I was scheduled to serve my first day of Jury Duty today but since New Jersey is closed for business due to a budget crisis I am here with you instead. 


The Soap Opera
that has become “The Great New Jersey State Tax Debate” where Governor
Corzine wants a one cent sales tax increase while his fellow South
Jersey Democrats refuse to support any sales tax increase whatsoever.
The result of the stalemate is Democrat eating Democrat and the gory
aftermath is unappetizing:

Roughly 45,000 employees
— more than half the state work force — will again stay home.
Thousands of visitors will be turned away from state-run beaches and
parks. Construction crews, motor vehicle services, racetracks and the
lottery have been idled. And Atlantic City’s 12 casinos will face the
gravest financial threat in their history, forced to shutter their
doors in the heart of their busy season.

The casinos lost yet another legal bid to keep operating even
if state casino commission inspectors are furloughed.
The stalemate stems from a $1.1 billion shortfall in a proposed $31
billion spending plan. New Jersey’s constitution requires the
Legislature to pass a balanced budget by July 1. Corzine wants to
generate the revenue by raising the 6 percent state sales tax to 7
percent. Roberts has argued for a mix of other taxes and spending cuts.

The budget crisis goes beyond the eager dispensation of justice and the
collection of lottery winnings and the loss of gambled life savings in
Atlantic City.
The budget crisis also threatens the welfare of the ordinary sickly and the community needy:

The UMDNJ Board of Trustees approved a resolution this week
which will provide for bridge funding in the event a state budget is
not passed by the approaching deadline. This resolution, which supplies
funding through the month of July, was passed in order to ensure
continuity of operations for the University and Hospital.

UMDNJ
relies on direct state appropriations for a number of its educational,
clinical, and research initiatives, as well as funding for charity care
delivered through University Hospital. Once state figures are released,
the University budget will be completed and presented for approval by
the Board at its July meeting.

Later today I’ll call the Hudson County Superior Court to see if New Jersey is open for business tomorrow or not.
If New Jersey is open, I’ll probably need to head over to that Big Box O’ Justice
as a sworn citizen to do my delayed duty.
If New Jersey is still closed, I’ll continue to mourn those state
workers who stand in the rain holding their lives in their hands while
the politicians continue to take food out of their mouths.

37 Comments

  1. How right you are, Dave. It’s dead around here. DEAD!
    😀
    I posted two great MacBook Pro articles over the weekend and they didn’t get much play at all which confirms there really isn’t much readership here on the weekends. I may need to re-re-evaluate my posts frequency here again after the holiday. With 70,000 new blogs hitting the web a day now there’s lots of noise out there and I only want to contribute quality, not quantity. Less posts may mean more interest.
    My take is Corzine is doing the right thing. He was elected because he’s a financial genius and NJ always takes a yearly attack on a budget without any sort of long-range planning to get out of the red.
    Corzine’s plan is simple and efficient and his fellow Democrats want to appear tough and not give in on raising taxes because it will be used against them in the next election cycle. The Republicans, so far, are just staying silent as the Democrats eat each other.
    The Star-Ledger came out in favor of the Corzine plan. I don’t think the state lawmakers will be so willing to go along with the plan. They have until Friday, really, to make the next payroll cycle. If they don’t make that window to pay state employees then there’s nothing left as an incentive to keep them punching and this will drag on another two weeks after Friday. Friday is all or nothing.
    I remember Newt and his plan! It was the beginning of his end. The great thing about Newt — besides his brilliant mind — is his eager willingness to admit defeat and to confess the reasons for his losses. He claims the high ground and his own low ground and when he does that it makes him someone to listen to because he isn’t going to try to B.S. you later if everything fails…
    Key is Corzine. He has enough money and power to last him and his family the rest of their lives. This is about doing the right thing. He cannot, and must not, back down.

  2. David,
    I read your blog every day, even weekends. I only post if I have time and either something to ask or something somewhat substantive to say. No sense cluttering up your comments with small talk, right? Or no?
    Thanks for posting your perspective on the shutdown. I don’t know anything about the financial situation in NJ or Corzine, other than what I have heard and read over the past five days.
    I may also be on jury duty tomorrow. I am in a “standby” juror pool, and will find out later this afternoon if I go or not.

  3. Hi Antoinette —
    We live on small talk here.
    😀
    It’s always best to say something because even the smallest and seemingly most insignificant comment and move the discussion in an interesting new direction. I love it when that happens.
    Are you in NJ? I’ve never heard of a “standby” jury pool — you’re either there in the box of justice or you stay home.

  4. Weird, huh? They give you a number to call the afternoon before to see if you are needed or not. I just called and was informed that I must appear. A co-worker was a standby juror last month, but he did not have to appear. We’ll see if I get impanelled or just sit around all day.

  5. Hi Antoinette —
    Maybe I have the same thing here. I have to call a number after 5pm to see what time I need to show up the next day — but with this budget crises they tell you to “show up” but then they also give you another number to call, which is really the emergency weather information number, to tell you if the courts are actually open or not. It’s a mess!
    I’m used to New York City where there are no phone calls and no excuses. You show up. You shut up. You hope to go home.

  6. UPDATE:
    CBS News New York City is reporting Governor Corzine has a “one week plan” and a “two week plan” for the budget crisis and he is starting to ramp up his two week plan and that means even more vital services cutbacks.
    The newspapers are reporting no positive movement is expected to start happening until, perhaps, the weekend.
    It’s going to be a long, hot summer watching New Jersey die!

  7. The “Big Box ‘O Justice” was fired up and working today in Illinois’ Cook County.
    I would have posted something earlier, if I didn’t have to go do some work there earlier today.
    I’m surprised that the governor allowed the casinos and lottery to be closed down. I bet in my state, that would have been a priority as it pulls in millions of tax dollars that nobody in government ever wants to miss — even for a day or two.
    Did they shut down the NJ Turnpike? I didn’t hear anything about toll collections on that roadway.
    If Indiana’s government ever shut down, we could rest assured that the Spanish-Austrialian operators of the privatized Indiana Toll Road would keep collecting money to pay the rent to the state.
    The same thing could be said across the state line in Illinois for the Skyway (owned by the same company) and possibily the Illinois Tollway — if the Gov. got his way to sell that and the Illinois lottery to some friends high-bidders.
    Jury duty looks interesting. I had to show up to court for vire dire once after not being called a previous occasion. I didn’t get picked, however.

  8. I’ll have to check my nieghbor’s Indiana Toll Road vehicle — it used to be owned by the state, but since the Toll Road is now privately owned, it will be getting a private passenger vehicle plate, if it doesn’t already have one. The official state decal came off not too long ago also.
    From TollRoadNews:

    At 10am this morning (June 29) after JP Morgan, bankers to the Indiana Finance Authority (IFA) had told him by telephone that the $3.8b downpayment on their toll concession was coming over the wires, IFA public finance director Ryan Kitchell gave the word to the Indiana Toll Road (ITR) managers to collect up all the state’s money bags and to hand out new ITR Concession Company (ITRCC) money bags at toll plazas up and down the ITR.
    All tolls taken from 10am onward were the concessionaire’s property. ITRCC is the Cintra/Macquarie (Cinmac by our abbreviation) operating company and it simultaneously assumed responsibility for the payrolls and other expenses.

    When everything is privately owned, we won’t have to worry about government shut-downs. 😉
    Don’t tell anyone, but my neighbor’s personal cars have anti-Mitch Daniels bumper stickers. I haven’t talked to him about the switch-over, but evidently he doesn’t like it.

  9. $20 million a day in lost casino revenues is a lot of money!
    Next time I go to court in Cook County, I’ll have to bring along my laptop. I noticed that they have free public wi-fi at the Daley Center courthouse.
    That way, when I have free time, I can keep up with what’s happening here!

  10. What a crazy story about the tolls, Chris! I tell you, the logic of the free world is collapsing all around us!
    Ah! Free Wi-Fi! Niiiiiiiiiice. A laptop will be more quicker and easier to use than a BlackBerry — but it won’t be as chic, or as small or as fit-in-your-pocket-nifty.
    😀

  11. I’d love to hear more about what’s going in Jersey because I can’t imagine an entire state just not running… When do they anticipate things to return to “normal?”

  12. Hi suki!
    It’s wonderful to hear from you again! I have missed you.
    We are in the middle of history here in New Jersey. In the 26 or 28-year history of Atlantic City casinos being open and doing business they have never closed — for even a single minute — until yesterday.
    The Republicans are against any tax increase so they are just sitting back and watching the melee. The Democrats are forced to either side with governor Corzine or fight him.
    It will get much uglier before it gets any better and right now there’s no real end in sight.

  13. UPDATE:
    We may be near the end of the crisis and New Jersey may once again be open for business.
    http://nj.com reports:

    Aides to the governor said Corzine has offered a new plan that would provide 50 percent of the sales tax increase to property tax relief each year if voters approve it in a constitutional amendment. Using a constitutional amendment would mean lawmakers would be forced to use half the sales tax for property tax relief even if there is a big budget crunch. Roberts had wanted 100 percent of the sales tax increase dedicated to property tax reform.
    Several Democratic Assembly members who were in Roberts’ camp said they were now willing to accept Corzine’s proposal.
    “I support the speaker’s proposition that we should have the full billion in the sales tax towards property tax relief. But it’s not going to happen, and this represents a middle ground,” said Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-Middlesex).
    This is the sixth day of an unprecedented state government shutdown prompted by a budget stalemate.

  14. Harrah’s is big in Hammond with it’s Horseshoe Casino. They have 4 casinos in Atlantic City. Boyd Gaming, which is a partner with MGM Mirage in the Borgata, has a casino in Northwest Indiana also. We used to have a Trump Casino before it was sold to Detroit businessman, Don Barden.
    From USA Today,

    “It’s not good for business,” says LaFleur. “Clearly, it’s a drag on the stocks.”
    The analysts hope the Legislature and governor solve their budget issue and curb the short-term pain.
    But some wonder if this shutdown will cause longer-term damage by scaring away new investments.
    “The fact this is going on may hurt Atlantic City as a safe place to do business,” LaFleur says.
    Trump’s Juliano says the company isn’t ready to stop investment in the seaside resort.
    But the shutdown has been unexpected and unwelcome.

    If the casino operators stop investing in Atlantic City, it might be a good thing for our casinos here …

  15. The stock prices should rebound.
    The big fear investors will have is that the casinos could be shut down again. People felt that they were guaranteed money-makers and that the gaming would go on, no matter what.
    There will probably be pressure to pass legislation to prevent the governor from shutting down the casinos in the future. Probably by placing the gaming control board in the same classification as the state police in terms of priority for funding during times of budget crises.

  16. Hey Chris —
    Yes, it will be fascinating to see how this all shakes out in the end with the casinos. I’m sure you’re right they’ll get some future protection from this ever happening again.
    Governor Corzine is announcing a budget deal live on TV right now. It’s over!

  17. That’s good news that New Jersey is back online again. Although, some people were saying they wish all of the governments (state & federal) would shut down. This might give them inspiration to throw wrenches into the legislative sausage-makers in the future.

  18. It was a messy fight for sure, Chris, and the Republicans are the real winners. They took the “we don’t want any new taxes” position and just sat back and did nothing. It was Democrat against Democrat and it was pretty darn ugly. Now I wonder if state workers will get paid for the work they were forced to miss.

  19. It appears Corzine’s strategy worked out. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see legislation protecting the casinos against a similar interruption in the future.
    The whole thing sounds pretty ugly. Government workers must be relieved it ended on day 6.
    I attended jury duty today and was impanelled. Tough case. Criminal trial requires unanimous decision. I was the single hold out. Everyone else had their minds made up after 10 or 15 minutes! People kept trying to convince me with so-called evidence that I didn’t believe or that I knew wasn’t allowed (conjecture). After a while I was beginning to wonder if I was really convinced or if I was just feeling the pressure, so I took extra time to really think it out.

  20. Ok David, this is going to be a bit out of line as I don’t know much about the jury duty – but I read it all – religiously, and I would request you not to revise your posting plan.
    I am a little behind these days because I am about to be done with my studies and wrapping things up…but my morning coffee lacks the flavor without your post –
    it’s a ‘must read’ for me.

  21. Antoinette!
    I thought about you today! It’s nice to have an update from you.
    Friday was always the “drop dead” date for paying 45,000 NJ state workers — OR NOT — so that pressing need to get them their two week’s play made Corzine blink. What they agreed to do isn’t anything special and they could have had this same deal done last Friday. Corzine gave in and made a fool of himself in the process.
    There’s debate on MSNBC right now in Connecticut where Joe Lieberman is having his head handed to him by Ned Lamont in the race for Liberman’s senate seat.
    It’s funny Lamont just insulted Liberman by saing Connecticuit is 49th in bringing home pork to the state — “Only New Jersey is worse.” I laughed at that because Corzine was the NJ senator who didn’t bring home the money from D.C.!
    😀
    What a fascinating story about jury duty! So the trial and deliberation were all in one day? Can you talk about it yet? Was there a decision? You should write up the whole deliberation episode as an article for publication here!

  22. KATHA!
    THERE YOU ARE!
    I was wondering what happened to you — to quote the great author Flannery O’Connor’s short story Greenleaf — “I thought the plaster might have fell on you.”
    😉
    I hope Antoinette will share her experience with Jury Duty and maybe that fascinating process will make more sense to those who live outside the United States. I’m curious to know if there is an Indian equivalent of justice.
    Thanks for letting me know you are reading and sipping and chewing everything here — we appreciate your voice more than you silence, though.
    😀
    We will keep soldiering on, then! Always forward. Never looking back. No regret!

  23. Yes. The trial and deliberation were all in one day. We almost went into the second day because of me – No pressure! (haha) I kept them thinking and talking about every piece of evidence. It was uncomfortable being the hold out, but I feel good about the final outcome. I can talk about it now that it is over. I would certainly consider writing about it. I’ll check your rules for writers and we can go over the details in email?
    Regarding Corzine and the NJ outcome: I was pretty sure I had read much earlier this week the proposal that was adopted today.

  24. Hi Antoinette!
    Yes, email me if you have any questions. You can use the Contact form here to shoot me a line and I’ll get right back to you. I’d love it for you to talk about the process, your hold out, and the final conclusion.
    The whole NJ thing was an exercise in muscle flexing. The governor lost. His fellow Democrats humbled him. What a bore! What a waste of money! What unnecessary suffering!

  25. As far as I remember someone asked me about a particular last name and wanted to know which caste he/she belonged…
    To be very truthful…I have no clue and neither am I interested about it.
    But I will go back and take a look!

  26. Sure!
    As I have no interest to find out someone’s caste from their last name, I didn’t do my normal digging/research – but I will make sure to reply.