STATEWIDE - Welcome, Phil Murphy, to the harsh reality of governing, with a $1.2 billion hole in the upcoming budget. While Murphy is talking about increasing school aid, funding pensions, tuition support for county colleges, more women's health programs, etc., the bean counters are wondering where the cash will magically appear. An important op-ed in yesterday's Record spells out the dilemma in fiscal '19. But it also rings alarm bells for the remainder of fiscal '18, with a state surplus of barely 1 percent. Headaches abound, like the fact that only $10 million is budgeted for snow removal, yet the state averages $70 million a winter based on storms. Or the fact the budget includes millions in anticipated savings -  all unidentified and unrealized. Expect some wild finger-pointing very quickly.

STATEWIDE - Speaking of unexpected expenses, the feds are suggesting New Jersey cough up $600.7 million in "unallowable costs to Medicaid" for special education and for reaping federal cash using payment rates based on costs not properly established. Hard to understand all this, but Philly.com reports on a federal audit for 12 years through June 2015 that recommends the money be paid back. Meanwhile, state officials say the auditors are dead wrong. We collectively pray the state is right. 

Sign Up for E-News

STATEWIDE - Sure, they are drop-dead sexy in the skimpiest of lingerie, but these glamour models are fuming at New Jersey strip and swinger clubs using their images to rake in customers with fistfuls of singles. NJ.comreports that at least a dozen of these joints have been sued over the past four months, as women complain their finely-toned images are being used without permission. There's endless photos, billboards, social media posts and other "brazen and repeated" images of these models, often in barely-there outfits. Message to bar owners: Hands off and pay up. (And not in beer-soaked clumps of cash.)

LITTLE EGG HARBOR - So, who keeps dumping bags of decapitated bird heads? That's what local cops want to know, now dealing with two separate incidents. First, on Saturday, cops found a garbage bag with 22 headless birds, including roosters, hens, guinea hens and pigeons. Then, reports NJ 101.5, more bags were found on Monday, with five more birds missing their heads. Cops have no clue at this point, hoping our readers may have information and call in a tip. So, what do you know about headless dead birds, stuffed in bags in the South Jersey woods? Time to spill it, pal.

ON THE ROAD - So, all those times you've driven your car down pothole-pocked highways, your tires and axels groaning with sudden impact, you could have filed a claim against the state - if the state happened to own the road. Just don't expect New Jersey to pay up. NJ 101.5 reports the state received 431 claims last year for pothole damage. Yet, says the state treasury, only 3 percent of teeth-jarring claims forced the state to fork over cash. Try your luck by calling 1-800-POTHOLE.


SUDBURY, Mass. - Sudbury cops have a message for all you Christmas tree buyers: Don't be dummies. Cops are posting a photo of a vehicle that looks as if an evergreen ate it. On Friday, police stopped the vehicle on Route 20 to ask the driver what the hell he was thinking, strapping a 75-foot-long tree on top of (let's assume) a 1986 Yugo and then dragging it all down the highway. Honestly, who'd notice?


It was this day in 2010 that Pablo Picasso's electrician explained why he had 271 previously unknown works by the late artist, worth $80 million: They were, um, "gifts."


Confabulate - [kuhn-FAB-yuh-leyt] - verb

Definition: To converse informally; to chat

Example: Perhaps there is confabulation about Matt Lauer taking over the graveyard shift at News 12 New Jersey.