TRENTON - Well, the state Legislature passed a budget yesterday. But that matters little in the overall drama, as it now goes to Gov. Phil Murphy and his sharp red pen. The governor still remains as odds with his Democratic counterparts who left a meeting with him yesterday claiming no progress. He's "completely dishonest with us," charges Senate President Steve Sweeney. Meanwhile, the governor claims legislative leadership is ignoring facts and trying to ram through a budget with $1 billion or so in gimmicks. That's "why our finances are a national joke," Murphy said, adding the state budget is routinely created by "kicking the can, phantom numbers, Band-Aids, toothpicks." Yep. Obviously, plenty more negotiations are needed.

TRENTON - Time to put a bag over your head at the Statehouse. Just as long as it isn't plastic or paper, as the Legislature has approved a new 5-cent fee on every bag used at larger restaurants and stores. The new anticipated revenue from these single-used bags - about $23.4 million or so - would help fund the state Department of Environmental Protection. Stores would reap an entire penny for every bag sold, with the other four cents going to the state, beginning Oct. 1. Expect some growing pains with the new law, especially for folks at the drive-thru trying to maneuver four burgers, three fries, two milkshakes and an apple pie. We suggest they spring for the extra nickel.

TRENTON - Of no shock to anyone, there are too many darn towns in New Jersey. One non-profit group, Courage to Connect New Jersey, has been pleading for mergers for years. And now a panel convened by Senate President Steve Sweeney is suggesting that towns with populations of less than 5,000 people should go away. That means 191 towns in the state would be forced to merge to drastically cut costs. Of course, this would all create mass hysteria as New Jersey loves its little hamlets and home rule.  NJ.com has a nifty chart that shows which towns would get the axe under this torch-burning proposal.

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ROCKAWAY - Five lawyers, each at $265 an hour. Rockaway taxpayers will be footing the bill for this OJ-style legal team to defend some members of the town council. The issue? Mayor Michael Dachisen has sued his own council, asking a judge to stop a council-ordered probe into his actions (a possible theft of services) and to reaffirm his executive role, the Record reports. Fingers are being pointed everywhere, but one resident attending this mess of a meeting nailed it: "They are wasting taxpayers' money right now."  Voters: time to clean house.

IN THE MEDIA

TRENTON - It was just 18 months ago that Gov. Chris Christie tried to further cripple local media, hoping to end the mandate for publishing legal notices in newspapers. Luckily, cooler heads prevailed. And now the former governor is probably shaking his head at a new legislative move that actually supports those annoying people who keep asking those pesky questions. The Assembly has passed a bill to support the free press, creating a non-profit organization that issues grants to news organizations that focus in underserved communities in the state. "If people don't know what's wrong, they can't make it right," Assemblyman Paul Moriarty (D-Gloucester), a co-sponsor of the measure, said. Amen.

IN OTHER IMPORTANT NEWS

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - Perhaps she really loved having the entire bed. It could be a reason why she instantly turned her husband in to prison officials, after he was mistakenly released. The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel reports the hubby was sitting in the Mesa County Jail on a $2,000 cash bond while awaiting trial for menacing, disorderly conduct and trespass charges. Yet he was released when jail guards thought he was someone else. So, here's what happened next:

"Hi Honey, I'm home. What's for dinner?"

"Back in the car, dear."

THIS DAY IN HISTORY

Everyone was pushing really hard, and there were plenty of nostalgic high hopes. But it was this day in 1987 that Tom Seaver retired, after his third try with the Mets.

WORD OF THE DAY

Careworn - [KAYR-worn] - adjective

Definition: Showing signs of long-term stress or worry

Example: Steve Sweeney's careworn expression said more about the state budget than I could in a whole paragraph.

WEATHER IN A WORD

Cooler 

THE NEW 60

a Jaffe Briefing exclusive

by Andy Landorf & John Colquhoun