OUR TAKE ON THE NEWS IN NEW JERSEY

TRENTON - As Gov. Phil Murphy prepares to deliver his first budget address at 2 p.m. today, at the State House, observers will be curious if his proposals jive with the state's pension mess. Look for the governor to talk about campaign topics like equal pay, health care, climate change, immigration and offshore drilling, as well as the proposed millionaire's tax to generate cash for New Jersey's schools, transportation and pension systems. Murphy will hit a few hiccups along the way, most notably Senate President Stephen Sweeney's less-than-tepid support and an inconvenient $8.7 billion structural gap between revenue and expenses. Another hiccup? Years of skipping or reducing pension contributions have left New Jersey with the "worst-funded state system in the nation," reports Bloomberg. So, have at it, governor. No one said this would be easy.

TRENTON - In the post-Christie era, state Republicans find themselvesin the easier position: Slamming the governor's budget, rather than supporting it. Assemblyman John DiMaio is quick to note that Murphy ripped apart the new federal tax law that caps property tax deductions at an unrealistic $10,000. Yet, DiMaio asks, why did the Democratic-led Legislature not eliminate the state's own $10,000 cap deduction? He noted Democrats voted against eliminating the cap on Feb. 15 and Feb. 26, which would have allowed us all to deduct our entire property tax bill from the state income tax. Expect Republicans to poke many more holes - the only perk of being the minority party.

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TRENTON - So, what's next for NJ Transit? We will learn today, when the governor promises a "major statement" about this beleaguered rail agency. The grand solution will certainly cost a heap of money, as Murphy must magically reverse declining ridership, chronic maintainence issues and reduced staffing. Fare hikes would certainly appear in the mix, as New Jersey, unfortunately, is not permitted under the U.S. Constitution to print its own money. (We checked.) Here's an idea to spark ridership: If students want to attend free community college, as the governor has promised, all classes need to be held on NJ Transit trains. Just an idea.

JERSEY CITY - Former Gov. Brendan Byrne passed away January 4, but he is still somehow making news. The plan is for some of his ashes be prominently placed at Healy's Tavern in Jersey City at 4 p.m. Friday, while other remains would be scattered at Brendan Byrne State Forest and elsewhere. NJ.com asked the Roman Catholic church about the plans, and the response was as expected: The church is against it. Apparently, all the remains need to be together, so the perfect body rises during Resurrection. You are not supposed to scatter ashes either. OK, ok; no one wants to mess with the Archdiocese of Newark. But, as Byrne fans, we would prefer to honor his successes by looking up at a mantle and toasting the 47th governor with a pint.

STATEWIDE - If you are a repair guy with a major utility, you are not reading this. You are sleeping. Or eating. Or showering. Or journeying home. That's because you have been working day and night for the past week, restoring power to people's homes after two nor'easters dumped more than two feet of snow, with high winds, on New Jersey. It appears that all power has been restored, mercifully, with crews from as far away as Michigan and Illinois cutting through fallen trees to reconnect miles of wire. Politicians and social media pundits have been squawking about all the power outages. But kudos to all these repair crews, who we assume were under tremendous pressure to work, work, work....and work.

IN OTHER IMPORTANT NEWS

SACRAMENTO, CA - It's painful to watch. But try to see this hapless "gumball bandit" attempt to steal a gumball machine from a local animal shelter. It's all posted on Facebook, showing this dummy crawl through a small window he broke at the bottom of a door and then actually thinking he could squeeze this large, heavy gumball machine through the same window. Candy is flung everywhere and ultimately the guy decides to drag the thing into the yard and heave it over a barbed-wire fence. Shelter officials figure he was trying to get at all the quarters, while somehow failing to see the box of cash donations, just a few feet away from the machine and quite easily accessible.

THIS DAY IN HISTORY

Think there has been a lot of snow lately? Well, think about this day in 1993, when three feet of snow fell on New Jersey.

WORD OF THE DAY

Busticate - [BUHS-ti-keyt] - verb

Definition: To break into pieces

Example: To find any savings, will we have to busticate the state budget?

WEATHER IN A WORD

Wet