TRENTON – For years, curmudgeons have sat on park benches, yelling into their newspapers about how the state should just stop spending money. Well, now these geezers have gotten their wish, with New Jersey freezing $920 million for the rest of the fiscal year as tax collections have dried up. So, as these guys give each other a high-five, as they yell at the birds, the state is holding back on $142 million in property tax credits, $71 million in college operating aid, $45 million in municipal aid and all the other cash that people figure just magically appears from nowhere. State treasury officials say they need the scratch for emergency response and other crucial things. For all those people who complained New Jersey never kept enough in surplus and always spent more than it brought in: You were right.

STATEWIDE – New Jersey has faced public health threats in the past. Who can ever forget AIDS and West Nile virus, or disasters like 9/11 and Superstorm Sandy? But the scale and nature of the COVID-19 pandemic still seems to have caught many woefully unprepared. Experts in public health say all those previous crises should have taught us how to deal with COVID-19. But have they? Today’s NJ Spotlight asks that question, and the answers from health care leaders aren’t uniformly comforting. Although, as one noted, they learned the importance of protecting front-line medical workers who are at high risk. Now, if only someone would supply those same heroes with whatever protective gear needed to do their jobs safely.

STATEWIDE – Need a friend? We sure do. That makes us the ideal customer for a company that is now marketing life-sized cardboard images for lonely people stuck at home. The cutout could be mom, it could be your long-lost best friend who fled New Jersey, or heck, it could even be that potential prom date who was “this close” to accepting your proposal for an awkward night of corsages and Coors Light. The company – clearly capitalizing on calamity – says “Stay Safe! Stay Home! Send a Standee!” With orders placed by noon shipping the very next day, you can be on the way to having your very own homebound friend by Thursday. Say hi for us.

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BRIEFING BREATHER: The human brain is faster and more powerful than any supercomputer. (Yeah, we don’t believe it either.)

NEWARK – The Sultan of Sanitizer? The Highness of Hand Hygiene? The Ayatollah of Antiseptic? Someone has to devise a new, snappy nickname now that The King of Beers is mass producing hand sanitizer. Officials at Anheuser-Busch are pivoting some of their production and logistics to produce millions of bottles of the microorganism-killing liquid, which – let’s assume – tastes considerably better than Bud Ice Light. And now there’s word that Diageo, the parent company that makes fine scotch and other spirits, is following Anheuser-Busch’s lead. Anyone for a dollop of Johnnie Walker Clear?

STATEWIDE – There must be some irony in the fact that teachers are now being locked out of state prisons. Yes, now that we have officially entered Bizarro world – which is three notches deeper than Trump world on the nutty scale – the prison teachers are joining schoolteachers statewide in the edict to work from home. Prison teachers now need to send in “learning packets” for the inmates to finish when they have free time in their robust schedules. Expect these packets to be colorfully completed and ready for the teachers, who need to drop by the prison every two weeks to collect them and slip others through the slot.

IN OTHER IMPORTANT NEWS

AT HOME – If you feel like everything’s going down the toilet, well, it is. Clogged toilets are the latest unforeseen victim of the coronavirus crisis. People keep disinfecting household surfaces with paper towels, disinfectant wipes, disposable diapers and old rags. And they’re flushing it all down their toilets, to the exasperation of local plumbers. Public officials tell the New York Post there’s a coast-to-coast surge in overflowing toilets and sewer backups. Sewage treatment plants in New Jersey and elsewhere are getting swamped with clogs. Plumbers are quick to remind us that products labeled “flushable” could still block pipes and jam up treatment plants even if they swish down your toilet. So, trash it. Don’t flush it.

THIS DAY IN HISTORY

It was on this day in 2015 that Kraft merged with Heinz to become the third-largest global food company. But still waiting to buy “Mac & Ketchup.”

WORD OF THE DAY

Timorous – [TIM-ə-rəs] – adjective

Definition: Expressing or suggesting timidity

Example: Timorous people won’t ask the take-out guy for an extra spork.

WIT OF THE DAY

“The press is the enemy.”

- Richard M. Nixon

TODAY'S TRUMPISM

“I watch and listen to the Fake News, CNN, MSDNC, ABC, NBC, CBS, some of FOX (desperately & foolishly pleading to be politically correct), the @nytimes & the @washingtonpost, and all I see is hatred of me at any cost. Don’t they understand that they are destroying themselves?”

-Donald J. Trump

WEATHER IN A WORD: Scattered

 THE NEW 60
A Jaffe Briefing Exclusive
by Andy Landorf & John Colquhoun