of Buffalo Bill, not the nuclear age.”

-Fidel Castro, referring to Ronald Reagan

 

TODAY'S TRUMPISM

“I have been the most transparent president and administration in the history of our country by far.”

-Donald J. Trump

 

WEATHER IN A WORD

Wet

THE NEW 60

A Jaffe Briefing Exclusive

By Andy Landorf & John Colquhoun