THIS WEEK IN TRENTON

May 22, 2009

Treasurer Provides Revenue Update; Outlines Further Cuts in FY2010 Budget
State Treasurer David Rousseau appeared before both the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee and the Assembly Budget Committee this week to provide updated revenue projections and the Administration’s proposals to close a gap in the FY2010 budget. The Governor’s budget proposal now anticipates spending of $28.61 billion which is $1.2 billion less than when he first proposed the budget in March. According to the Treasurer the FY2010 budget started with a shortfall of $7.2 billion in March that has grown to $8.8 billion in May.

In order to close the gap, the Treasurer said that the Governor is recommending a one-year suspension of property tax rebates for all taxpayers except for senior citizens and the disabled.  Last year more than 1.3 million rebate checks were sent out — averaging more than $1,000 to household and tenants earning under $150,000. The budget Corzine presented in March proposed keeping property tax rebates for households making less than $75,000, as well as for seniors and the disabled. This latest cut would save $943 million. The Treasurer also confirmed a concession on the budget Corzine announced in March after he initially proposed eliminating the property tax deduction on state income forms for all but senior citizens and disabled residents. The new version of the budget allows households making up to $150,000 to keep the deduction.

The Governor also recommended raising income taxes on people earning $400,000 to $500,000 from 6.37 percent to 8 percent.  People who earn $1 million or more would see their tax rate rise from 10.25 percent to 10.75 percent. The Governor also proposed the cancellation of the $25 million in incentive grants to fund expansion of the state’s preschool program.

Corzine’s plan would also increase taxes on insurance premiums and health maintenance organizations.  In addition, the state will only be able to contribute $100 million, about one-tenth of what is needed, for its pension program next year and may not have enough cash to avert automatic business tax increases in the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund, although Corzine still plans to deposit $120 million into the fund, which would reduce the amount of payroll taxes triggered.

The Legislature must adopt the FY2010 budget and Governor Corzine must sign it by July 1. 2009.

Corzine Re-Nominates Justice Albin to Supreme Court
Governor Jon Corzine re-nominated Justice Barry T. Albin to the State Supreme Court. If confirmed by the Senate, Justice Albin will receive lifetime tenure and will be eligible to serve on the Court until he reaches the mandatory retirement age of 70.

Justice Albin was nominated to serve on the Supreme Court by Governor James McGreevey and was confirmed by the Senate on September 12, 2002. At the time of his nomination he was a partner in the law firm of Wilentz, Goldman and Spitzer. He joined the firm in 1982 and was named partner in 1986. He previously served as a deputy attorney general in the Appellate Section of the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice and as an assistant prosecutor in Passaic and Middlesex Counties .

Justice Albin graduated from Rutgers College in 1973 and from Cornell Law School in 1976. He is married and has two sons.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Paul Sarlo announced that the Committee will consider the nomination on June 15.

Munoz Sworn in to Assembly
Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz was sworn in yesterday to represent the 21st Legislative District in the General Assembly. She succeeds her husband, Dr. Eric Munoz, who passed away suddenly in March.

Assembly Republican Leader Alex DeCroce has named Munoz to serve on the Assembly’s Health & Senior Services and Human Services Committees. Munoz’s professional background is as a Clinical Nurse Specialist, working at Yale- New Haven Hospital, Massachusetts General, Sloan-Kettering, and Overlook Hospital .

Corzine Appoints Zazzali and Pollock to Advisory Panel on Ethics
Governor Corzine has appointed retired state Supreme Court Chief Justice James R. Zazzali and retired Supreme Court Justice Stewart G. Pollock to the Advisory Panel on Ethics. They replace the late Supreme Court Justice Daniel O’Hern and former state Attorney General John Farmer Jr.

The bi-partisan panel is comprised of two public members who advise the Governor regarding conflicts issues and application of the Governor’s Code of Conduct. Members must have served as either Chief Counsel to the Governor, as Attorney General, or as a Justice of the Supreme Court or a Judge of the Superior Court to be considered for appointment. Terms are for three years.

Justice Zazzali was nominated Chief Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court by Governor Corzine in September 2006. He was nominated by Governor Christie Whitman to the state Supreme Court in 2000. Prior to his service on the bench, Justice Zazzali served as Attorney General from 1981 to 1982 and as Chairman of the State Commission of Investigation from 1989 to 1993. He served for 15 years on the Disciplinary Review Board — the attorney disciplinary committee — and also served on the Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct — the disciplinary board for judges. He has authored a number of law review articles for the Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics. Justice Zazzali is currently Of Counsel with Gibbons P.C. and with Zazzali Fagella.

Justice Pollock, a former Assistant United States Attorney, served as Chief Counsel to Governor Brendan T. Byrne from 1978-1979. He was the nominated by Governor Byrne to the state Supreme Court in 1979 and reappointed by Governor Thomas H. Kean. Justice Pollock has also served as a Commissioner of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities and a member of the New Jersey State Commission of Investigation. He is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Law Center Foundation at New York University School of Law, co-chairs the Governor’s Judicial Advisory Panel and chairs the New Jersey Supreme Court Committee on Professional Rules of Responsibility. Justice Pollock is also a Federal Court Mediator. Currently, he serves as Of Counsel at Riker Danzig.

Legislative Action
This week the Senate held Group 1 and 2 Committee meetings on May 18 and a Voting Session on May 21 and the Budget and Appropriations Committee received a revenue update from the Office of Legislative Services and the State Treasurer and reviewed the budget of the Department of Treasury and Interdepartmental Accounts on May 20. The Assembly held an Appropriations Committee meeting on May 18 and a Voting Session on May 21 and the Budget Committee received a revenue update from the Office of Legislative Services and the State Treasurer and reviewed the budget of the Department of Treasury and Interdepartmental Accounts on May 19.  There are no meetings scheduled for next week.

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