OUR TAKE ON THE NEWS IN NEW JERSEY

TRENTON - The secret to balancing the state budget? Have someone else pay for it. That tried-and-true "solution" will be on full display at 2 p.m. today, when some expect Gov. Chris Christie will announce efforts to yank at least $300 million in reserves from Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield. Huh? How? Because of a loophole in which Horizon is the only private non-profit health insurance carrier headquartered in New Jersey, somehow entitling the state through potential legislation to raid its surplus. That $300 million or so could go a long way toward funding a national opiate campaign, starring Mr. Christie. And courtesy of 3.8 million policy holders in New Jersey.  

TRENTON - And if that funding scheme doesn't work, the governor could always go back to the big, pressing issue of the day: legal ads. He is still hell-bent on repealing a state law that requires legal notices be posted in newspapers. An official Morning Briefing poll reports 99.999 percent of the electorate (including Mary Pat) regard this campaign as seething revenge stemming from all the negative press since Bridgegate. Now, the governor and the media are throwing out conflicting numbers, with Christie claiming millions and millions in taxpayer funding is being blown, while the New Jersey Press Association is calling him dead wrong. Must be all part of this new era of alternative facts, fake news and the media as the "opposition party."  

Sign Up for E-News

TRENTON - In what seems to be a bad joke, a Union County paving company has lost $7 million in state contracts because it donated $500 to the Somerset County Republicans, NJ.com reports. That one fateful check disqualified the company from receiving state contracts under the "pay to play" laws. The company argues the check was mistakenly deposited into the wrong account, and is now paying a huge, ridiculously unfair price. "Pay to play" is an important law, but one would assume it is not meant to destroy businesses, kill jobs and hurt families.

AT WORK - Victim of the state's "Pay to Play" laws? Well, a breathlessly exciting career at QuickChek awaits. Apparently, there's plenty of job satisfaction slapping together those Texas Toast sandwiches, changing coffee filters every 15 minutes and chiseling that crusty gunk out of the smoothie machines. For the seventh time in eight years, NJBIZ has listed QuickChek on its Garden State list of "Best Places to Work." The convenience store chain also just won its fifth worker-satisfaction award in New York too. With 148 stores in both states, you are also guaranteed an amazing commute. 

LAWRENCE - In 1953, Louis Turano built a ranch on Skillman Road and settled in with his young wife, Gloria. Today, Louis is long gone. Gloria is still here, at a spry 90, but she has been evicted from the house, unable to pay the property taxes. NJ.com reports a reverse mortgage company foreclosed on it, and Fannie Mae bought it for $100, leaving Gloria on the curb. There's a lifetime of memories, NJ.com says, from her husband's love to cook on the indoor charcoal grill he installed, to the "pecky cypress" walls she cleaned by hand. Luckily, this elderly woman has a home with her son across town. But, jeez. 

IN OTHER IMPORTANT NEWS 

IN A GALAXY FAR AWAY - Beam us up, Scottie ... please! One third of Americans say Trump's presidency has them convinced there's no intelligent life here. So, they'd gladly flee to a distant planet, according to SurveyMonkey poll done after seven Earth-like planets were found in the Aquarius constellation. The Huffington Post says the survey also shows 80 percent of Americans think Tom Hanks or William Shatner would be better spokesmen for Earth than our President. (What? No Morgan Freeman?) A clear benefit of living beyond the Milky Way: No sales pitches for Ivanka's clothing line. Well... no guarantees.

THIS DAY IN HISTORY 

It was this day in 1903 that Barney Dreyfuss and James Potter bought the Philadelphia Phillies for $170,000 - now equivalent to the price of two mezzanine seats, a couple of hot dogs, a bottle of Gatorade and one used program at Citizens Bank Park. 

WORD OF THE DAY 

Shunpike - [SHUN-pyke] - noun 

Definition: A side road used to avoid the toll, speed or traffic on a superhighway. 

Example: Ah, so now I know why there is a road called Shunpike in Springfield, right next to Route 78. 

WEATHER IN A WORD 

60!