PARAMUS - The theater shifts from the front line in Trenton to the front line in Bergen today, where state Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-Wood-Ridge) presides as appropriations chairman for a statewide hearing on Gov. Chris Chris Christie's proposed 2011 budget.
"A total coincidence," says Sarlo, when asked about the symbolic import of kicking off these budget hearings in his home county, which happens to be the crucible for a contentious county executive's race, where Democrats are trying to hold onto power in the face of a Christie-infused GOP.
Dems say Christie's state funding cuts - including $821 million statewide to schools and $445 million to muncipal aid - have brought their party off the cold slab just in time to fight off County Clerk Kathleen Donovan, a Republican intent on taking the seat of County Executive Dennis McNerney.
"We scheduled this a while ago, and it's just a coincidence that the governor's budget hit Bergen the hardest, in terms of cuts to municipal and school aid and then the Blue Laws," says Sarlo as he heads to the front of the room here at Bergen Community College.
The senators take their seats and Sarlo begins the hearing.
"We'll have an opportunity at some point today hopefully to talk about just Bergen issues with a group separately," says the budget chairman.Read More >
TRENTON - The Senate Judiciary Committee has Labor Commissioner nominee Hal Wirths under the interrogation lamps here at the Statehouse Annex, and state Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-Wood-Ridge) immediately goes after the Bergen County Blue Law issue.
"I was open Sundays," banker and former small business owner Wirths tells Sarlo when asked if he favors Gov. Chris Christie's budget proposal to repeal Blue Laws for Sunday shopping in Bergen.
"You would support repeal of Blue Laws in Bergen County?" Sarlo asks.
"I'm a home rule guy so I would have to give it some thought," says Wirths. "I haven't given much thought to the Bergen County Blue Law. I don't want to give a shoot from the hip answer.
"I'm not a legislator or a senator... but I think it makes sense," he adds.
Sarlo sits up in his chair.Read More >
State Sen. Gerald Cardinale (R-Demarest) says the Bergen County Democratic Organization (BCDO) is in the decaying stages of an often troubled and sometimes tortured tenure that makes its members' sudden racing pulses in the wake of Gov. Chris Christie's budget address but a faint and misplaced stir of energy that will hardly catapult Bergen Executive Dennis McNerney's past Republican challenger Kathleen Donovan.
Assessing the aftermath of Christie's budget rollout, which would ax $21,120,868 in state aid out of suburban Bergen County, Cardinale said the taxpayers he encounters "are pleased as punch."
"If the (BCDO) thinks this budget is unpopular, they're whistling past the graveyard," said the veteran GOP senator. "This budget is unpoplar only with a small segment of the Democratic Party. Rank and file Democrats - they like it. They would favor it because they're sick of the taxes. Christie has done a remarkable job."
Cardinale said what he expected would have been former Gov. Jon Corzine's plan - raising the sales tax by two cents and imposing an across -the-board income tax increase - would have simply perpetuated New Jersey's fiscal crisis. And he doesn't think Christie's just staking out an extreme position with a declaration of deep cuts, that he could walk back in negotiations with the Democratic Party-controlled legislature.
"I don't think the governor will give ground on a tax," he said, specifically referring to the millionaire's tax, which Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-East Orange) wants to reinstate before signing onto many of the governor's proposed cuts.Read More >
Sarlo: 'Devastated' Bergen County Perfect Host For Budget Committee's First Public Hearing
TRENTON - Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee Chairman Paul Sarlo (D-Bergen) today said that while the committee chose Bergen Community College to host its first public hearing prior to Governor Christie's Tuesday budget address, the selection was made even more appropriate given the county's dire prospects under the proposed plan.
The Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee is scheduled to hold its public hearing 9 a.m. Tuesday, March 23, in the Moses Training Room, Bergen Community College, 400 Paramus Road, Paramus.Read More >
The latest issue in Bergen County: Gov. Christopher Christie’s plan to end Blue Laws. Christie says Sunday retail shopping in Bergen County would bring the state an additional $65 million in annual revenue. Expect legislators from both sides of the aisle to oppose the plan – this is one issue where Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee Chairman Paul Sarlo (D-Wood-Ridge), who will run the budget hearings, and conservative State Sen. Gerald Cardinale (R-Demarest) are in agreement. Polling has showed the repeal of Blue Laws to be politically toxic among Bergen County voters.
The plan may not be entirely within the control of the governor and the Legislature. County Clerk Kathleen Donovan, the likely GOP candidate for County Executive, says that any repeal of Blue Laws would have to be approved by voters in a countywide referendum – and approved by voters in any municipality where the Sunday prohibition would be set aside.
“Clearly, this is an issue that should and will be left to the voters,” said Donovan, who has said she would vote against the repeal. Donovan has also noted that the courts have upheld a local Paramus ordinance prohibiting work of any kind on Sundays.
SARLO: GOVERNOR GIVES SENATE BUDGET PANEL 'PLENTY TO CHEW ON' AS FY11 REVIEW BEGINS
TRENTON - Senator Paul Sarlo (D-Bergen), chairman of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, today released the following statement on Governor Chris Christie's proposed Fiscal Year 2011 state budget:
"The Governor has certainly given the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee plenty to chew on over the next eight weeks.Read More >
Senate Budget Committee Chairman Paul Sarlo (D-Wood-ridge) doesn’t know what Gov. Chris Christie’s budget for next year is going to look like, but he’s it’s going to be tough and that Republicans are going to have to vote for it.
“I think what’s going to be unique about this year… is our colleagues and friends on the Republican side of the aisle have been able to sit back, criticize and not put up any difficult votes in difficult budget years,” he said. “That most likely will change this year, and they’re going to have to be prepared to provide sufficient votes on.”
Sarlo said that since budget details have not yet been released, it’s far too early to tell whether it would win any Democratic votes. The budget will need at least four Democratic votes to pass, even if Christie has all seventeen Republicans present and firmly behind it.
“We really have to look at the whole budget and the impact and pain it spreads across the state,” said Sarlo.
TRENTON - Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee Chairman Paul Sarlo today announced an aggressive 8 1/2-week schedule for the panel's hearings on the Governor's proposed FY2011 state budget.
"The Governor's budget address will come at a critical point for the state and it only follows that this committee not waste time in getting down to business," said Sarlo (D-Bergen/Essex/Passaic). "While we will be aggressive in our timetable, we will not skimp one bit in giving the Governor's budget the careful review it demands and deserves."Read More >
Developer Michael Kasparian plans to seek a new term as Bergen County Democratic chairman, and it remains to be seen whether he will run unopposed.
“I will be running for the chair this June, and no one has informed me of any intention to challenge my candidacy,” Kasparian told PolitickerNJ.com. He preferred not to go into any further detail.
Kasparian took the helm of a party shaken by the corruption indictment and subsequent conviction of its former chairman, Joseph Ferriero, a fundraising powerhouse who took over the Democrats as a perennial minority party and transformed them into a fundraising powerhouse that by 2007 controlled all but one countywide office.
But while Ferriero wanted Kasparian to be his replacement, the new chairman has taken pains to highlight his own less autocratic leadership style. Most Bergen Democrats acknowledge that he is anything but autocratic, even the anti-Ferriero. But it has come at a price.
“We complained that we had a machine when we were winning, and now we’ve lost that machine and we’re losing,” explained one Democratic elected official with ambivalent feelings about Kasparian who did not want to be identified.
Both privately and publicly, prominent Bergen Democrats have complained that Kasparian is indecisive, that the strong leadership they’re used to is lacking.
Although there had long been public infighting in the Bergen County Democratic Organization between Ferriero loyalists and a faction of reform advocates led by state Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Teaneck), elections were tackled with coolness and efficiency. The public infighting was, for the most part, relegated to the Bergen County Republican Organization.
When Westwood Mayor John Birkner dropped out of the race for freeholder last week, some Bergen County Democratic insiders said he couldn’t muster the support, despite being backed by state Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-Wood-ridge) and Loretta Weinberg (D-Teaneck).
“It’s not the case,” said Sarlo.
Sarlo said that Birkner got mixed signals from Democratic Chairman Michael Kasparian, who recruited him, and his wife’s recent treatment for breast cancer also made him reluctant to run. Sarlo said that he and Weinberg never mounted a real push.
“We didn’t really try. We were trying to get directions from the chairman on what he wanted to do. He gave no direction. He invited the guy in, told the guy to go to the Building Trades,” said Sarlo. “But he was torn, because he was invited in by the leadership. So he didn’t want to disappoint the leadership and the unions, but at the same time the chairman brought him in and he was confused if he supported him.”
Kasparian wound up endorsing Northvale Mayor John Hogan, who was the non-incumbent who won the party line for the seat of retiring Freeholder Tomas Padilla.
“All of that should have been avoided. There was no need to invite this guy in, get the unions and the Building Trades to support him, and then decide you don’t really want to go with him,” said Sarlo.
Joseph Ariyan, the party’s counsel and a Kasparian confidante, did not want to get into a faceoff with Sarlo.
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