TRENTON – Has Gov. Phil Murphy ever visited his office in the Statehouse? Unclear, but doubtful, as Gov. Chris Christie felt the pressing need to launch a $300 million refurbishment of the historic structure in 2016. The AP reports that the project was supposed to begin in 2018 and end next year. But, like any other construction project, anywhere, the work is delayed and now set to be done in January 2023. The building is expected to be occupied by the middle of that year, it is believed. Apparently, the project is still on budget, as one can assume there’s plenty of wiggle room in renovations with such a bloated budget, funded by even more borrowing through the Economic Development Authority, as opposed to getting voter approval.

TRENTON – No worries, the state is flush with cash. Well, maybe just for this magical fleeting moment, as NJ Spotlight reports a jaw-dropping fact: Despite the pandemic, New Jersey’s tax collections exploded in December. Cash collected through the halfway mark of the state fiscal year were up by nearly $800 million year-over-year, a jump of more than 40% recorded during December. Treasury officials – giddy as they roll around in all that cash – note it is just a blip in time. One reason: small businesses paying state taxes for year-end. But – not to worry – it is widely expected the Treasury will dry up quickly, as usual, as we drag ourselves toward the end of the fiscal year with some eye-opening, pandemic-fueled figures.

BEDMINSTER – As former President Trump is an amazing financial success, according to him, he likely won’t care that his golf courses in New Jersey were hemorrhaging cash last year. Yep, the man who some believe wrote “The Art of the Deal” is likely shrugging his shoulders that the three courses lost $5 million, as the pandemic raged. NJ.com reports revenue from Bedminster, Colts Neck and Pine Hill dropped 17% to $24.8 million in 2020. You can bet there will now be a big, beautiful profit this year. Believe us.

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BRIEFING BREATHER

Most American car horns honk in the key of F, which is also the same key as a telephone dial tone.

STATEWIDE – Tens of thousands more guns are now in our hands. All bought legally, but it’s still a bit scary how armed New Jerseyans have become as of late. We collectively bought 177,900 guns last year, up 95 percent over 2019. Scarier still, 24/7 Wall St. says many are first-timer gun owners whose aim may best be described as "just so-so." New Jersey ranks fourth in the nation for gun sales, behind Michigan, Rhode Island and Maryland. Gun sales jumped 40% nationwide last year. More than 39 million more guns got bought in 2020, the biggest one-year rise since the FBI started keeping record in 1999. What triggered this? The news site suggests people got fired up by a rise in incidents of civil unrest and concerned about the potential fallout from the lingering pandemic.

EDISON – Perhaps there are some ‘Junior G-Men’ in town eager to dust for fingerprints, examine blood splatters and gather other crime scene evidence. If so, welcome to “CSI Edison,” the recreation department’s latest remote learning program for kids 11-18. Spoiler Alert: It’s not about the blood and gore, just a clever way to use STEM skills – science, technology, engineering and math – to detect forensic clues. Youngsters who enroll get their very own CSI lab kit and will take Zoom classes over five Fridays starting in February taught by a retired FBI agent. Hiring “CSI Miami” celeb David Caruso probably didn’t fit the town's budget.

IN OTHER IMPORTANT NEWS

INSTANBUL – Looking for loyalty? Get a dog. One furry friend spent all week sitting outside of a hospital in northern Turkey, where her sick owner was being treated. The dog – named Boncuk (Bon-DJUK) – actually followed the ambulance to the hospital. She then remembered the way, stopping by daily to see if she can have a tearful reunion with her owner. Family members would keep driving the dog home each day, but Boncuk would walk back, usually arriving at 9 a.m. and sitting outside until nightfall. Big things happened on Wednesday, when the hospital staff wheelchaired the dog owner outside for a brief, tearful reunion. And, this morning, these pals are back home together.

ONLINE – The Internet is going crazy with the fact that “The Simpsons” keeps forecasting the future with stunning accuracy. People are now posting a 2000 clip of Lisa Simpson taking over the Oval Office from President Trump, as her aide, Milhouse Van Houten, reports the country has run out of money. An added freaky bonus: President Simpson is wearing the same purple ensemble and pearls as Kamala Harris wore on inauguration day. 

BAR GRAMMAR

An allusion walks into a bar, despite the fact that alcohol is its Achilles heel.

THIS DAY IN HISTORY

It was on this day in 1992 that the duchess, Sarah Ferguson, wears a paper bag over her head during a commercial flight.

WORD OF THE DAY

Sarcophagus – [sahr-KAH-fuh-gus] – noun

Definition: A stone coffin

Example: After archeologists unearthed the sarcophagus, they opened it up to discover absolutely nothing.

WIT OF THE DAY

"The best way to appreciate your job is to imagine yourself without one."

-Oscar Wilde

BIDEN BLURB

“Now the real work begins, folks.”

-Joe Biden

WEATHER IN A WORD

Mild