Wednesday
May162018

How Steve Oroho finished what Jay Webber started

In the Legislature, you can be a conservative in one of two ways... broadly speaking.  One way is to be a conscience, sit above it all, and vote accordingly.  You could not find a more perfect example of this than Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll, who negotiates the prickly halls of Trenton with a Zen assuredness.  He always knows the right thing to do... and he always does it.  Instead of the wilting figure of John McCann, the YR's and CR's could do no better than to adopt Assemblyman Carroll as their Sensei. 

The other way is to wade into the muck in an attempt to climb aboard the ship of state and steer it in a more desirable direction.  Sometimes the engine isn't even working and you might need to get down into the boiler room -- knee deep in waste -- and grapple with the machinery of government, just to get it sputtering in some direction.

Assemblyman Jay Webber takes this course... to a point.  He seems well enough suited to steer, but when it comes to the engine room, he doesn't want to get his hands dirty.  That's where he differs from Senator Steve Oroho.  Oroho accepts that he will have to endure the heat and muck in order to get the machine running -- and he doesn't mind busting a knuckle or two while grabbling with a boiler wrench. 

A prime example are their differing approaches to preventing the Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) from going bankrupt and ending the Estate Tax.  Two very conservative causes.  The TTF, funded by a gas tax, was right out of the Reagan mantra of using user taxes to fund public infrastructure.  Those who use the roads should pay for them, said Reagan, no free rides!  While the death tax -- which is what an Estate Tax is -- has been identified by conservatives for years as the destroyer of small businesses and the ruination of family farms.

Jay Webber waded into the issue assuredly enough.  On October 14, 2014, the Star-Ledger published a column by the Assemblyman.  It's title was "Fixing transportation and taxes together."  Webber was writing about how to raise the gas tax to re-fund the nearly bankrupt TTF, while offsetting that tax increase with cuts to other taxes.  He zeroed in on the Estate Tax: 

"NEW JERSEY leaders are grappling with three major problems: First, New Jersey has the worst tax burden in the nation. Two, New Jersey's economy suffers from sluggish growth. And third, our state's Transportation Trust Fund is out of money. There is a potential principled compromise that can help solve all of them.

Of the three problems, the Transportation Trust Fund has been getting the most attention lately, and for good reason: It's broke. There is just no money in it to maintain and improve our vital infrastructure. Without finding a solution, we risk watching our roads and bridges grow unsafe and unusable and hinder movement of people and goods throughout the state. That, of course, will exacerbate our state's slow economic growth.

...we should insist that if any tax is raised to restore the TTF, it be coupled with the elimination of a tax that is one of our state's biggest obstacles to economic growth: the death tax. By any measure, New Jersey is the most extreme outlier on the death tax, with worst-in-the-nation status... 

New Jersey's death tax is not a concern for the wealthy alone, as many misperceive. We are one of only two states with both an estate and inheritance tax. New Jersey's estate-tax threshold of $675,000, combined with a tax rate as high as 16 percent, means that middle-class families with average-sized homes and small retirement savings are hit hard by the tax. 

It also means the tax affects small businesses or family farms of virtually any size, discouraging investment and growth among our private-sector job creators. Compounding the inequity is that government already has taxed the assets subject to the death tax when the money was earned. Because of our onerous estate and inheritance taxes, Forbes magazine lists New Jersey as a place "Not to Die" in 2014. 

That's a problem, and it's one our sister states are trying hard not to duplicate. A recent study by Connecticut determined that states with no estate tax created twice as many jobs and saw their economies grow 50 percent more than states with estate taxes. That research prompted Connecticut and many states to reform their death taxes. New York just lowered its death tax, and several other states have eliminated theirs. 

The good news is that New Jersey's leaders finally are realizing that our confiscatory death tax is a big deal. A bipartisan coalition of legislators has shown its support for reforming New Jersey's death tax..." 

Taking Webber's lead, Senator Steve Oroho got to work and began the painstakingly long process of negotiation with the majority Democrats.  Oroho was animated by the basic unfairness that New Jersey taxpayers were under-writing out-of-state drivers to the tune of a half-billion dollars a year.  He understood that if the TTF went bankrupt, the cost would flip to county and local governments... resulting in an average $500 property tax increase.  Oroho went to battle to prevent this disaster and even had to stand up to Governor Chris Christie, who wanted to end negotiations too soon and accept a weaker deal from the Democrats.

Unfortunately, Assemblyman Webber didn't stick with it.  When the time came for Jay Webber to be counted as part of that bipartisan coalition, he couldn't be counted on.  Jay got scared off by the lobbyist arm of the petroleum industry and what's worse is that he started attacking those who did what he advocated doing only a short time before.  

Remember that it was Webber who wrote these words in that column more than three years ago:  "Any gas-tax increase should be accompanied by measures that will help alleviate, or at least not increase, the overall tax burden on New Jerseyans." Jay Webber wrote those words, setting the direction.  Steve Oroho was left on his own to get the job done -- to do the negotiating.  The helmsman had abandoned the engineer.  

Webber said at the time that he believed the bipartisan tax restructuring package worked out by the legislative leaders (minus Senator Tom Kean Jr.) and the Governor would result in a net tax increase.  Oroho and others disagreed with him.  Webber is by all accounts a good lawyer, but Oroho is the numbers man.  He's a certified financial planner and CPA.  Before beginning his career of public service, Steve Oroho was a senior financial officer for S&P 500 companies like W. R. Grace and  Young & Rubicam.  It was this knowledge that enabled him to fashion the compromise that he did -- one that turned out to be the largest tax cut in New Jersey's history. 

In the end, the Democrats' 40-cent increase on the gas tax was paired down to 23-cents.  The gas tax, the proceeds from which funds the TTF, had not been adjusted for inflation in 28 years, had not provided enough funding to cover annual operations in 25 years, and wasn't even bringing in enough money to pay the interest on the borrowing that was done to keep operations going (in 2015, the state collected just $750 million from the gas tax while incurring an annual debt cost of $1.1 billion).  Even so, Senator Oroho knew exactly where to draw the line... at the minimalist 23 cents and not the 40 cents the Democrats plausibly argued for. 

In the end, the engineer got the job done.  Senator Steve Oroho emerged from the boiler room triumphant.  He ended the Estate Tax and secured tax cuts for retirees, veterans, small businesses, farmers, consumers, and low-income workers.  He secured property tax relief by doubling the TTF's local financial aid to towns and counties -- and prevented a $500 per household property tax hike.  He made out-of-state drivers pay for using New Jersey's roads -- and ensured that New Jerseyans will continue to have safe roads and bridges to drive on.

Oroho's tax cuts were praised by conservative groups like Americans for Tax Reform and conservative publications like Forbes, which called his tax cuts "one of the 5 best state and local tax policy changes in 2016 nationwide." 

That's getting something done.   

Tuesday
May152018

The sad fates of those who trusted Freeholder Boss Graham

Around the County Courthouse in Newton they have a saying... George Graham makes a lot of friends, but doesn't keep any for long. 

Graham rose in Sussex County politics from a local Democrat official to the Republican boss of county government.  His political consulting business -- York Strategies -- was once closely associated with the campaigns of a number of Democrat candidates in Hudson County.  Remember Assembly Speaker Joe Doria?  The Hudson County Democrat was Governor Jim Florio's legislative point man in the passage of the most restrictive firearms ban in our nation's history.

George Graham and his political consulting business, York Strategies, worked for Joe Doria in Hudson County.  Graham was a registered Democrat when he worked for Doria. 

George Graham was a lifelong Democrat until switching to Republican to vote in the primary against conservatives Alison McHose and Gary Chiusano.  In the General Election that year, Graham donated to their liberal Democrat opponents and switched back from Republican to Democrat in order to vote in the 2008 Democrat presidential primary between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. 

Afraid of losing his seat on Stanhope council, a desperate Graham switched again to Republican, his current party today.  In a matter of a few years time, George Graham flipped from Democrat to Republican, back to Democrat, and then to Republican again. Graham has been a Democrat for most of his adult life and affiliated with liberals for much of that time.

Graham's political consulting business, York Strategies, which included partner James Barracato, came up with slogans like "Joe Doria is full time Bayonne" and "I'm with Joe," according to the Hudson Reporter newspaper.  Although no longer a member of the Legislature, Joe Doria is still on the campaign trail with Jim Florio, only now they campaign for gun control and against the NRA (National Rifle Association).  At a recent gathering the two called for new constraints on the Second Amendment, with Joe Doria calling the NRA "dirty".  Not to be outdone, Florio added that the manufacturers and sellers of guns were, in his words, "Merchants of Death." 

As a Republican, George Graham closely aligned himself with former Freeholder Glen Vetrano.  In 2012, Vetrano and Graham engineered the victory of Dennis Mudrick, who was elected to the Freeholder Board. 

But it didn't take long for Graham to deep six his former friends.  After securing election to the Freeholder Board himself in 2013, the following year Graham instigated the ethics investigation that brought down Vetrano, and in 2015 he ran Jonathan Rose and Carl Lazzaro against incumbent Freeholder Mudrick, who was defeated in the primary.

In 2016, Graham became the boss of the Freeholder Board -- controlling a majority made up of him, Rose, and Lazzaro.  After winning the primary that year, he successfully talked Assemblywoman Gail Phoebus into challenging Senator Steve Oroho for his seat in 2017.  This move essentially ended Phoebus' political career as well.  

Not content with ruining Assemblywoman Phoebus, Graham moved on to Republican candidate for Freeholder Herb Yardley, who Graham deliberately sought to hobble so that Democrat Dan Perez might win and the join Graham, Rose, and Lazzaro on the Freeholder Board.  Worse still was the fact that Graham involved Freeholders Jonathan Rose and Carl Lazzaro in supporting the Democrat. 

And that is why we are where we are today. 

Tuesday
May152018

The return of Dave Fanale and the anti-police wing of the GOP

We all remember the sorry episode of Dave Fanale.  He was an up-and-coming Sussex County politician in the orbit of Freeholder boss George Graham.  He was elected to the GOP county committee and to the Franklin Borough Council.  Some had him marked for bigger and better things.

And then it all started to come unraveled.  It turned out that Fanale didn't like law enforcement very much.  He had a problem with cops and started posting weird stuff on Facebook in this regard...

Yep, GOP Councilman Fanale posted a cartoon of a kid pissing on the thin blue line (representing the police) while giving them the finger.  The cartoon above was just one shot in a series of verbal and written attacks on the police.  Councilman Fanale's anti-police campaign got particularly disturbing, as it stretched on for months.

There was a huge backlash amongst the conservative, pro-police residents of Franklin... and Dave Fanale quit the Council.  For a time, Fanale moved in with Freeholder Jonathan Rose, another member of Freeholder boss George Graham's entourage. 


And now he's back. 

Among those present at Freeholder Jonathan Rose's fundraiser last month, was former Franklin Councilman Dave Fanale... the same controversial figure who resigned from the Council after leading his anti-police campaign.  Freeholder Rose shares a somewhat libertarian political philosophy with Fanale and the former Franklin Councilman is pushing for his re-election. 

At the same fundraising event for Freeholder Rose, attended by former Councilman Fanale, Rose formally threw his support to John McCann, formerly of the Democrat Bergen County Sheriff's office, and now a GOP candidate for Congress. 

Yes, that's Sheriff Michael Saudino -- the Bergen County Sheriff who was elected as a Republican, then switched to Democrat in order to destroy the Republican Party in that county, and then who ran for re-election on a ticket with Hillary Clinton and Josh Gottheimer. 

The Bergen Record has identified McCann as the "right hand man" to Democrat Sheriff Michael Saudino.  It was Saudino's feud with the Republican County Executive that undermined and ultimately lost Republicans control of Bergen County.  The coup de grace came when Saudino, a one-time Republican, joined Hillary Clinton and Josh Gottheimer on a ticket that crushed Republicans in Bergen County. 

John McCann remained Sheriff Saudino's consigliore through it all and ran for Congress (as a Republican) with Saudino's blessing and while still on the Democrat's payroll.  Sheriff Saudino has formally endorsed fellow Democrat Josh Gottheimer for re-election this year. 

The media has recently reported on 22 Bergen County police officers who claimed they were wrongly terminated or mistreated.  In a class action suit, the officers accuse Sheriff Saudino of demoting or firing qualified officers out of spite or for political retaliation.  Saudino, who supported Gottheimer for his stance on LGBT issues, is accused of allowing the "despicable and dehumanizing treatment" of a gay police officer.

A federal lawsuit filed last year contains the personal testimony of dozens of veteran law enforcement officers who fell victim to a power play by the Democrat Sheriff of Bergen County.  Here are a few of their stories:

"In 2014 my wife and I decided to have our 2nd child even though there were talks of merging The Bergen County Police with the Sheriff's Department.  we both agreed that we could afford to make this life changing decision based on the fact that the merger specifically stated there would be no layoffs, and no decrease in pay.

We had purchased a smaller home, which needed improvements... We are not going to be able to make these improvements or expand our home due to the impending layoff or pay decrease.  In fact we may lose our home if these changes take place.

My wife and I were discussing the possibility of having a third child as recently as February of this year.  However this will not happen now because of these layoffs."

***

"In 2015, I got engaged.  In 2016, I got married and purchased a home.  In 2017, I welcomed another child into my family... I have a wife and two children, ages 6 and 3 months.  Now with the threat of a potential layoff, not only will my life be affected, but my family will be negatively affected as well."

***

"I have been employed by Bergen County as a Police Officer since July, 2004.  I have recently re-financed my 30 year mortgage to a 15 year mortgage due to the promise that the Sheriff, County Executive, and Freeholder Board made that my job was safe when they merged us.  I am also the caregiver to my elderly parents... If I am demoted, I will not be able to afford the extra payments that a 15 year mortgage brings as well as care for my parents in a way that they deserve."

***

"I can personally say the moral and pride I had as a County Police Officer has been stripped away and this entire process has affected me personally.  I never knew what it was like to go to work and be unhappy.  I've always loved my career and the organization I worked for.  There are often times I get sick to my stomach thinking of how the politicians have destroyed this place and everything it represented.  My mind is consumed with thoughts of whether or not I will be able to retire..."

***

"I am a single father of two children.  I have full custody of my children... I had financial plans in place to send my oldest daughter who is currently in high school to attend specific colleges she had picked out.  With this demotion I will no longer be able to pay for my daughter's college education..."

***

"In August of 1996 I joined what I believed was a dedicated profession and well known department... I joined the United States Marine Corps Reserve in 1982... I was activated in support of Operation Desert Shield/Storm... I retired with 20 years of service in 2003.

...I have made many life choices on the promises and assurance my family and I would be able to live without the threat of losing our home or not being able to afford the basic simple lifestyle we have had in our lives.  Upon the assurance of the County of Bergen, the politicians and the Bergen County Sheriff my family committed to providing an education for my son that now involves the payment of an incredible amount of education loans."

***

"I am currently a Police Officer with the Bergen County Sheriff's Department... I am also a United States Disabled Combat Veteran.  I served four and a half years with the 82nd Airborne Division, with a fifteen-month deployment to Iraq as an Infantryman... With the promise of job security, I continued my life as any other reasonable person would have.  I recently purchased a home and have plans to marry my longtime girlfriend, whom this layoff also affects tremendously..."

***

Rose-Fanale-McCann... It's amazing how these people found each other.  That you have, in the same room and supporting the same candidate, an avowed cop-hater and the guy who destroyed Bergen County's police department.  Small world.

 

Tuesday
May152018

Transparency? Freeholder Lazzaro failed to file Election Law report

According to the website of the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission, Freeholder Carl Lazzaro has failed to file his "Certificate of Organization and Designation of Campaign Treasurer and Depository" -- also known as an NJELEC Form D-1.  This is an important document, because it provides basic details to the public about who is taking money on behalf of the campaign and where that money is going.

Not only did Freeholder Lazzaro fail to file a Form D-1.  He also failed to have his campaign Treasurer sign his latest accounting of his expenditures and campaign contribution collections (an NJELEC Form R-1). 

Freeholder Lazzaro's boss -- Freeholder George Graham -- is currently being investigated by the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (NJELEC).  The New Jersey Herald reported (March 4, 2018): 

The New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission has filed a five-count complaint against Sussex County Freeholder George Graham for allegedly failing to comply with state law regarding campaign contributions during the 2013 election season.

The complaint, filed on Feb. 14 and publicly released one week later, alleges that Graham and his campaign treasurer, Gail Graham, failed to report accurate contributor information, to report certain contributions, to complete payee addresses for certain expenditures, to report the correct amount for certain expenditures and reported an incorrect sum of small contributions in the 2013 primary election. The complaint further alleges that Graham's campaign filed a required form for the general election almost two years after it was due.

...Each count in the complaint carries a maximum penalty of $7,600 for each transaction not reported in the manner or time prescribed by the state Campaign Contributions and Expenditures Reporting Act or ELEC regulations. 

For more on the story, readers can visit the New Jersey Herald:

http://www.njherald.com/20180304/freeholder-hit-with-election-commission-complaint#//

 

Monday
May142018

Did McCann photo-shop picture with Trump?

For us, the candidacy of John McCann has been a bag of laughs.  So fond are we of poking fun at his haughty -- yet hapless -- way of stumbling forth, that a few of our contributors have seriously considered helping him in the primary.  That's how much we will hate to see him go. 

So here's the latest.  Somewhere along the way, the McCann campaign procured a photograph that pictures "Stumbling John" and The Donald shaking hands.  The President appears just a bit too animated, while McCann looks as if he just came from the shower and forgot to dry his hair.  We don't know where the photo came from, or when, or even if it is real.  

What leads us to question it is the McCann campaign's habit of changing the background to the photograph to suit their mood.  Why anyone would take such an important campaign image and then screw with it is beyond us. 

(SOURCE: McCann for Congress website)

(SOURCE: McCann for Congress Facebook page)

So what's next?  McCann shaking Trump's hand in front of the Eiffel Tower?  Or the two of them at the Great Pyramid of Giza?  Maybe they will photo-shop them with lederhosen or sombreros? Or in Turkish towels, fresh from a sauna?  There is no end to what the McCann campaign can do with this photograph... except bring back its original honesty, if indeed, it was there in the first place.

Yet another case of John McCann pissing down his own leg.  Or perhaps it was his campaign that pissed on his leg?  Either way, it left the candidate a bit... soggy.