OUR TAKE ON THE NEWS IN NEW JERSEY

STATEWIDE - One would think Gov. Phil Murphy, as our powerful chief executive, would be paid among the highest of all state employees after, of course, the Rutgers head football coach. But the Asbury Park Press has revealed a startling fact: there are more than 1,060 government employees who earn more than the governor. Murphy makes a not-too-shabby $175,000 a year. Some scrappy public workers are able to earn much more than Murphy by cobbling together various part-time gigs, like one tax assessor who made $350,000 last year through his seven jobs. There was also a judge who secured a cool $290,000, somehow being the judge in seven different places. New Jersey - being New Jersey - has no limit on how many public jobs a person can have.

TRENTON - Do you pay high taxes? Of course you do. Sorry for the dumb question. But your pals in the state Legislature are here to help, sending a bill to the governor that would allow local governments to accept property taxes in the form of charitable contributions. In response to the $10,000 federally-imposed cap on state and local tax deductions, this clever little workaround would allow towns, school districts and counties to create charitable funds that could be used as a tax-deductible revenue source. Of course, in some 1960s bureaucratic building in Washington, the IRS is having a good ol' belly laugh over this scheme. In fact, somewhere in Sector 4G, there is a corkboard with an article about this very legislation. IRS agents in need of a pick-me-up enjoy reading the news coverage, as they are quick to note the obvious: charitable contributions qualify for tax deductions only for truly charitable purposes. 

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STATEWIDE - And speaking of the titillating topic of taxes, most Americans are getting ready to celebrate "Tax Freedom Day." This day falls on April 19 for the entire nation. It is the day of the year that almost everyone hasworked long enough to pay their total tax burden for the calendar year. New Jersey, of course, is different. Our Tax Freedom Day is extended to May 3 - meaning we have to slave an extra 14 days longer than people smart enough to live elsewhere. That's because our property taxes, income taxes and corporate taxes are among the highest anywhere on the planet. IRS agents in Sector 4G have little sympathy.

DOWN THE SHORE - Ahh, another sign of spring: the annual Clean Ocean Action report of all the ridiculous litter picked off our beaches. This year, as always, there were plenty of damn cigarette butts. And there was also a bird cage, two fire extinguishers, a lawn mower, a saw blade and a human tooth in a box.  But probably the most interesting item in this year's study was the plastic statue of the Hindu god Vishnu. And, for those keeping count at home, there were condoms (361, up 13 percent from two years ago), and tampon applicators (4,080, up 16 percent in two years.). In total, in 2017, Clean Ocean Action picked up a laudable 374,000 pieces of trash.

AT THE RESTAURANT - And now... a Friday rant. Been out to eat somewhere fancy lately? It seems these "celebrity chefs" are doing everything they can to remove the basic structure of food, in an attempt to charge more. We keep finding frou-frou menus filled with such questionable items as "Salmon mousse," or "Basil foam" or "Strawberry dust" or "Parmesan air." What the heck?  What's next? How about "Venison déjà vu"? Or "A memory of broccoli." Or how about "A vicious rumor of vegetables?"

IN OTHER IMPORTANT NEWS

NEW YORK - Everyone knows hardened New Yorkers aren't exactly used to pristine nature, so it was amusing for the NYPD to get frantic calls from Harlem yesterday morning about a wild tiger running free in the streets. WNBC says there was an immediate social media frenzy on Twitter (unrelated to Trump) that reported cops were on the scene, responding to the unconfirmed reports of this uncontained animal.  Following their investigation, police were able to confirm that - yes - they were dealing with a wild animal sighting. A raccoon.

THIS DAY IN HISTORY

It was this day in 1992 that "Crystal Pepsi" is test marketed in Providence, Denver and Dallas. Never tried Crystal Pepsi?  Exactly.

WORD OF THE DAY

Aegis - [EE-jəs] - noun

Definition: A shield or breastplate emblematic of majesty that was associated with Zeus and Athena

Example: As I got dressed for work today, I first made sure to spit-shine my aegis. 

WEATHER IN A WORD

Glorious