STATEWIDE – With yet another Democratic debate tonight, featuring Mike Bloomberg as a fresh punching bag, where does New Jersey stand in all of this? Usually, our primary election is held so late, in June, that our votes really don’t matter. But things are really splintered with the Democrats these days, so who knows? Apparently FDU does, releasing the latest poll showing New Jersey Democrats are split between Bernie Sanders and Bloomberg. The poll puts Sanders’ support at 24%, with Bloomberg nipping at his heels at 23%. What does this all mean? Perhaps you’ll see Sanders campaigning at a diner near you, yelling at his half-filled coffee cup, while Bloomberg choppers over, parachuting cash everywhere. 

TRENTON – Tax, Tax and More Tax. That is the plea from a newly-formed coalition, begging state leaders to tax the heck out of people who dare to earn more than $250,000 a year. The group, called “For The Many New Jersey,” is demanding that the state reset its tax code and – while we’re at it – restore the 7% sales tax. And, while we are in this tax-hiking mood, they also think there should be an estate tax for the rich, the closing of corporate business tax loopholes, extending the corporate business tax surcharge, taxing high-end services including interior decorating and limousine rides, and some other good `ol tax hiking to squeeze about $3.136 billion more each year from the rich. This cash windfall would be used to fix infrastructure, repair schools and a bunch of other nice things. No comment from the rich, of course, but this may be the right time to get a realtor’s license in Rockland County, NY.

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TRENTON – If you’re a fan of the ponies, you’ll have a sense of what’s stirringin the vicinity of the State House right now. With budget season ready for the off, the public jockeying has already begun. Most of these jockeys, however, aren’t carrying crops; they’re carrying megaphones — all the better to make their case to the governor and legislators for a tax break, a tax cut, a tax hike, more spending on this or less spending on that. NJ Spotlight has the latest on the budget process and the various cases being made for billions in annual state spending… And they’re off!

BRIEFING BREATHER: In golf, a "Bo Derek" is a score of 10.

BERKELEY – One of New Jersey’s few remaining one-room schoolhouses is getting yet another new lease on life, thanks to a $656,500 state grant. The Manitou Park schoolhouse was built in 1929 to educate African-American children during an era of segregation. It has been unused and crumbling since the 1970s. Now, Mayor Carmen Amato tells the Berkeley Times this historic landmark and its playground are to become a shiny new community center. It’s an amenity neighborhood residents have wanted for years. The town must now match the grant, but the mayor expects to recoup its share by selling the property to a local developer who pledges to preserve it for public use. All good, unless the developer builds a Walmart in the parking lot.

MAYWOOD – Even K9 cops need protection in life-threatening situations. So, kudos to kids from Garfield High School who helped Maywood’s four-legged cop, Ryker, get his first bulletproof vest. Teens from the school’s Friends of the Animals Club spent a year hosting bake sales, pizza parties and other fundraisers to pay for this drug-sniffing German Shepherd’s body armor. Ryker’s two-legged partner, Detective Chris Nichols, tells The Record that protective dog vests “don’t come cheap,” but students got a nice deal from a Massachusetts non-profit that usually sells K9 vests for $2,300. Not exactly sure what Ryker thinks, but there’s lots of tail-wagging.

PISCATAWAY – If you are lucky enough to land a ticket for tonight’s Rutgers basketball game, expect noise levels in the RAC to reach unprecedented levels. That’s because this glorious team has the nation’s best home record at 17-0 on its home court, in a trapezoid-shaped building that until recently was a national joke for its shear ugliness. A victory tonight would be sweet in so many ways: Keeping the streak alive at the RAC, locking up the first invite to the NCAA tourney in decades and getting the chance to beat up the University of Michigan on the home court, in front of a sell-out crowd and a national audience on the Big 10 Network. RU fans know this is a winnable game. Will there be some more pandemonium in Piscataway?

IN OTHER IMPORTANT NEWS

ARLINGTON, TX – You need some enticement to get the kiddies to the ballpark. Perhaps the Texas Rangers found a way, recruiting 300 local youngsters to break in the new Globe Life Field by flushing all the stadium toilets at the same time. The so-called “super flush” happened at 10:30 a.m. yesterday, as nervous plumbers looked on. The purpose: To see if the plumbing system within the new, 1.8 million-square-facility can truly handle the tremendous strain. Relieved officials are calling the trial “successful,” as workers frantically build the stadium in time for the Rangers to play an exhibition game on March 23, perhaps to see if their bats work, as well.

THIS DAY IN HISTORY

It was this day in 1987 that anti-smoking ads finally start appearing on television, starring Yul Brynner posthumously, and courtesy of the American Cancer Society.

WORD OF THE DAY

Bootless – [BOOT-ləs] – adjective

Definition: useless

Example: I have a sudden memory of bootless rage, my white lips glued together, as I watched the Rutgers basketball team lose to Michigan on Feb. 1 at MSG. Sweet revenge tonight?

WIT OF THE DAY

“I have the greatest affection for [blacks], but I know they're not going to make it for 500 years. They aren't. You know it, too. The Mexicans are a different cup of tea. They have a heritage. At the present time they steal, they're dishonest, but they do have some concept of family life. They don't live like a bunch of dogs, which the Negroes do live like.”

― Richard Nixon

TODAY'S TRUMPISM

“Wow, Bloomberg is a total racist.”

- Donald J. Trump

WEATHER IN A WORD: Clear

THE NEW 60
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by Andy Landorf & John Colquhoun