Tuesday, November 13, 2007

What Your Congressman Won't Tell You

This article was from Smart Money, and I thought it was interesting enough to post.
Joe Sinagra

By Brigid McMenamin
October 11, 2006

1. "I can't lose."
This year 404 members of the U.S. House of Representatives are standing for reelection. For most it's a formality: On average, more than 90% of House incumbents win, according to a 2005 report by the Cato Institute.

What's behind the incumbency advantage? Campaign financing, for one thing. We taxpayers pick up the tab for incumbents' regular offices, staff, publicity, travel and mailings, so they needn't raise as much money to run. Challengers, on the other hand, must come up with a fortune — and do so in dribs and drabs since Congress caps individual contributions at $2,000.

But the biggest factor is partisan gerrymandering. Since the Supreme Court ruled in 1969 that states must ensure each congressman represents the same number of constituents, the process of redistricting after every census has been aggressively used by state party bosses to protect their incumbents. "Because of gerrymandering, almost 90% of Americans live in congressional districts where the outcome is so certain that their votes are irrelevant," concludes the Cato report. And it's bound to get worse: In June the Court ruled states can redraw congressional districts as often as they please.

2. "I'm above the law."
Some people were dismayed last spring when Capitol Police didn't give a sobriety test to Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) after he rammed a Capitol Hill security barrier late one night and emerged from his Mustang "impaired," with "unsure" balance and "slurred" speech, according to the police report. Georgetown University law professor Paul F. Rothstein wasn't surprised: "They always give [congressmen] a pass."

Why? Inside Congress author Ronald Kessler says that historically, most officers have operated under the mistaken impression that the Constitution prohibits arresting or even ticketing congressmen while Congress is in session. The belief was so prevalent that the Justice Department issued a statement in 1976 explaining the "previous policy of releasing members who had been arrested was based on a misunderstanding of the clause in the U.S. Constitution," which forbids only civil arrest, not arrest for a crime.

Nonetheless, Capitol Police still coddle and avoid arresting members of Congress. For one thing, protecting congressmen is part of their mission. For another, Congress controls their budget — including top cops' salaries.

3. "Read the bills I vote on? Who's got that kind of time?"
In a perfect world, our legislators would vote on each bill based on thorough, firsthand analysis. But that's not how it works in Washington. Most congressmen don't actually read bills, relying instead on impressions gleaned from staff and lobbyists. And in many cases, they couldn't read them if they wanted to: The 700-plus-page Deficit Reduction Omnibus Reconciliation Act of 2005, for example, surfaced after 1 a.m. and went to vote early the next morning. "That's the way it's done," Rep. Rob Simmons (R-Conn.) told the Hartford Courant in January.

Result: Congressmen seldom know exactly what they're voting on. Take the 1,600-page Appropriations Bill in 2004 that had already made it through the House before it was discovered that a staffer had slipped in a provision permitting his committee to browse any tax return filed with the IRS.

There have been some attempts to get Congress to change its ways. In February, for example, D.C. nonprofit ReadtheBill.org persuaded some reps to introduce a resolution requiring the House to post each bill online for 72 hours before even debating it. But that resolution has been languishing in the Rules Committee ever since.

4. "Congress is just a stepping stone to big money — in lobbying."
Congress is a pretty good gig, financially speaking. Our senators and representatives currently earn $165,200 a year — four times the median U.S. household income. But it's not nearly as lucrative as lobbying, a job congressmen have begun flocking to once they're out of office. "As late as the 1980s, few lawmakers became lobbyists because they considered it beneath their dignity," writes Robert V. Remini in The House: The History of the House of Representatives. But today it's the top career choice for former congressmen. According to a 2005 report by Public Citizen, since 1998 more than 43% of all eligible departing congressmen have gone into lobbying. Take William Tauzin. The Louisiana Republican, and former chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee, left the House for a $1 million-plus-a-year job as president of Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. According to press reports, PhRMA was wooing Tauzin the same month he pushed through the Medicare bill. Tauzin denies it fueled his zeal for the bill, but you can't help wondering how the prospect of that kind of money might influence one's judgment.

5. "My health care benefits are way better than yours..."
Congressmen love tinkering with our health care. They virtually created the managed-care industry, for instance, with the Health Maintenance Organization Act of 1973, which tilted the playing field in favor of HMOs, ultimately stripping many Americans of all other choices. Meanwhile, congressmen enjoy more than a dozen options, including the prized indemnity plans only 3% of workers with coverage receive. On top of that, for an annual fee of $480, they can get just about all the medical attention they want at the Capitol Office of the Attending Physician, which has five doctors and a dozen assistants on call for routine checkups, tests, prescriptions, emergency care and mental health services. Who's making up the difference? Taxpayers, naturally, to the tune of at least $2.5 million this year alone.

What happens once a congressman is out of office? He needn't fret: Just five years into the job, he's entitled to keep his regular health coverage until he's ready for Medicare. And he doesn't have to pay extra, as you do for Cobra, under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which he voted for in 1996.

6. "...and so is my pension."
Congress is forever changing the rules on retirement plans: limiting contributions, punishing pension underfunding and making it hard for employers to plan ahead. Just this summer Congress passed yet another complex bill that's likely to wreak more havoc, according to James A. Klein, president of the American Benefits Council. The new Pension Protection Act includes funding rules that, Klein says, "could undermine the retirement security of the very participants the bill's trying to protect." Indeed, less than a month after the PPA took effect, DuPont froze its pension plan and cut back on benefits.

Whatever the outcome, Congress won't be losing sleep — their pensions are exempt. Most qualify for a 401(k)-style plan with a nice match, up to 5% of salary. After five years on the job, they're also entitled to a regular pension, bigger than almost all other federal workers' at the same pay and twice what a midlevel executive would expect. If elected before age 30, they can collect in full at age 50; those elected later can retire after 25 years or at age 62. Their pensions rise regularly with the cost of living and can never be taken away — short of a conviction for espionage or treason-related offenses.

7. "I enjoy great perks and gifts, and it's all legal."
Working on Capitol Hill comes with a lot of fringe benefits. Congressmen enjoy taxpayer-subsidized gyms, salons and restaurants, free parking, and a nice office. They also get $1 million-plus allowances per year for staff, mail and travel home, where they can rent another office and lease a car on your dime, according to the National Taxpayers Union.

On top of that, House ethics rules allow them to accept gifts, luxury jet rides and free overnight trips of up to seven days abroad for meetings, fact-finding missions and speaking gigs, provided they're related to official duties and not sponsored by lobbyists. Between 2000 and 2005, congressmen and staff accepted 23,000 of these trips, often to vacation spots and worth nearly $50 million, according to the Center for Public Integrity. Turns out that 90 were sponsored by lobbyists — Mr. and Mrs. Tom DeLay's infamous $28,000 golfing trip to Scotland among them.

With elections looming, there has been talk of reform. In January, House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) called for a ban on such trips and gifts, but come May he was happy to settle for the sham cleanup proposed by the Lobbying Accountability and Transparency Act — which would offer optional ethics classes for congressmen but allow them to go on accepting gifts.

8. "I simply can't be fired."
Once he's elected, it's almost impossible to kick a congressman out of office, even if he becomes mentally incompetent or is sent to prison. To oust a member of the House or Senate, it takes a vote of two-thirds of his colleagues — which has happened only twice since the Civil War, five times in all of U.S. history.

House rules do discourage a congressman from participating in committees if convicted of a crime for which he could get two years or more in jail, and his own party may force him from leadership positions even if he's not convicted. For example, Democrats pushed Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.) off the Ways and Means Committee last June because FBI agents swear they caught him accepting a $100,000 bribe and found $90,000 cash in his freezer. (Jefferson denies any wrongdoing.) But even if convicted and sent to prison, Jefferson could seek reelection from his cell, as did former Ohio Democrat James Traficant Jr. in 2002. Traficant received only 15% of the vote and lost his seat — but he was still allowed to collect his full pension.

9. "Lobbyists love me because I deliver the goods."
The reason lobbyists court lawmakers is that they have the power to help friends and hurt foes. For instance, a congressman can create a specific tax break or other loophole for a lobbyist's clients, giving them an unfair advantage over rivals. Congressmen also hold the power to steer federal funds to friends by earmarking money for pet projects — a power they often abuse. Case in point: the notorious "Bridge to Nowhere," a Golden Gate-size span between a small town in rural Alaska and a nearly deserted island, for which Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) persuaded Congress to earmark $223 million in 2005. Similar abuses have increased dramatically in recent years, with the number of earmarks coming out of the House Appropriations Committee nearly tripling, to 15,877 earmarks worth $47.4 billion in 2005, from just 4,126 earmarks worth $23.2 billion in 1994, according to the Congressional Research Service.

10. "Rules are meant to be broken."
Congress is notorious for breaking its own rules: Only a handful of members dock their own pay when absent for reasons other than health, for example. But it's Congress's failure to follow its own legislative procedures that's truly galling. When the joint House-Senate conference committee meets to reconcile different versions of a bill, for instance, House rules forbid adding anything beyond the scope of the version the House has already approved. And once the committee comes up with a compromise bill, the House is supposed to hold at least one public meeting, giving members a written explanation of the changes and three days until the vote. But the conference committee routinely flouts these rules, often making big changes without explanation, then getting the Rules Committee to waive restrictions so they can rush bills through unread. How common is this? The Rules Committee issued so-called blanket waivers for all 18 bills that went through the conference committee from Jan. 4, 2005, through March 2006.

Last December, Speaker Hastert took it a step further by letting Sen. William Frist (R-Tenn.) add on to a bill after the conference committee was finished: 40 pages of legislation protecting makers of avian flu vaccine and similar drugs against liability even if they injured or killed patients through gross negligence. Then Hastert got the Rules Committee to make kosher what he'd done. Frist's spokesperson claims there was "bipartisan consensus" for such an incentive, but couldn't explain why it hadn't made it into the text of the bill if it was so popular. Hastert's office failed to return our calls.

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Saturday, November 10, 2007

The High Cost of Energy

by Joe Sinagra

In 2006 when I ran for Congress I had stated regarding fuel that we must find other fuel alternatives to preserve our future. Natural gas reserves are about equal or slightly less than oil reserves. Oil production peaked in the 1970's and has been declining since.

Thirty-five years ago, the United States produced 9.4 million bpd of crude; today, it produces only about 4.7 million, importing over 55% today. World reserves are declining also, as supplies diminish, prices will continue to rise.

We can no longer afford to ignore the issue, this will dramatically influence the economy in the US and abroad, we are heading for a major and financial crisis if we do not act responsibly now. Oil production will remain the same but due to population growth, demand will outpace the production. This will cause prices to skyrocket and oil-dependant economies to deteriorate.

Here it is 2007 and nothing has changed other than the price of fuel costs increasing. In my congressional debates I had said although I am for the environment, at some point we must start looking into domestic drilling if we are not to become dependent of foreign oil entities. My opponent a “rocket scientist” said that he was against drilling but offered no viable alternative, nor an immediate solution. My suggestion was that we continue to look for alternative renewable sources, but until we find that alternative, drilling would give us the time to pursue alternative research.

Oil prices have risen more than 27 percent since Labor Day, while gasoline prices are up 10 percent.

Democrats are not as indignant over the high costs of energy now as their party controls congress and it is harder to point the finger at anyone. To date the Democrats, who had blamed the policies of a GOP-led Congress for helping fuel record oil-industry profits, now control the House and Senate. The silence is deafening.

The rapid economic growth in Asia is fanning the flames of higher energy prices, and is not showing any signs of letting up anytime soon.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke stated that oil near $100 a barrel is a serious economic threat.

We must address this issue as more and more of our working class continues to suffer financially and economically. Both parties must work together to find a solution and not let this become a political football.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Corzine & Codey Illogical Logic

By Joe Sinagra | November 8, 2007

The following was in The Home News Tribune today

Stem-cell backers vow fight

Though voters rejected a proposal to borrow $450 million over 10 years for stem-cell research, New Jersey officials say they will proceed with backing the science.

Gov. Jon S. Corzine said Wednesday that he understands voters are demanding that the state’s finances be put in order before taking on the project but will not halt plans to borrow $270 million to build stem-cell research facilities throughout the state.

Both Codey and Corzine said Tuesday’s vote does not reflect New Jerseyans’ attitude toward stem-cell research but that a low turnout and an upset electorate led to the question’s demise.

Using their same logic, I lost by a small percentage of the vote, because of low turnout and an upset electorate. It doesn’t really reflect New Jerseyans’ attitude and I should plan on taking office after the 1st of the year.

Corzine’s and Codey’s logic should apply to all candidates who did not win.

This voter be damned attitude is what is bankrupting the state. It doesn’t matter what side of the issue your on, we just do not have the money to finance something of this magnitude. What part of this does Trenton not get! Lets pay off the debt we already have first! If your house is being foreclosed on, are you going to borrow money for a Carribean cruise?

It is the public be damned mentality, that got us into the financial mess we are in. We had an election process and the voters have spoken, now our Governor doesn’t like the outcome of those results and is telling the voters I don’t care what you want, your vote doesn’t count. We can get away with anything we want and no one can stop us is their attitude.

This isn’t Burger King and he should not be allowed to have it his way.

Biased News Media

The following letter was sent to The Home News Tribune twice before the election, and forwarded to me recently by the writer, who expressed to me his disappointment in not seeing his letter published prior to the election.

The paper called the person who composed it to confirm it was their letter, however the newspaper did not publish this because I was not their pick.

This letter is in its entirety as sent to me. The last name of the sender has been abbreviated.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

I recently attended the NAACP Candidate's Forum held in Edison, NJ. It was enlightening to hear 18th District Assembly Candidate Joe Sinagra speak on the issues.

His insight on what he would do if he were elected to get minorities more involved in the political process was the response we should have heard from the Democrats that are in office now.

To be brutally honest, the response from the Middlesex County freeholders who attended this forum was pathetic. They actually went on to tell us about their environmental opinions, how they have impacted taxes, and why they are qualified to be re-elected. They were talking about themselves and still not answering the question that was directed at them. They could not explain why they have not reached out to the Latino and Afro-American communities in the 18th district.

The response Assemblyman Barnes gave on Abbott Districts echoed party philosophy, which did not sit well with me and the others in the audience. It definitely was not the position that is best for the students.

Mr. Sinagra matched the concerns of our community and was more in tune with the issues than the politicians currently holding office. I was very surprised with Mr. Sinagra's insight on minority issues. Mr. Sinagra spoke honestly, intelligently, and compassionately.

There were several other good candidates in attendance who I would consider, but I was particularly impressed, as well as others in the audience with his confidence, openness, and candidness. Bill England also spoke very well and was very intelligent on educational issues.

Sinagra and England were among the few candidates who did not rush to leave after the forum, and made a point to stay and talk with everyone in the room.

I believe as a minority, if we are to have the representation we are looking for, we need someone who is ready to listen, a person who is willing to actively get minorities involved in the political process, a candidate who will reach out to our communities, Joe Sinagra is the person to vote for.

Guerino L.
Bordentown, NJ

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Media and Editors

If it weren’t for the The Home News Tribune itself, the Editors would be hard pressed to find another profession in life.

It is bad enough they do not endorse a candidate, but then they interject their comments as if they are the clairvoyant seers into the soul of a person.

Instead of just recommending their endorsements of the candidates of their choice, editors Paolino and Hartman feel they must also rip apart and shred the ones that didn’t make their list. While the editors have no solutions of their own, they feel they have the answers after a few beers on the golf course. I would dare say they probably would not be able to endure a grueling campaign while holding down a full time job or they would have done it by now. They never ran for office, volunteered, or offered their services for anything than their unneeded personal remarks, but yet they can criticize another person who is willing to sacrifice the many hours of time and energy in running for office. At least those candidates are willing to make a change, investing much of their time campaigning to make that difference. I don’t believe some of these so called editors even have a clue how the process works, nor do they care other than to show the world their writing prowess. They are quick to critcize, but yet they themselves have never made any substantial contributions of their own to try and do something, other than watching the clock during the editorial meeting and getting off their butt at the end of the interview so they can run to grab their tuna sandwich stuffed in their desk drawer.

They have the audacity to comment without having covered a debate, or candidate forum, because they have no reporters available to cover an event. They hold back any information for a candidate that will help his campaign until after the election, with the excuse there was no space available.

They can sit and judge as if their opinion means anything, to most it doesn’t. They will crown their choices with glowing reviews and elaborate to the 9th degree all of their infinite accomplishments, while ignoring the accomplishments of the one who failed to make the grade in their eyes. When they do print anything, they disseminate any information on the unfortunate victim to the point it looks as if they did nothing. They overlook the fact that most candidates run several times with the hopes of winning for name recognition due to limited funds. They would otherwise never get any media attention. Yet their heroes garner front page coverage if they even sneeze.

Candidates are said to have not held any previous office, but yet many of the ones glorified never did either before they were elected, but the editors fail to mention that. Candidates who hold dual offices, collect dual pensions, and reach into the pork barrel trough are endorsed because it fits the agenda of the editors or perhaps support their personal views. They will write opinions to the contrary, and then endorse the very ones that are part of the problems they had written about.

Perhaps if they did some research and be a little more objective, instead of throwing in their snippy remarks in a 1 hour interview, their paper would hold more credibility, instead of being looked at as a joke by many in Central Jersey.

I was asked of my thoughts on illegal immigration at the editorial board of the Courier News last year when running for Congress. One editor actually jumped up out of his seat, cut me off, pointed his finger at me and said “What, are you prejudiced!” without allowing me to finish. I told him “those are your words, not mine.” Talk about being not biased. . . at that point you know where the media stands on their views and who they are going to endorse. You don’t need a boulder to fall on your head. This year I said to the board of one and a reporter,"would you buy a house of car without seeing it first?" Thats what the voters are expected to do on election day. It would be nice if the voters knew where Trenton stood on the turnpike sale and a new school funding formula before we vote, not wait to find out in January what we voted for. I said it would be nice to know before we went to the polls. I didn't get the endorsement but almost verbatim the next day (click here) Opinion page, Wow! The editors came up with a piece of wisdom all on their own. I also said if we don't solve the problems that got us to the point of why we are selling the turnpike, what have we accomplished? What's next in five years when the money from the turnpike sale is gone... the Parkway? No mention of that.

When asked at The Home News about affordable housing for seniors, my opponents offered no solutions other than we need more housing. I had said if we made it affordable for seniors to stay in their homes, they wouldn’t be forced to sell and move. There wouldn’t be a need to create more affordable senior housing. Just by that alone, it would leave more affordable housing available for the disabled and lower wage owners without having to build more.

We have had a 50% increase in government since McGreevy held office, but the Home News will endorse a candidate who believes the state needs to raise the tolls, raise the gas tax, raise the sales tax yet again, and generate more revenue taxes to pay for a bloated government. It is amazing that in 2006, 80,000 people have left New Jersey leaving us about $10 billion light in the checkbook. Yet, they will endorse candidates who have caused the problem of higher taxes, voted against funding for education making tuition higher for students. But those endorsed candidates never mentioned how to save money for the taxpayers of New Jersey. Their answer (solution) was that we need to look for ways to generate more revenue (taxes). Wow, that will make 80,000 people motivated enough to move back into the state.

Many newspapers are on the way out. Many do not have enough reporters to cover events, heaven forbid if it is on a weekend.

The Sentinel couldn’t even get their stories in the right edition regarding the Senate candidates. When a Senate candidate who hails from East Brunswick has his story is run in the Metuchen edition, it leaves a little to be desired. The Sentinel had tons of room for stories on local candidates, even areas where there were no races being contested. They didn’t even interview the assembly candidates, or even bother to call them for that matter. Sorry I misspoke; I was called because the Sentinel needed the phone number for the Senate Candidate.

You have a paper calling candidates and basically saying "hey do me a favor call your opponent, work out a date and get back to me." You have candidates who were never called to attend the Editorial Boards, and then they are not only accused of not showing up, they are also dissected and thrown to the wolves in the columns of the "opinionators".

Perhaps Editors if they are to be valued as credible, need to be unbiased in their personal views and let the public decide who should run for office. That is if any subscribers that are left, provided they don’t all move out New Jersey before the next edition hits the press.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Like it or Not - New Jersey Fact Bites

• From 2000-2005, New Jersey LOST 117,600 high-paying advanced services and manufacturing jobs. During the same period, the New Jersey public payroll GAINED 53,000 jobs!

• Just about half of the sales tax increase revenues went into Christmas tree budget items rewarding the Governor’s loyal tax increasing soldiers.

• The state with the lowest property taxes is Louisiana; taxpayers paid $175.00 in 2005. New Jersey taxpayers paid $5,177.00 more than taxpayers in Louisiana. New Jersey taxpayers pay the highest property taxes in the nation, an average of $5,352.00 in 2005.

• The Associated Press reports that Federal investigators are looking into New Jersey's under-funded pension system after a report found the state diverted billions of dollars from it for other purposes. New Jersey's pension fund is the nation's ninth largest, with reported assets of $79 billion but an estimated deficit of about $25 billion.

• According to Rutgers' National Institute for Early Education Research, all but a dozen states now offer some sort of state-financed pre-school education. But funding levels in 2005 for such programs varied dramatically, ranging from more than $9,000 per pupil in New Jersey to $721 per pupil in Maryland. Pennsylvania spent less than $3,000 per pupil.

• According to Wall Street Analysts, it is unlikely the U.S. housing market will recover before 2009; there is a“50 to 60 percent chance of a recession”.

• In 2006, 72,547 people left New Jersey, effectively reducing revenue to the New Jersey economy by $10 billion.

Saturday, October 27, 2007


VOTE NO ON Question 1!

Do you approve the amendment of Article VII, Section I of the Constitution of the State of New Jersey, to provide for the annual dedication and annual appropriation of an amount equal to the annual revenue derived from a tax rate of 1% imposed under the New Jersey Sales and Use Tax, exclusively for the purpose of property tax reform through a special Property Tax Reform account established in the constitutionally dedicated Property Tax Relief Fund?

If you vote YES on Question 1, you will be voting to give yourself an 8% sales tax.

Last year Trenton Democrats raised the sales tax from 6% to 7%. The one penny increase in the sales tax passed in 2006 was to provide additional money to help balance the budget. Dedicating this increase leaves the state budget under funded which will force budget cuts or borrowing to fund programs not defined for use by the property tax relief fund.

In essence you are giving State Legislature a reprieve of looking into Tax Reform. Trenton is betting that you will vote YES, to make their job easier. There will be no need for them to come up with a new tax funding formula.

This supposedly dedicates sales tax to property tax reform, i.e. paying bureaucrats to send you a little bit of your money back. Wouldn't it make more sense just to lower taxes?

Should Question 1 pass revenues “lost “to” property tax relief (which never goes to suburban and rural homeowners) is going to have to be made up with higher sales taxes. The increase in the sales tax passed in 2006 was to provide additional money to help balance the budget. Dedicating this increase leaves the state budget under funded which will force budget cuts or borrowing to fund programs not defined for use by the property tax relief fund.

Trenton politicians need more money to fill up their pork barrel, and this is a last ditch attempt to fool voters into raising their own taxes.

VOTE NO ON Question 2!

Shall the “New Jersey Stem Cell Research Bond Act” which authorizes the State to issue bonds in the amount of $450 million for grants to fund “stem cell research projects,” as defined in the act, at institutions of higher education and other entities in the State conducting scientific and medical research, and providing the ways and means to pay the interest on the debt and also to pay and discharge the principal thereof, provided that recurring revenues of the State are certified by the State Treasurer to be available in an amount equal to the sum necessary to satisfy theannual debt service obligations related to such bonds, be approved?

If you vote YES on Question 2, you would be voting for something Wall Street investors wouldn't fund.

Question 2 uses deceptive language to imply that this is a vote to fund adult stem cell research projects actually producing cures to diseases. But this needs no government funding, Wall Street and the Drug Companies are already paying for it.

This question is asking the voters to give away a half billion dollar corporate welfare handout for Embryonic Stem Cell experiments involving human cloning. While they claim this money will cure diseases ranging from Cancer to Alzheimers to Diabetes, in 35 years of this "Fetal Tissue Research" hasn't cured anything, nothing at all. It's the ultimate in taxpayer rip-off. Embryonic stem cell "research" has never produced any cures to any diseases -- not one.

With $33.7 billion in state debt, which costs $3 billion in interest and principal payments each year, this is not the time to add more debt. $45 million a year in grants is 0.15% of the budget. Finding a way to budget this expenditure, would be more fiscally responsible, without the extra interest payments on debt.

The need for the state government to get involved is not warranted, especially not to the extent of a total of nearly three-quarters of a billion dollars.

If embryonic stem cell research holds so much promise, why doesn't the private sector invest sufficient funds for research? Medicine is a huge business and the idea of bleeding the public for unreliable and morally questionable research reeks of big investors trying to hedge on poor investments, by bolstering their failed research attempts with a forced investment by the rest of us.

Government should not be in the risk business of funding questionable research, especially with tax dollars we do not have and cannot afford.

It is a gamble that will take many years of research and money, and still not have any tangible results.

VOTE NO ON Question 3!

Shall the “Green Acres, Farmland, Blue Acres, and Historic Preservation Bond Act of 2007,” which authorizes the State to issue bonds in the amount of $200 million to provide moneys for (1) the acquisition and development of lands for recreation and conservation purposes, (2) the preservation of farmland for agricultural or horticultural use and production, (3) the acquisition for recreation and conservation purposes properties in the floodways of the Delaware River, Passaic River, and Raritan River and their tributaries, that are prone to or have incurred flood or storm damage, and (4) funding historic preservation projects; and providing the ways and means to pay the interest on the debt and also to pay and discharge the principal thereof, be approved?

By voting YES on Question 3, you will be voting in favor of Eminent Domain, thus giving government more power in eminent domain cases.

We need to define what constitutes eminent domain, before giving government broader powers.

If this passes you will give the state the power and money to start "negotiations" with homeowners who live near rivers to sell their land to the state for "open space" -- part of an ongoing effort to stop construction of one family homes in New Jersey in favor of high density attached townhouses, condominiums and apartment buildings.

While the question says land will only be taken from "willing sellers" does anyone think a homeowner or small business owner will have any leverage when a judge or bureaucrat decides that "preserving Open Space" is more important than your property rights.

With $33.7 billion in state debt, $3 billion in interest and principal payments each year, now is not the time to add more debt.

The state is asking to borrow money to buy open space and fund stem cell programs because the budget is already running at a deficit.

New Jersey needs to start reducing debt. We are already spending 10% of the annual budget or $3 billion paying off current debt, we cannot afford any new spending.

The state already cannot maintain the land it currently owns, the more land the state buys, the less land will be available for people to build homes and businesses, thus forcing high density housing on our towns.

Defeat of the ballot questions will send a message to Trenton that the citizens of New Jersey have had it with more debt.

Aside, from the fact of where you stand on the questions, New Jersey is broke, we do not have the money. We are cutting education programs, cutting state aid to our towns and muncipalities, property taxes are going throught the roof, people leaving their homes, businesses are laying off, and thousands leaving the state. If we do not have the money to take care of the mess we already have, why are we creating more debt?

Are we ready for more tax and spend? Ask yourself, can we afford it?

Friday, October 12, 2007

Goodbye to Political Science 102

An associate professor of Political Science and director of the Institute for New Jersey Politics at Rider University, David Rebovich suffered a major heart attack this morning at the Lawrenceville campus in The Fine Arts Building.

I met Mr. Rebovitch during my Congressional Campaign at Rider University, and was amazed at his ability to project the issues, while staying impartial.

His articles were always on point.

In the field of Political Science, Mr. Rebovich was a master of knowledge, providing sanity and reasoning as a nonpartisan commentator in a sea of political cynicism. His eloquence and skill, along with his insight into the politics of New Jersey was unmatched.

The loss of Mr. Rebovitch will leave a void in the political community, a void that will not be an easy one to fill.

Joe Sinagra
NJ 18th District
Assembly Candidate

Sunday, September 30, 2007

New Jersey Shell Game

We have the honor of having the highest taxes in the nation, and after 5 years of Democratic control we can in all probability add the most in taxes to that list, also.

We have a governor who promised tax relief to the citizens of New Jersey. We are still waiting, most of us do not want tax relief, what the voters are looking for is tax reform.

Even with a 1.2 billion dollar tax hike, we are selling our assets to cover the mounting debt still accruing. The sale of the NJ Turnpike would generate state tax revenues and cut property taxes, but without cutting state spending, it would also leave New Jersey with a bigger hole once the one-time revenues run out. Not to mention that the voters of this state, who use the NJ turnpike, will have their tolls increased over 100% due to “monetization”. In the end, the state receives a temporary stay of execution, but again it is the citizen’s who will pay.

If we do not resolve the issues that got us into this state of affairs to start with, we have accomplished nothing. If we wind up where we must start selling state assets to remain solvent, we have embarked on a dangerous path. By placing the citizen’s of New Jersey on that path, our legislators have failed in protecting us. By asking the voters to sacrifice once more, you have again lessened their quality of life due to the mismanagement and squandering of tax money.

We still do not have a school funding plan in place. The citizens’ would like to reduce the reliance of property taxes that funds our public schools, and would like reform to our state taxation formula. Failing school budgets can be attributed to the growing tax burden placed on families. The state’s inability to fully implement CEIFA (school funding law), and the lack of extraordinary aide funding for special education have caused severe hardships for many school districts.

The promise last year to the taxpayers of New Jersey was that a new aid formula was a top priority and a year later, the old formula is still in effect, with the burden still in the backyard of property owners. The reality is Trenton Democrats, by ignoring the problem, and doing nothing has allowed the continuation of an unfair formula, resulting in increased property taxes. While self-funded rebate checks were received, property tax bills also increased. So in essence we paid for our rebate, had our property taxes increased and gave back the rebate we just received. Which shell is the pea under?

In the mean time we have had the time to name state dirt, sift threw the pork barrel for Christmas tree items, name a state vegetable, attempt to ban aluminum baseball bats, put NJ into a college logo, and create a voter lottery.

We are being asked to vote in blind faith and plans are forthcoming after the election.

It is time to stop turning a blind eye to what affects the pockets of the voters of New Jersey.

Wouldn’t it be nice to know what it is we are voting for first, before we put the same policy makers back in office?

We need an effective school funding formula, we need to make the necessary cuts and stop spending so we do not have to sell our assets. The fact is, to conquer New Jersey’s soaring property tax dilemma, we need practical and efficient solutions now, not later.

Joe Sinagra
NJ 18th District
Assembly Candidate

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Menendez is wrong on "The Dream Act"

In a recent article printed in The Record regarding the Dream Act (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors), Charles Goldstein executive Director of the New Jersey Immigration Policy Network is quoted as saying, "America succeeds when we integrate immigrant communities."

He is right as long as it refers to legal immigration. When we integrate illegal immigrant communities at the expense of the legal citizens of this country, we have a problem.

The DREAM Act, would grant legal status to possibly tens of thousands of illegal immigrant youth who entered the United States before the age of 16, have lived here at least five years and graduated from a U.S. high school.

Another paragraph states, “Bills in the New Jersey legislature that would allow undocumented high school graduates to attend college at in-state (reduced) tuition rates have languished for years. So, unable to pay out-of-state fees, many forgo four-year colleges or try to scrape together money for county community colleges.” Aren't our own children in the same predicament?

There are an estimated 1,200 undocumented (illegal) high school graduates in New Jersey who would probably apply to public colleges each year if they could pay in-state tuition. I would think that statement would also apply to the taxpaying families of our state who cannot afford the high tuition costs of colleges, caused by Democrat education cuts to higher education.

States offer college scholarships and reduced in-state tuition to illegal aliens who also receive free public education. An estimated 11.7 percent of the K-12 public school students in New Jersey are children of illegal aliens.

When our own citizens pay more to attend our colleges and secondary schools than the illegals that are here, there is a definite problem with our system. Especially when property taxes are constantly going up due to increased education costs.

A majority of Americans (54%) oppose the current U.S. law that grants automatic citizenship to children of illegal aliens born in the United States, 63% opposes automatic citizenship.

What the article does not mention as I have stated in another post, is that what is wrong with this bill is that there is no upper age limit with no burden of proof placed on the applicant. A 50-year-old illegal immigrant can walk into the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office and provide a sworn statement that he has been in the United States before he or she was here before they were 16.

If passed it would grant amnesty to millions of illegal aliens and dramatically increase the importation of foreign workers at a time 10 million Americans are looking for jobs and cannot find employment. This would open the door for every illegal alien falsely claiming amnesty.

Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J. says, "By allowing these students, who would be otherwise qualified, to attend college or serve in our military, we provide them with the opportunity to become exemplary citizens and achieve the American dream." Mr. Menendez we also have immigrant families that are legal, and minorities that warrant those same opportunities granted to illegals.

If I understand that statement, an illegal has a choice to either attend college at a reduced rate, or join the military. That is some choice.

Our own children are having a hard time of achieving the American dream with all of the student debt they are strapped with after graduation.

Then we have bleeding heart Tamara Morales, vice president of Casa Puebla-New Jersey, a Passaic-based non-profit group that serves the immigrant community. "There are so many undocumented (illegal) kids, who have great potential, but with no real options for the future, they end up just working low-skill jobs or they get married young."

Huh, can you explain that? Either they work at a low-skill job, and if not they will get married at a young age.

Unless I am missing something, I cannot fathom why it is part of the Department of Defense appropriations bill.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., has been pushing to get it included in a defense appropriations bill pending in the Senate. The Senate may vote on the defense bill within the next week.

I agree with Gayle Kesselman (co-chairwoman of New Jersey Citizens for Immigration Control) when she says "The American people have made clear that they don't want a form of amnesty, people who crash the line and come into our country illegally shouldn't get special privileges or financial breaks.”

Undocumented means illegal, enough of being politically correct already.

Joe Sinagra
NJ 18th District
Assembly Candidate

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Clock is Ticking

As of September 24, 2007 the debate on the Defense Department authorization of bill, H.R. 1585 is in a temporary holding pattern over the senate floor, so that other business can be addressed. When it resumes it would grant amnesty to millions of illegal aliens and dramatically increase the importation of foreign workers at a time 10 million Americans are looking for jobs and cannot find employment.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has not announced when a vote will occur on the DREAM Act amnesty amendment, formerly SA 2237 was redrafted into SA 2919.

Adding this bill to the Department of Defense Act is a back door approach to amnesty. It will make millions of illegal aliens eligible for Federal student loans and federal work-study programs, leaving our own children behind for entrance to colleges. This would add another benefit law-abiding foreign students cannot receive. Illegal aliens could claim "retroactive benefits" and start the clock running the day that the DREAM Act is enacted.

Federal officers would be barred from using information from the application to deport the alien or sharing that information with another federal agency, or suffer the threat of up to $10,000 fine. Therefore, an alien's admission that he has violated Federal immigration law cannot be used against him.

How this amendment is considered part of the Department of Defense Act is beyond me. This is by no means what the majority of Americans consider pursuing "The American Dream".

As of this point in time, 21 Senators are telling their constituents that they will vote NO on the amnesty. It will take 41 NO votes to kill this amnesty.

Call Senator Lautenberg at (202) 224-3224 and Senator Menendez (202) 224-4744. They have not made this commitment. Let them know that you oppose the Dream Act (SA 2919), and that you cannot and will not support anyone supporting an amnesty bill.

Halloween is approaching, and this is amnesty in a costume.

Joe Sinagra
NJ 18th District
Assembly Candidate

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

End of the American Dream?

To those of you who thought amnesty was a dead issue think again. It is back, it is called the Dream Act.

What it is supposed to do is address the situation faced by young people who were brought to the U.S. years ago as undocumented immigrant children but who have since grown up here, stayed in school, and kept out of trouble.

A student must have been brought to the U.S. more than 5 years ago when he or she was 15 years old or younger and must be able to demonstrate good moral character. Under the DREAM Act, once such a student graduates from high school, he or she would be permitted to apply for conditional status, which would authorize up to 6 years of legal residence. During the 6-year period, the student would be required to graduate from a 2-year college, complete at least 2 years towards a 4-year degree, or serve in the U.S. military for at least 2 years. Permanent residence would be granted at the end of the 6-year period if the student has met these requirements and has continued to maintain good moral character.

The DREAM Act is buried into the Defense Authorization Act, separate from the immigration bill and away from the broader debate over immigration.

None other than the National Council of La Raza, a radical group that is directly opposed to our national interests, is pushing this act down our throats. Their goal is to open our borders and advocate special treatment for illegal immigrants along with the obliteration of the Border Patrol.

La Raza advocates the elimination of the U.S.-Mexico border, and actively supports legislation that would grant amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants currently residing within the United States.

I have stated that the amnesty bill is not over and will return after the presidential elections. While the amnesty bill itself is on temporary hold, it is being introduced in bits and pieces attached to other bills.

The DREAM Act, previously S.774, has been introduced as an amendment to H.R. 1585, National Defense Authorization Act (Defense Authorization Bill) as SA 2237, Title XXXIII (National Defense Stockpile), Sec. 3301 (Authorized Uses Of National Defense Stockpile Funds).

It will take 41 NO votes to kill this amnesty. On Wednesday, September 19, the floor vote on the amendment containing the DREAM Act amnesty (SA 2237) may occur. There has not been a large commitment by our Senators to kill this bill.

What’s wrong with this bill is that t here is no upper age limit with no burden of proof placed on the applicant. An illegal immigrant 5o years old can walk into the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office and provide a sworn statement that he has been in the United States before he or she was here before they were 16.

If passed it would grant amnesty to millions of illegal aliens and dramatically increase the importation of foreign workers at a time 10 million Americans are looking for jobs and cannot find employment. This would open the door for every illegal alien to falsely claim amnesty.

Only 18 Senators have committed to voting no, has yours?

Joe Sinagra
NJ 18th District
Assembly Candidate

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Undemocratic Taxation

In this fall's campaign, it's important for voters to scrutinize the judgment of their representatives. In 2004, Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan was the sole Assembly sponsor of a bill (A3127/S1659) that taxed our medical practice 3.5 percent of its gross receipts. It was the largest gross receipt tax imposed on any small business in the state. There was no debate on the tax, as it was introduced a week before both houses were to recess for the summer and signed into law eight days later. Four years after its inception and despite hundreds of proposed amendments to this makeshift law, not one amendment has been allowed a committee hearing.

This onerous tax has forced us to close offices that provided care for the indigent. We had to let go of a physician, and my partners and I have made substantial cuts in our salaries, yet we still can't afford this tax. If Diegnan can get away with taxing small businesses without representation, preventing any say in legislation and preventing any amendment from being heard, everyone is vulnerable to similar irresponsible legislating. I hope voters let him know his undemocratic methods will no longer be tolerated.

-- Timothy J. Dunn, MD, Mount Laurel

September 16, 2007 / Star Ledger

Diegnan Socks it to Physicians

The Assembly Bill A-3127 was introduced on June 21st, 2004 by Assemblyperson Richard Deignan (D)

Middlesex County. Mr. Deignan is the Primary Sponsor.


A3127 [Diegnan, Patrick J.], Est. annual assess. on cert. ambulatory care facilities

The Following is from INSIDE NJMGMA July 2004 Volume 2, Issue 4

Physician’s Take It In The Neck......Again

If the malpractice debacle wasn't enough get a load of this. The New Jersey Legislature at the behest of the New Jersey Hospital Association (NJHA) has rammed a gross receipts tax bill through the legislature with lightening speed. The bills, S-1659 and A-3127 establishes annual assessment on gross receipts of certain licensed ambulatory care facilities and requires licensure of certain health care services.

The Senate bill S-1659 was introduced on June 7th and originally sponsored by Richard Codey (D) Orange County. However the primary sponsorship of this bill was changed and the current co-sponsor is Wayne Bryant, (D) Camden and Gloucester Counties.

This is how it went;

6/7/2004 Introduced in the Senate, Referred to Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee

6/21/2004 Reported from Senate Committee as a Substitute, 2nd Reading

6/24/2004 Substituted by A3127

The Assembly Bill A-3127 was introduced on June 21st by Assemblyperson Richard Deignan (D) Middlesex County. Mr. Deignan is the Primary Sponsor.

It went even faster in the Assembly.

6/21/2004 Introduced, Referred to Assembly Budget Committee

6/21/2004 Reported out of Assembly Committee, 2nd Reading

6/24/2004 Passed by the Assembly (42-34-2)

6/24/2004 Received in the Senate without Reference, 2nd Reading

6/24/2004 Substituted for S1659 (SCS)

6/24/2004 Passed Senate (Passed Both Houses) (21-19)

Based on the information I received from the Medical Society this bill is a fait de accompli meaning that the governor will sign it into law effective July 1, 2004.

Is there a possibility that the governor might not sign it? I would give it the same chance that I would beat Lance Armstrong in the Tour de France.

The Bad News

The following is almost verbatim from the summary statement provided on the New Jersey Legislative Website:

Assembly Bill No. 3127 imposes an assessment on certain licensed ambulatory care facilities, based on the facility's gross receipts, beginning July 1, 2004. The revenues raised by the assessment will be deposited in the Health Care Subsidy Fund. The assessment would apply to facilities that are licensed to provide one ormore of the following ambulatory care services: ambulatory surgery, computerized axial tomography, comprehensive outpatient rehabilitation, extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy, magnetic resonance imaging, megavoltage radiation oncology, positron emission tomography, orthotripsy and sleep disorder services. The assessment would not apply to an ambulatory care facility with annual gross receipts less than $300,000, or to an ambulatory care facility that is licensed to a hospital in this State as on offsite ambulatory care service facility.

In Fiscal Year (FY) 2005 (which begins July 1, 2004), an ambulatory care facility with at least $300,000 in gross receipts shall pay an assessment equal to 3.5% of its gross receipts or $200,000, whichever amount is less. The assessment will be payable to the department in four installments, with payments due October 1, 2004, January 1, 2005, March 15, 2005 and June 15, 2005. The Commissioner of Health and Senior Services is directed to provide notice no later than August 15, 2004 to all facilities that are subject to the assessment that proof of gross receipts for the facility's tax year ending in calendar year 2003 must be provided by the facility to the commissioner no later than September 15, 2004. If a facility fails to provide proof of gross receipts by that date, the facility shall be assessed the maximum rate of $200,000 for FY 2005. Each facility that is subject to the assessment will be required to submit an annual report including, at a minimum, data on volume of patient visits, charges and gross revenues, by payer type, for patient services, beginning with calendar year 2004 data. A facility that fails to provide the required information shall be liable to a civil penalty not to exceed $500 for each day in which the facility is not in compliance.

Finally, the bill amends N.J.S.A.26:2H-2 and 26:2H-12 to clarify that an entity that provides magnetic resonance imaging or computerized axial tomography services shall be required to obtain a license from the department to operate those services prior to commencement of services. The bill also provides that a physician who is operating such services on the effective date of the bill shall have one year from the effective date to obtain the license.

What Does It Mean?

Well it means the physicians continue to take it in the neck here in the Garden State. Given the speed at which this bill got through the legislature (all bills should be this lucky, given that the financial impact is modest, the state estimates the revenue generated from this tax at approximately $31million, and given that hospital outpatient facilities are exempt from this tax, it seems reasonable to assume that the tax is a retaliatory strike against the physicians for taking revenue from the hospitals via the above named outpatient facilities. All of this in the name of charity care. Call me prejudiced but the last time I checked how much charity care did the physicians collect? I believe the word is zero, nada, nothing. The hospital's complained that they provided $778 million in charity care last year and received less than half in reimbursement from the state. This budget year FY 2005 $558 million is budgeted for charity care. The estimated $31 million is included in that number and is approximately 5% of the total. I am going to take a wild stab at this but I am willing to bet the hospitals have never approached the physicians with a check in hand and said thanks for all of the help here is a little something for taking care of those indigent patients for us. Can I bet the house on it, probably not? The financial impact for charity care is nominal but the financial impact to physicians is severe. Physicians who are owners of these facilities are triple taxed. They are tax corporately, individually and now have to bear this tax.


For those of you whose physicians are members of the Medical Society they should work closely with MSNJ who is working diligently to minimize the impact of this onerous tax. For those of you whose physicians are not members of MSNJ they should consider joining. The Medical Society is not the end all but it is one of the few resources available to fight this tax.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Questionable South Plainfield Ethics

South Plainfield is another case of ethics being flaunted at a cost to the taxpayers.

A large campaign contributor benefiting from a land swap, sweetheart deal from a sitting assemblyman who also represents the borough as legal counsel.

A recent Star Ledger Article quotes Mr. Diegnan as saying "I find it personally insulting, I'm never going to give somebody a benefit over a $200 campaign contribution."

The actual number was more like $5200 in total contributions towards Mr. Diegan’s campaign, with an additional $450 this year going to the South Plainfield Democratic Organization. As Chairman of that organization, Mr. Diegnan had to be aware of that contribution.

According to Mr. Diegan it was a “detached, arms-length transaction.” Excuse me?

What wasn't mentioned is there is a sign posted on this tract that says "This site has been permanently preserved as Open Space."

Do we just throw an ‘open space’ sign anywhere to place a hold on property that can be used as a payback favor for future contributors?”

The "deal" that was sold to this contributor is a corner lot; the surrounding lots were auctioned off at a price considerably higher because they were "ready to build" with sewer lines and utilities available on site. How do you get to the surrounding lots without improving the corner lot?

Mr. Diegan also stated "I'm outraged that every two years me and a lot of other people in this state have to put up with this baloney.” He also said "I find it personally insulting. You should ask the Republicans for a reason why people should elect them."

Mr. Diegnan in his statement seems to feel that this is his deserved position. He is right in saying every two years a lot of other people have to put up with this baloney. Every two years is there is an election, it is called the political process.

First, by recusing himself from the “detached, arms-length transaction” there would not have been any baloney. The citizen's are the ones that should be outraged over partisanship deals.

Second, I think the people should elect Republicans, if an attorney representing his constituents in the borough cannot tell the difference of what is ethical and what isn’t.

With one lot being auctioned off for $275,000, that is almost $100,000 difference from the $177,000 corner lot “transaction”.

Perhaps the taxpayers should also take it as personally insulting when they are being sold out.

Joe Sinagra
NJ 18th District
Assembly Candidate

Monday, September 10, 2007

A Truck Load of Dynamite

Mexico has begun sending their tractor-trailers across U.S. territory under a long-delayed, NAFTA-mandated program. Already we can see the potential results under this program.

Just recently, a truck loaded with dynamite exploded after colliding with another vehicle on a busy highway in northern Mexico killing at least 34 people, injuring over 150 people, leaving a 10 by 40 foot crater.

We were lucky it wasn’t heading across the US . . . this time.

Mexican Trucks rolling across US Highways will kill off jobs for American truckers. It is a serious security risk, putting us all in jeopardy. Interstate-40 in San Bernadino County California has been a human smuggling route for years, this will open up more avenues for the smuggling of illegal aliens. This would also give the drug lords a little more flexibility in their shipments to the US.

Wait until the accidents start accumulating; try collecting on an insurance policy across the state border. Who will pick up the tab, the Mexican government or the American taxpayers? Many of our trucks that are not considered safe by US standards end up in Mexico. Those trucks will now be back on our roads.

Driving on our roads will be unskilled, unchecked, non-English speaking, no insurance holding drivers with trucks that are not road worthy.

With terrorism being a major concern for all of us, Mexican load checks are not required. This will provide a great way to transport weapons to terrorists already imbedded into our system. So much for Domestic Security.

Bill Clinton’s signature on the bottom line of the NAFTA treaty spelled the first giant step in reducing the middle class to poverty.

For years I have been saying the Unions are backing the wrong horse. Look at the trend in the trades, the halls are half full or less, skilled jobs are being lost to lower wages and unskilled labor. The influx of illegals is killing the Unions, and this is another nail into the Truckers coffins. Ask the UAW how many jobs were sacrificed to NAFTA.

In recent years truckers rates have gone up, not for long. The more drivers you have, the lower the rates, Economics 101 law of supply and demand.

We will have containers from all over the globe shipping to the US from Mexican ports, without any help from our longshoreman. How can our government guarantee Homeland Security?

The freight transportation providers, warehouses and distribution centers provides employment to over 484,000 workers in New Jersey.

There are many other issues at stake. There is a long road ahead of us, if we can manage to get to the end . . . without crossing the path of a truck loaded with dynamite.

Joe Sinagra
NJ 18th District
Assembly Candidate

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Signs of Desperation

The average tax bill in South Plainfield for the year 2006 was $5,136.

There are large signs in South Plainfield with the slogan, “You heard Right” TAX CUTS. What is ironic is that the Democrats have had, and now have the majority control in South Plainfield.

South Plainfield is in the 7th Congressional District represented by Republican Congressman Mike Ferguson; also it is represented in the State Senate by Democrats Frank Lautenberg, and Bob Menendez.

As part of the 18th legislative district South Plainfield Democrat representatives are Senator Barbara Buono, and Assembly representatives Patrick Diegnan and Peter Barnes III. Prior to Peter Barnes III was his father Peter Barnes Jr., also Democrat.

Next we have all Democrat Freeholders, Director David Crabiel, Deputy Director Steven Dalina, and board members, Camille Fernicola, James Polos, John Pulomeno, Christopher Rafano, and Blanquita Valenti.

On the local level we have Democrat Mayor Charles Butrico, Democrat Council President Dennis J. Cerami, and Democrat council members Raymond S. Petronko, Joseph Scrudato and Kathleen Thomas. There are two Republicans Robert Bengivenga and Matthew Anesh.

New Jersey Democrats hold the Governorship, having majority control of both houses of the Legislature; Senate: 22-18 & Assembly: 49-31. The federal Democrats hold both U.S. Senate seats and also 7 out of 13 of the state's delegation to the United States House of Representatives.

It appears that the Democrats have had control in the state, county and local level for some time now, if tax cuts were the issue, they could have been cut long before the 2007 elections.

Homeowners have seen their property taxes increase, but yet will still vote strictly because of party affiliation, even if it means less disposable income in their pocket.

Last year South Plainfield officials voted to raise taxes and now they are going to give a tax cut. How much will you really get back after the election? Maybe the question should be, "Before I cast my vote, how much?"

Lowering taxes has been the Republican platform. From state taxes to local taxes, Republicans have been pushing for tax relief. In going to over 6,000 doors that is the number one issue with taxpayers in New Jersey this year. What the Democrats in South Plainfield are doing in their campaign strategy, is trying to turn the tax increase issue around to appear as if they had nothing to do with those increases.

Taxes have gone up on the state level and passed on to the county, which in turn passed those increases onto the local towns.

If your taxes went up 6 points last year and cut by ¼ of a percent to make it appear as if you are getting something back, that is not a tax cut. What you are getting back is a small rebate, which will more than likely go up again next year, undoubtedly more than what you are getting back. If there aren’t any funds available, and taxes had to go up to start with, where is South Plainfield getting the money to give back? You heard right (give us $600 and get back $25) “TAX CUTS”

It seems as if the officials running the show had plenty of time to lower taxes, in 8 years and a Democratic majority, taxes weren’t the issue.

Taxes could have been lowered before the elections, but to get re-elected you need to sweeten the pot, just a little.

Spending money on such large signs posted around South Plainfield touting “TAX CUTS, only appear to be large signs of desperation.

Joe Sinagra
NJ 18th District
Assembly Candidate

Saturday, September 1, 2007


In a recent editorial The Home News asked what will it take for failing schools in the No Child Left Behind evaluation process to make the grade and questioned the value of the No Child Left Behind Law. While the No Child Left Behind Law has some significant limitations, particularly in the handling of Special Education and Limited English Proficient students, I believe there have been many positives to this law.

As a Board of Education member in South River I have seen this law increase the focus on improving academic achievement within our school system. By grouping results by sub-groups the law forces communities to address the achievement gaps existing in lower economic, ethnic and certain educational sub-groups. NCLB has created a sense of educational urgency to improve performance. Administrators and teachers want to succeed on these assessments (no one wants to be labeled a failing school) and they are working harder to have their students succeed.

In South River, after school homework programs have been initiated and administrators and faculty are continually looking for research based curriculums and programs that have a proven track record for increasing student achievement. Our administration committed to a new Math program based on the techniques used in Singapore - an international standout in Math performance. After two years this new curriculum has created outstanding results. For example, in our fourth grade we had a 36% increase in proficient Math scores this past year and an astounding 118% increase in Advanced Proficient scores.

However, to take our education to even higher levels of performance we will need to create a system that defines, measures the effectiveness and rewards the major elements of academic success - outstanding teaching, administration and family involvement. One change needed is to NCLB testing and evaluation process itself. To accurately measure effective teaching the growth in learning for a child must be measured every year and standards for growth must be created based on where a child began the year. Now that students are tested every year from grades 3-8 we have the opportunity to evaluate teaching performance based on this growth model.

Once a growth model is in place school districts can, at least partly, link the achievement of students to the evaluations and ultimately the compensation of the teachers and administrators that deliver it. Many educators argue that it is unfair to base their evaluations exclusively on test scores and I readily agree.
However, test scores can and should be apart of the overall measure of effective teaching and administration. Other measurements could include: the exposure and implementation of continuing education, effectiveness in working with and assisting co-workers and parents, parent involvement with the child, Principal and administration observations and class preparation. Whatever the criteria for evaluation, to continue to improve education performance of students in our state we will need to work with the Teacher and Administration Unions in developing a fair system that more accurately defines, measures, evaluates and rewards effective teaching and administration.

Bill England

Candidate for State Assembly
18th District

Spending 2 Billion Dollars for a Road We Won't Own

There is a plan by the New Jersey Turnpike Authority to widen the Turnpike between Interchange 6 in Mansfield Township, Burlington County and Interchange 9 in East Brunswick Township, Middlesex County. The Turnpike Authority is to hold 4 hearings in September of 2007.

A distance of approximately 35 miles, the roadway is to be widened to 12 lanes with major modifications constructed at four interchanges.

When complete, the proposed program will result in a 12-lane (six in each direction) dual-dual roadway from Interchange 6 to Interchange 9, capable of accommodating projected traffic needs through the year 2032.

The program will add 170 lane miles at a cost of about $2-billion dollars.

The state has no money, we are broke, and the governor has not presented a plan as to what his intent is with the future of the New Jersey Turnpike.

I for one would like to know before the elections in November, and before the taxpayers acquire another 2 billion dollars of debt, what does our governor intend to do with this roadway?

Until we get our priorities in order and have some insight as to what we are facing there should be a moratorium placed on the expansion project.

New Jersey does not need a new spending plan, what New Jersey needs is a savings plan.

Joe Sinagra
NJ 18th District
Assembly Candidate

The Cost of Illegal Immigration

It is costing the state’s taxpayers nearly $2.1 billion per year for education, medical care and incarceration due to the illegal alien population residing in New Jersey.

Based on Census Bureau data, studies estimate that households headed by illegal aliens used $10 billion more in government services than they paid in taxes. If illegals had been given amnesty, the fiscal deficit at the federal level would grow to nearly $29 billion.

The average illegal household pays more than $4,200 a year in federal taxes, for a total of nearly $16 billion, but they impose annual costs of more than $26.3 billion, or about $6,950 per illegal household.

Amnesty would increase costs because many illegal immigrants are largely unskilled; their tax payments would be very modest. However, once legalized they would have access to many more government services.

Illegal aliens receive free public education; states grant illegal aliens college scholarships and reduced in-state tuition. An estimated 11.7 percent of the K-12 public school students in New Jersey are children of illegal aliens.

Free medical care at taxpayer expense. Those who do not qualify for Medicaid will receive Charity Care paid by the State. Taxpayer-funded, unreimbursed medical outlays for health care provided to the state’s illegal alien population amount to an estimated $200 million a year.

All are great incentives for illegal aliens to enter the US illegally.

Over 17% of our Federal Prison population consists of illegal aliens. The uncompensated cost of incarcerating deportable illegal aliens in New Jersey’s state and local prisons, amounts to about $50 million a year.

Iranians have been caught sneaking over the border. Over 100,000 illegal aliens from the Middle East currently reside in the U.S. If we can’t deal with the influx of illegal aliens in the US, how would we protect ourselves from terrorism?

The costs associated with illegal immigration, Medicaid ($2.5 billion); treatment for the uninsured ($2.2 billion); food assistance programs ($1.9 billion); the federal prison and court systems ($1.6 billion); and federal aid to schools ($1.4 billion).

A proposal requiring employers to fire workers who falsify identity documents, is favored by Seventy-nine percent (79%) of Americans, 74% believe that they should be required to provide documents proving they are in the country legally if a person wants to rent an apartment.

Sixty-eight percent (68%) of Americans believe it is very important to improve border enforcement and reduce illegal immigration, a view that is held by 80% of Republicans.

By a margin of (60% to 28%), Americans believe it is more important to gain control of the nation’s borders than to “legalize the status of undocumented workers already living in the United States.”

Sixty-two percent (62%) of Americans support doubling the number of border agents.

A majority of Americans (54%) oppose the current U.S. law that grants automatic citizenship to children of illegal aliens born in the United States, 63% opposes automatic citizenship.

The options we have are simple. We either accept the costs created by the presence of the large pool of illegal aliens, or enforce our laws by reducing the numbers of illegal aliens in the United States.

When we have groups in our nation flying their flag above ours, when we have people entering our country illegally and demanding that we as an American people live by their standards, we will lose our heritage and our traditions.

Ask any illegal if they would be willing to die to protect our freedom in order to remain a permanent citizen of our country.

We are either American or un-American. Our veterans who fought and died for our rights and individual freedoms will have fought in vain.

If the people of our nation lack the conviction to follow their conscience and vote purely on partisanship in November, it will be impossible to place the lock back on Pandora’s Box and stop the anarchy we will have unleashed.

Joe Sinagra
NJ 18th District
Assembly Candidate

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Hillary, a Legend in Her Own Mind

Wow! Hillary Clinton is the best candidate to handle a terrorist attack. I feel a lot safer knowing that she will be there taking care of us.

“But if certain things happen between now and the election, particularly with respect to terrorism, that will automatically give the Republicans an advantage again.”

Is she saying the Democrats are weak on terror, and complimented Republicans as the ones who can keep us safe should a terror attack happen?

Having a presidential candidate sink to the bottom of the La Brea tar pits and come up with a statement such as that to get attention. Does it really matter which party is at the helm should an attack occur?

I don’t know what qualifies Hillary as having the strength and experience, other than her statement that she is good at handling the unexpected. Aren’t the majority of us good at that?

In April, she told The Washington Post that terrorism “shouldn't be a Democratic fight or a Republican fight”, and in 2005 she told the Albany-Times board that the Bush administration had used the war on terror as a "political tool" to frighten Americans into submission. The Hillary administration would never use fear as a means to win.

It was an asinine, unpatriotic statement. Probably just as stupid as John Kerry’s regrettably infamous remark "You know, education -- if you make the most of it, you study hard and you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well, "If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq."

Hillary goes on to say she is the best of the Democrats, already she is a legend in her own mind. I don’t believe the best of the Democrats would have made such an idiotic statement.

You may say this is a national issue, but which state on a national level would be unlucky enough in Hillary’s world to prove her point? What if, what if . . .

I wouldn’t wish for a terrorist attack no matter who was in charge. I for one don’t want to find out who does a better job in handling an attack, I would rather know who is better at preventing it.

Joe Sinagra
NJ 18th District
Assembly Candidate

Pencil Monetization is Next

It is extremely disheartening to hear constant reports that Governor Corzine intends to propose selling or leasing the State’s main thoroughfares including the New Jersey Turnpike after the November elections. Equally as disheartening is the failure of incumbent legislators to speak out against such a poorly conceived concept. If I am fortunate enough to be elected to represent the 18th legislative district in the State Senate, I will adamantly oppose any proposal to sell or lease any state roadway or other state asset. My opponent, State Senator Barbara Buono, as well as the entire legislature and all candidates for legislative seats in the 2007 race should join me in pledging that they too will oppose any such patchwork solutions to the real problems plaguing New Jersey.

Putting the State’s main corridors of interstate and intrastate commerce in the hands of a third party puts every resident of this state in danger of unfettered toll increases and presents a strong likelihood that the maintenance of the roads and the safety of our residents will be sacrificed. Nobody is giving away money. Thus, a buyer would need to substantially increase tolls and defer road maintenance solely to make back their investment. This would leave the New Jersey taxpayers at the mercy of an unelected and unaccountable owner of our roadways.

This isn’t a Republican or a Democrat issue. This is a safety issue and a common sense issue. Our legislature has a responsibility to stop looking for the quick fix and to find real solutions. The Turnpike today; the Parkway tomorrow; and then the lottery. What next - the pencils in the state house?

With the Democrat controlled legislature having increased the State’s debt by $21.3 billion over the past five years in which it has been in control and amid a recent report from the New York Times that the State’s pension fund indebtedness could be as high as ten (10) times more than the State previously represented, I am calling on my opponent to join me in speaking out against flash in the pan solutions to a long term problem.

We need to begin to live within our means. You don’t need to have been in the legislature for 13 years or to have been the former head of Goldman Sachs to know that selling our roadways (or borrowing against the tolls generated on those roadways (a/k/a/ asset monetization)) is a gimmick and puts off for tomorrow the tough choices that we must make to bring financial responsibility to our state. The only way we’re going to truly get a long term and sustainable handle on reducing our indebtedness and be able to give people real property tax relief is by reducing spending. The average citizen of this state knows that if you spend too much such that you can’t pay your rent – you don’t sell your car to pay your rent. If you do, you can’t get to work tomorrow. The taxpayers know that they are required to live within their budget, and its time that our elected officials learned from the citizens of this state.

Dan Brown
Republican Candidate for State Senate
18th Legislative District

Interview with the NJEA

At the request of the NJEA I had an interview several weeks ago, in an attempt to gain their endorsement.

In speaking to the panel I had said that more and more, many of your school budgets are being voted down. It is not because people do not want to see a better education for their children; they are running out of extra pocket money. The neighborhoods that were 30, 40 and even 50 years old, that supported the school systems are disappearing. Our seniors cannot afford to pay the increased taxes on their homes and must sell; our children cannot afford a down payment on a home in the neighborhoods they grew up in. Our neighborhoods are changing, and the support system for our schools that was once there, is eroding.

New Jersey becomes less affordable for low-income and young families trying to gain a foothold in our communities, as well as for seniors who are rich in property, but cash poor as property taxes continue to increase. That’s one aspect in the leveling of population growth, as people seek more affordable areas. New Jersey schools account for over 55 percent of all property taxes, and when you have people living from paycheck to paycheck, a $200 increase is a lot of money. The state is reaching a pinnacle, where government will have to choose between paying even higher property taxes and drastically cutting education, services or both.

I would like to say that I believe every retiree, and those near retirement should receive every penny that was promised to them. The teachers union has sued the state for failing to make pension payments, and rightfully so. Any state employee who bargained in good faith and diligently contributed to their pension fund should receive what is due to them. The fault lies with the politicians in New Jersey who failed to deposit those contributions into a system already lacking in funds. Politicians who took pension funds to make up for the shortfalls in other areas, and for failing to live up to its bargaining agreement. If that were to happen in the private sector it would be considered fraud.

The only way politicians will be able to get more money to fund this under funded pension is again by increasing taxes, even though we already have the highest property taxes in the country. The ones that will be stuck with paying for this increase are the taxpayers.

We desperately need a new school funding formula, which should have happened but won’t be addressed until after the November elections. Consolidating our school districts from 615 to 250, reducing administrative costs would free up money that is already there, that would be injected back into the education system. I also believe if NCLB cannot be fully funded the penalties placed on our school districts must be relaxed. It is unreasonable to expect full compliance from school districts that are financially unable to meet federal mandate goals, which place additional burdens on our communities. By under-funding the NCLB, community and state taxes will continue to rise to meet the federal demands.

One reason I did not receive the endorsement of the NJEA is that I had suggested that they contribute a small portion of their income, based on a salary tier towards their pensions, until it reaches what would be considered a reasonable wage. At that point they should be able to afford to fund their own benefits. I stated they could not continue to ask the general public to repeatedly fully fund pensions, when many are already being taxed to the max.

If anyone should propose that teachers unions switch to a defined contribution plan, they then protest that the legislature is unfair to teachers. The pressures from the teachers unions on our politicians know the system is failing; yet they still demand increased benefits.

I also said to the board that I may not receive the endorsement of the NJEA because of my position on this, but I cannot win on a principle I do not endorse.

Which is why my opponents received the endorsement of the NJEA, I am sure they agreed to everything the NJEA wanted.

At least they will receive the votes of the NJEA, even at the cost of higher property taxes to the citizens’ of New Jersey.

Joe Sinagra
NJ 18th District
Assembly Candidate

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Concert in the Bay?

The Concerts by the Bay in Perth Amboy may end up in the bay if the Garden State Symphonic Band does not receive funding in the very near future.

The Concerts by the Bay depends on banks, business, industries and individuals to help pay through donations, in presenting the shows to the public.

The managing director had said that the concerts could no longer rely on the city for funding because governments also are strapped for cash. He also went on further to say that the problem with funding may be a sign that the concerts are not as important to the city as they had been.

One reason may be that the state of New Jersey has placed so many taxes on New Jersey business, government raising the minimum wage, taking more money out of the taxpayers pockets, business and individuals need what they have left to pay their own bills. I have always said when people have less disposable income it will create a greater hardship on the economy.

When the state cuts back on funding, when municipalities now have to come up with a means to fund their own local governments, it has a ripple effect. It may take awhile to take effect, but when you raise the sales tax, raise the municipal tax, increase budgets the taxpayers run out of what I call ‘giveaway money’. What ever is left in their pockets they will use to pay their bills, and enjoy a night out on occasion.

Placing more restrictions on small business, more taxes, mandating what they have to pay their employees means less profit and less money to spend.

Even if it is scaled back to having less than 10 concerts, if the money is not there, it does not matter how many concerts you have, where are you going to get it?

The director said he plans to ask the city for funds, if he does, is it a loan? It was previously stated governments are strapped for cash. How does a town find $10,000 to give to a concert and then explain to the taxpayers why they just raised their taxes?

I do not believe it is because people don’t want to have a concert, but cash is getting to be a tight commodity these days. Any program based on donations, may have to face the fact that if the cash flow stops going to those who provide the funds you are going to be the last one to receive charity. Charity starts at home first.

The season was to end with the patriotic song "Stars and Stripes Forever." Possibly, another reason is not that the concerts are not as important to the city as they had been, there just are not enough patriots left with enough money to pay and listen to it.

Joe Sinagra
NJ 18th District
Assembly Candidate

Sunday, August 19, 2007

A State for Sale

New Jersey is for sale, going to the highest bidder.

Right now, it is the New Jersey Turnpike, next it will be the Garden State Parkway, and who knows possibly NJ government itself.

We need to ask ourselves, “why, as a state we are selling off our assets?”

Is it because of the pork barrel spending, is it because of nepotism, and is it because of mismanagement and misappropriation of our money? Is it because ethics in New Jersey is at such a high level?

Does it really matter whose fault it is? At what point do we stop placing the blame on why or who caused us to get here? When will the finger-pointing stop and government take responsibility for their own actions?

In a business environment, you are hired to fix the existing problems, not to point fingers at the last person who created the situation. If that were the case, the last person would still be there.

Government needs to take a step back and take a serious look at how our money is spent and where it is going.

If we cannot manage the money we already have, how would generating new taxes help? The raising of taxes must stop. Either we find a different tax formula to pay for what we already have, or take what we already have, set priorities and redistribute it differently.

Some ingenious ways we have come up with to deal with the many issues facing our state:

Removing the front license plates from New Jersey vehicles . . . this would possibly save enough money to pay for the cost of manufacturing the back plates.

Jumping into the pork barrel and grabbing a $100,000 for the Arts Council . . . this would help many generate more sales tax revenue from all the ticket sales.

Naming of state dirt . . . Downers Soil will help give us a better appreciation of our farms.

The banning of aluminum bats, naming the tomato as a state vegetable, asking a state college to spend their money updating their logo with the letters NJ, after cutting millions from their budget . . . will go a long way in helping many families and students with tuition costs.

Excess lottery money was to be used in a bill for a voter drawing? By going to vote you would have a chance to win a million dollars. If we are going to touch the excess lottery funds, would it not be put to better use towards a student tuition program? Alternatively, a State College showing outstanding Academic Achievement might qualify for extra funds.

I suggest raising the tolls on the Parkway and Turnpike for a few years until we generate enough revenue to put us back in the black. Then drop the tolls back to where they were before the increase, or adjusted to the rate of inflation. However, we all know that in New Jersey once an increase in instituted, it will never go down. New Jersey government will figure out a way to spend it.

We had to shut the state down because we had no spending plan? How about coming up with a Savings Plan? To ask our legislature to go into session for weeks on end to come up with a new tax program, then shut the state down, and then tell everyone to go home because as a governor I have a better idea was a waste of time, energy.

Since 2002, it has been on financial crisis after another, because those in power refuse to address the real problems. After sending 45, 000 state workers home, closing state government for a week, $1.8 billion in tax increases, implementing a one percent sales tax increase, millions in lost revenue we are no closer to a balanced budget than before we started.

When we cannot agree on what is best for the welfare of our citizens, when we no longer care about common sense, we as a state and as a people lose.

Government is supposed to be there for the general welfare of the people, not to consistently take money out of their pockets.

We are at sea in a sinking ship, our citizens are treading water to stay afloat, and now New Jersey government wants their life jackets.

Incomes have not risen to keep pace with inflation, yet New Jersey government keeps taking money from the very people that are struggling everyday to make ends meet.

Taking money from the businesses that employ our citizens slows down growth.

Property taxes, affordable housing, education, eminent domain, loss of jobs and homes, are the real issues the people are facing. Giving the people an opportunity for an affordable place to live, not having to worry if their homes will be taken, the security of knowing their jobs will not be leaving the state, letting them keep a larger share of their income, education of their children are the real issues.

If New Jersey were a business, we could not sell it with all the debt we have. As a business, we would be bankrupt.

Going once, going twice! Sold to the highest bidder; who will be deemed the person or persons nominated as the buyer or buyers . . . unless there is someone else offering more.

Joe Sinagra
NJ 18th District
Assembly Candidate

Friday, August 17, 2007

Property Tax Reform

Property-tax reform should be Trenton's top priority, but it won't happen until after the November elections. By then, our legislators may not have to deal with it.

Thanks to five consecutive years of mismanagement, $6 billion in new state taxes, $10 billion in increased spending and $37.5 billion in new debt, New Jersey is now unaffordable for many poor and middle-income families. New Jersey homeowners' property-tax bills have risen on average 35 percent over the past five years.

The raising of the sales tax to 7 percent is not going to bring down the state deficit; in actuality, it will raise it.

Less disposable income means less money going into an already strained economy.

Let's not kid ourselves and jump for joy when we receive those rebate checks this year. This year's rebate checks are being paid for by last year's 1 cent (17 percent) sales tax increase. In essence you're getting back your money already paid to the state in sales tax.

Without some major budget cuts, or in the absence of a new tax-funding formula, taxes will be increased again next year. This year's rebate, ladies and gentlemen, is a one-time deal; we will not have a repeat performance.

The selling of the New Jersey Turnpike (monetization — turning government debt into money — a fancy word for privatization) is a short-term solution to an ongoing problem. If the reasons we got to this point are not alleviated, our legislators have done nothing for the taxpayers of New Jersey.

To sustain and keep this sleight of hand in play, taxes will have to be increased again the following year. We need to rid ourselves of government waste, frivolous spending, fiscal abuses and dual officeholding. Those are the tough choices; the easy choice is to raise taxes.

In November, by voting yes to use the sales-tax increase toward property-tax relief, you will be putting an end to the issue of property-tax reform. Trenton is counting on us to vote yes. There is no concrete plan in place as to how the money collected will be allocated. The best way would be to have a plan in place first, so we would know how the money would be disbursed; then ask us to vote yes. We are being asked to give our money for something we can't see. Without a plan as to how this money will be dedicated, who will get the relief and what areas will receive it?

Our current tax plan is just not working; it needs to be reworked from the ground up. There is no easy solution, but to ask taxpayers to vote yes to put the balance of the sales-tax increase toward tax relief is again the easy way out. It will buy our legislators at least another 10 years in office, and they won't have to deal with it.

New Jersey needs true property-tax reform, not using one tax to pay for another. The taxpayers need a guarantee that any funds collected toward property-tax relief will not be used to plug another hole somewhere else in the budget.

Without a guarantee, the people of New Jersey will be asked again to dig deeper in the very near future.

Joe Sinagra
NJ 18th District
Assembly Candidate