OUR TAKE ON THE NEWS IN NEW JERSEY

STATEWIDE - Utility companies are dragging themselves back into the war room this morning, preparing for another day of downed wires, public scorn and mounting pressure from the governor's office to magically keep all the lights on. One would assume the utilities are still trying to patch up fragile networks from the back-to-back nor'easters that knocked out power to tens of thousands of customers for days. Gov. Phil Murphy says the utilities have been warned to be on their toes, once again, although we are sure they are well aware of the situation: strong winds and heavy, wet snow. Remember all those out-of-state crews dispatched to New Jersey to work around-the-clock to restore power? Expect them back here. Meanwhile, the local tree guy is shopping for a BMW.

STATEWIDE - The kids are back home. Sigh. And they may be home again tomorrow, as weather forecasters breathlessly talk about how 12 inches of snow will bash New Jersey in the next 24 hours in this "four'easter." So, besides the mountain of wet socks at the front door, what does all this mean? Local schools need to provide 180 days of school by June 30, and a "day" must include four hours of "pupil contact time." Plenty of school districts have cancelled seven or more days of school this winter (and, apparently, spring). So, expect days to be chiseled from spring break, as well as "early dismissals" in very late June, conflicting with summer camps. But at least the kids will be elsewhere.

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STATEWIDE - The Republic of New Jersey?  Maybe there should be some serious thought to seceding from the union. A new study shows the state ranks 47th in the nation when it comes to overall dependency on Uncle Sam. That's based on the ridiculous amount of federal taxes we pay, as well as the lack of federal aid and federal jobs we get. Add on the fact that the federal government refuses to support the Gateway tunnel, refuses to exempt the Jersey shore from proposed oil drilling, is eliminating funding to test the level of poop in our beach water and wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act, yanking insurance from many more people in New Jersey than elsewhere. So, how about the "United Counties of New Jersey"? Land of the Taylor Ham, Home of the Pork Roll.

ON THE RAILS - Hold on to your hats, as Rutgers-Eagleton is out with the latest public opinion of mass transportation in New Jersey. Of absolutely no surprise, only four percent of respondents found our mass transit system to be "excellent," while another 35 percent deemed it "good." More than half of the transit riders gave it a negative rating for such topics as "arriving on time" and the quality of the vehicles and equipment. Gov. Phil Murphy has a $242 million plan to get NJ Transit back on track: plug gaping budget holes, hire more workers, buy better equipment and expand service. He just needs the state Legislature to jump onboard.

NEW BRUNSWICK - So, who is the highest paid employee in New Jersey? If you are a football fan, the answer is obvious: Chris Ash. The Rutgers football coach earned $2.1 million last year.  If you are about to howl, however, you can be assured the RU coach's salary is nowhere near the top in the nation, ESPN reports. That distinction goes to Nick Saban, head coach of Alabama, who earns $11.1 million a year (and is the national champion.) Now, if Rutgers steadily starts winning Big 10 football games under Ash, we may all be grateful his salary is "only" $2 million or so. Right now, his salary ranks 13th out of the 14 head coaches in the Big Ten.

IN OTHER IMPORTANT NEWS

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. - A local strip club, the Mokai Lounge, must come up with another marketing gimmick. That's because the city is soon reinstating its business permit, after the owners paid $12,150 in fines and gave a $10,000 donation to Peaceful Ridge Horse Rescue. You may recall the Mokai Lounge needed to shut its doors earlier this month after a scantily-clad woman rode a white horse bareback through the partygoers. The stripper fell off the horse, as it appeared to panic in such a wild and weird place. The mayor, who alleges he was not in attendance that evening, later referred to the stunt as "insane stupidity."

THIS DAY IN HISTORY

It was this day in 1995 that New Jersey dedicated the Howard Stern Rest Area along Route 295, in Burlington County, a campaign promise from Gov. Christie Whitman to the shock jock. The rest area closed in 2003 to help balance the state budget, apparently.

WORD OF THE DAY

Farce - [FAHRSS] - noun

Definition: An empty or patently ridiculous act, proceeding, or situation

Example:  A foot of snow? And just eight days until the Mets open the season in Queens? What a farce.

WEATHER IN A WORD

C'MON.