OUR TAKE ON THE NEWS IN NEW JERSEY

TRENTON - Ever since we met Gov. Phil Murphy, he has been talking about the same stuff: higher taxes for the rich, saving NJ Transit, legalizing marijuana, giving more money to public schools and a higher minimum wage. So, when lawmakers went to Trenton yesterday to hear the rookie governor's first budget message, there weren't a lot of surprises. With a progressive agenda - featuring such nice perks as tuition-free community college - Murphy will be desperate for cash. That's why he wants to return the state sales tax to 7 percent, from its current 6.625 percent. That makes some sense, as most people only notice a big difference in sales tax when they are in the market for, say, a new Porsche. And, if that's the case, such people are more concerned with a looming millionaire's tax - another pet project of the governor.

TRENTON - So, let's take a little look under the hood of this proposed $37.4 billion state budget. We know it is 8 percent higher than the fiscal '18 budget that Gov. Chris Christie signed last July. We know it is 4.2 percent more than the current amount the state spends on things. Here's the list of goodies: $704 million more for the state pension fund, $341 million more to public schools, $242 million more to get the trains to run on time and a $50 million initial investment in the ongoing promise for tuition-free community college. Lots of new, glorious spending here, as this proposal now heads to the meat grinder otherwise known as the New Jersey State Legislature.

Sign Up for E-News

TRENTON - Millionaires in New Jersey must wonder why politicians target them. Sure, they have the seven-car garage at their beach house behind the wrought iron gates. And, yeah, these are the people always dining at the latest and greatest restaurants in Jersey City. But they also hire a lot of people, throw around plenty of money and, in some cases, are big donors to the politicians who are hell-bent on raising their taxes. And so, at the private clubs where the martinis are shaken, not stirred, people want to know why they would be stuck with a new 10.75 percent marginal tax rate on any income above $1 million. There are 20,000 New Jerseyans in this pile, as well as 19,000 out-of-staters. It all makes tons of sense in Trenton, just as long as our millionaires don't realize they can just move across the river to Pennsylvania, with its flat 3.07 percent income-tax rate. Shhh. Don't tell them.

STATEWIDE - With all this talk about legalizing marijuana in New Jersey, pollsters at Quinnipiac University asked New Jerseyans: Would you actually smoke the stuff? The answer is surprising. While nearly 60 percent are ok with legalization, only nine percent of us say we would definitely give it a toke, as a legal experience and all. More than 75 percent of people responded that they aren't really interested in trying pot, or aren't ready to admit it to some nosy pollster from some out-of-state university.

IN OTHER IMPORTANT NEWS

ONLINE - It is called "drinking while clicking," and CBS reports it has become a $70 billion boon for the online industry. A new survey is out, showing 68 million people admit to "shopping under the influence," equaling an average of $447 a year. The top item that drunk people buy?  Food. Then, its shoes and, then, clothing. The survey revealed some of the ridiculous items that made perfect sense to buy at the time: 100 top hats for a pet toad, a hot pink outfit for a man, and a blow-up, ride-on tyrannosaurus. The top generation of drunken shoppers? Millennials, of course.

THURMONT, MD - When a local guy left his job at the Catoctin Zoo and Wildlife Preserve in September, it apparently made tons of sense to take some souvenirs: a bunch of venomous snakes. You can assume the zoo has been going crazy trying to find all these dangerous reptiles. The case was cracked when this guy, who calls himself "VenomMan20" on YouTube, posted a photo with a snake. Duh. Cops raided his place on Feb. 22, finding - get this -  six western diamondback rattlesnakes, one seven-foot forest cobra, one cape coral cobra and two boom slangs. Of yet more concern: these creepy killers were kept in unsecured plastic containers, with no fresh water. Two dead cobras were found in the freezer. Eek. This guy is set to appear in court on May 8 to answer to a bunch of charges. Also, the zoo wants to know what he did with three missing alligators and a crocodile.

THIS DAY IN HISTORY

It was this day in 1992 that the Soviet newspaper, Pravda, suspends publication. Perhaps someone didn't like his cartoon.

WORD OF THE DAY

Invigilate - [in-VIJ-uh-layt] - verb

Definition: To supervise students at an examination

Example: Hey, who threw that spitball? Darn, I hate invigilating in this awful school.

WEATHER IN A WORD

Clouds