TRENTON – Nothing gets us really excited on Monday mornings more than bond ratings, so let’s kick off the week with news from Moody’s Investor Services. Now that the state is looking at more than $3 billion in revenue than originally expected, or dreamed, the rating agency has upgraded the state’s credit rating to “stable.” Here’s why this is so darn titillating: Politicians can trumpet how great they think they are doing, and their opposition can scream about their perceived incompetence. But Wall Street doesn’t care about all the partisan posturing; it just looks at the numbers. And the new numbers show – one year after Moody’s lowered the state’s outlook to negative – that the state is on good footing, for the moment, with “better-than-expected revenue performance” and “record-high liquidity and fund balance.” We told you; very exciting for a Monday.

STATEWIDE – The state’s real estate is super hot, evident in two separate stories in the Star-Ledger and the Record about outrageous prices, zero inventory, bidding wars, low interest rates and downright giddy sellers. Yes, the story is to bring your checkbook and expect to pay 10% more than your ceiling. The Record reports the number of for-sale single-family homes in Bergen County dropped more than 50% over the past year, while the average price jumped 17.5%. Same with Essex County, where sales are up nearly 29%. Meanwhile, the Ledger reports, potential sellers waiting for the top of the market may have hit the perfect time. Or not, as inventory remains tremendously low, with people willing to pay what has been dubbed the “COVID premium.”

ON THE ROAD – “Congestion pricing” in Manhattan? Sounds like a great way to cut down on rush hour traffic in one of the most clogged arteries on the planet. But New Jersey congressmen Bill Pascrell and Josh Gottheimer say that would be hugely unfair to commuters entering Manhattan south of 60th Street. The estimates are $10-$15 a car, on top of the enormous costs to enter NYC via the Hudson River crossings, NBC reports. Of course, New York officials love the idea, as well as the estimated $15 billion in new anticipated revenue on the backs of out-of-staters. Meanwhile, the New Jersey congress members say this congestion pricing could cost a New Jersey commuter another $3,000 a year, on top of all the other costs to get back and forth from work. It is now in the hands of the Biden Administration, with Pascrell and Gottheimer asking the president to pump the brakes.

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BRIEFING BREATHER

Pope John Paul II was an honorary Harlem Globetrotter.

TRENTON – The latest of the latest news regarding a legalized pot industry in New Jersey takes place today, as a five-member Cannabis Regulatory Commission is handed the 240-page law and instructed to build a thriving, ongoing marketplace. The commission decides when weed sales begin this year, and how it will vastly expand the number of places to grow and buy pot. The commission also has to figure how best to spend the millions of dollars in sales tax revenue that are expected to be collected every year. Lots of work ahead, as well as many road bumps, as the state Legislature and Gov. Phil Murphy monitors each step during this re-election year for all.

NEW BRUNSWICK – Is the transfer portal killing college sports? Coaches, of course, can’t say, as they only can publicly wish their transferring players well, hope they enjoy their new major, appreciate their support, blah, blah, blah. The fact is that too many college athletes are jumping ship these days, since this darn portal debuted in October 2018. Rutgers and other rebuilding football and basketball programs are constantly recruiting and now have to do everything possible to keep their roster. No one has a clue what RU basketball will look like next year, as starters are fleeing to other schools, others are trying to get drafted in the NBA and some may stick around. (There are now more than 1,900 basketball players in the portal, which is ridiculous.) Meanwhile, the RU football team is trying to figure out who is staying, who is going and then who is coming through the portal. Sure, these super athletes need to do what’s best for them. But, to truly invest in these kids, build teamwork and maximize potential, can the schools ask for slightly more loyalty?

IN OTHER IMPORTANT NEWS

LEXINGTON, KY – For a very brief moment, it was great to be a completely marginal high school senior. That’s because 500,000 hopeful students, received an email with the news of acceptance into a prestigious, specialized program that accepts just 36 new kids a year. It took 24 hours for the University of Kentucky to dash off a follow-up email to this jubilant, yet confused group of a half million teens, admitting to some “technical issues,” WLEX-TV reports. “Only a handful of those on the prospect list had been admitted to UK. The vast majority had not,” a college official writes. One puzzled student from San Antonio received the email. She told the AP: “I was like, ‘Mom, I just got accepted into the University of Kentucky.’ And she’s like, ‘Oh, I didn’t know you applied to University of Kentucky.’ And I was like, ‘oh, I did not.’” Anyway, expect many sweatshirt returns this morning at the university’s online store.

THIS DAY IN HISTORY

It was this day in 2013 that J.C. Penney has a big win over Macy’s: winning the right to sell unbranded housewares designed by Martha Stewart, or someone connected to her in some way, or something.

WORD OF THE DAY

Drub – [DRUB] - Verb

Definition: To beat severely

Example: Whatever team I root for always seems to get drubbed by the worst team in the league.

WIT OF THE DAY

“I love America and I hate it. I'm torn between the two. I have two conflicting visions of America. One is a kind of dream landscape and the other is a kind of black comedy.”

-Bono

BIDEN BLURB

"As the great Irish poet Bono said … 'America is not just a country, it's an idea.'"

-Joe Biden

WEATHER IN A WORD

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