TRENTON - Is is possible to be excited about a proposed state budget? Likely not, but perhaps the words "mildly enthused" can be attributed to the $38.6 billion spending plan that Gov. Phil Murphy presented yesterday for fiscal 2020. Yeah, it is a mish-mash of plenty of perceived, pie-in-the-sky revenue, but, in the end, it does control spending to less than 2 percent and slaps no new taxes on the many, many of us who earn less than $1 million a year. There's some goodies, like cuts in healthcare spending, more money for NJ Transit to figure itself out, and lots more cash for the state's pension fund - the only long-term way to save the state from bankruptcy. Obviously, the so-called "millionaire's tax" will be a huge issue, but it sticks another $447 million into the spending plan. It's clear the governor is no longer trying to fulfill his progressive agenda on the backs of taxpayers, a critical lesson he learned in last year's budget fiasco. Murphy's spending plan now heads to the meat grinder known as the state Legislature. Let's see what spits out.

TRENTON - Gov. Phil Murphy is intent on eliminating some timeworn practices in concocting the state budget. Specifically, he wants to clamp down on the practice of diverting funds from programs and using the money to plug the chronically Swiss-cheesy budget. Over the years, two types of programs have suffered greatly from such a practice - affordable housing and clean energy. So, when the governor announced in Trenton yesterday that his new budget plan ends a diversion from affordable housing programs and diverting far less than usual from clean-energy programs (no cold turkey for the governor and his budgeteers in that category, it seems), cheers went up in the Assembly chambers.  NJ Spotlight has the details of the grand plan. 

LAWRENCE - One would assume it's a landmark career achievement to be named dean of a business school.  Yet, the dean at Rider University is throwing it all away, over a dispute about chicken and waffle fries and how it all relates to same-sex marriage, NJ.com reports. You may recall the big campus brouhaha at Rider last semester. The question: Should a Chick-fil-A be allowed to open on campus?  The company is well-known for its opposition to the LGBTQ+ community, prompting plenty of soul-searching and over-analysis on campus. Ultimately, Rider leaders decided to ban the fast-food joint; just not worth the headache. But the dean - an admitted Chick-fil-A supporter - said the final ruling clashes with her values as a Christian woman.  She felt "punched" in the gut, adding Chick-fil-A's corporate purpose is to glorify God (as well as to get rich by calcifying our arteries.) So, the former dean will stay on as a professor, but can no longer serve an administration she believes chickened out.

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BACKWOODS - Fur trappers aren't feeling much "Muskrat Love" these days. Trapping is on a sharp decline in New Jersey. Pelts from beavers, foxes, minks, otters, opossum, raccoons, skunks, weasels and, yep, muskrats, just don't bring in big bucks anymore. Great news for animal rights activists... and, perhaps, for fans of The Captain & Tennille (famous for that schmaltzy 1976 chart-topper that you've likely never heard of). The Asbury Park Press says less than half the 1,280 state-licensed fur trappers traipsed into the woods last year. Those who did shared a paltry $120,000 at pelt auctions, way below $550,000 from 2013-14. Maybe it's time for these guys to finally take that job at Bass Pro Shop.

SADDLE RIVER - Current rules against yapping dogs are all bark and no bite. So, borough officials want more teeth in the ordinance. They propose fines of up to $1,000, community service and, yep, even a few days in the county slammer for owners who can't quiet their dogs. The new ordinance would ban loud, continuous barking for more than 20 minutes from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., and prohibit barking that lasts 15 minutes or more from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. A public hearing and vote are set for March 18. Expect a dogfight.



IN OTHER IMPORTANT NEWS

FRANKFORT, KY - Big decisions will soon be made at this Statehouse, as lawmakers must decide if they should officially switch the state rock with the state mineral. Democratic Rep. Al Gentry is fueling this debate, claiming lawmakers really botched things by deeming coal as a state mineral. That's because coal is a rock made of dead plants, which happens to contain minerals. Meanwhile, the state rock, agate, is a mineral made of Quartz. Gentry is eager to right this wrong, calling it "an embarrassment to geologists and earth scientists across our state."  (As well as any Kentuckian who knows how to Google.)

THIS DAY IN HISTORY

It was this day in 2016 that leaders of Embden, Maine decided to change the name of Katies Crotch Road, tired of wasting thousands of dollars a year replacing stolen signs.  No one knows how the street got such a name, reports the Morning Sentinel,but Board of Selectman Chairman Charles Taylor says the thefts occurred so frequently that "you would think every dorm room in the State of Maine should have one by now." Town leaders tried once before in 2012 to get the street renamed, but the 950 residents in this 43-square-mile town gave the proposal an emphatic "no."

WORD OF THE DAY

Abecedarian - [ay-bee-see-DAIR-ee-ən] - adjective

Definition: Of or relating to the alphabet

Example: As I write this sentence, I perform an abecedarian chant.

WIT OF THE DAY

"I like long walks, especially when they are taken by people who annoy me."

 

Fred Allen

WEATHER IN A WORD

Shivering

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