North Jersey News Roundup for Aug. 26, 2020

Gov. Phil Murphy proposed a $32 billion, nine-month revised spending plan for fiscal year 2021 that relies on borrowing and some spending cuts while calling for higher taxes. Lawmakers are expected to begin negotiations immediately and must reach an agreement with the governor by Sept. 30. Murphy is proposing that the state borrow $4 billion to help make up for what’s projected to be a $5.6 billion budget hole. The revised budget calls for spending cuts and other savings totaling more than $1.25 billion.

The $335 million spending increase for schools originally proposed during Gov. Phil Murphy’s budget address in February has been scrapped. Under the reworked budget, school aid remains flat at $8.7 billion while continuing the phase-in of the updated school funding formula, the governor said.

The list of states subject to New Jersey’s COVID-19 travel advisory was reduced. Travelers from Arizona, Alaska, Delaware, Maryland and Montana will no longer be required to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival, paring back the list of affected states and territories to 31. News12 New Jersey

The second night of the Republican National Convention featured First Lady Melania Trump as its keynote speaker. President Donald Trump continued to blur the lines of the Hatch Act between political candidate and public servant as he pardoned a Nevada man convicted of bank robbery and swore in five new American citizens, all of them people of color, in a miniature naturalization ceremony. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo broke from tradition as the first sitting secretary of state in at least 75 years to address a national party convention from Israel. The New York Times

Sen. Cory Booker blamed the current economic pain on President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus. “We know that people all across New Jersey are hurting,” Booker said, joined by  Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer as official Democratic responders to the GOP. “They’re needing relief and they’re not getting this from this President, a President who called himself a deal maker but not has not only failed to make deals but has failed to address one of the biggest economic downturns in the last century.”

Gov. Phil Murphy said improvements in key health data is allowing officials to close in on expanding indoor activities, including gyms and indoor dining. Murphy said the key to any decision is “sustained data that’s good is what we’re looking for and we think we’re getting into that neighborhood right now. And assuming it stays that way…we hope that we’ll be able to get to some indoor steps.”

Mutual funds that bought municipal bonds backing the construction of The American Dream Mall have taken hundreds of millions of dollars in paper losses. The East Rutherford mall remains closed because of a state order aimed at reducing the spread of the coronavirus. The longer the hybrid mall and amusement park goes without paying customers, the harder it will be for its owner, Triple Five Group, to repay the $2.7 billion it borrowed from banks and mutual funds in 2017. The Wall Street Journal

New Jersey joined other states and local governments in suing the U.S. Postal Service, accusing President Donald Trump’s administration of deliberately hampering the agency “to undermine a federal election.” The lawsuit asks the court to undo recent changes accused of slowing delivery nationwide, including the removal of sorting machines in Kearny, and Teterboro, collection boxes and reduction in overtime. New Jersey Globe

Legislation designed to improve vote-by-mail procedures was advanced by the New Jersey’s Senate State Government, Wager, Tourism, and Historic Preservation Committee. The legislative package was made up of seven bills, including instituting in-person early voting for November general elections, requiring county boards of election to establish ballot drop boxes in each county at least 45 days before the election and permitting counties to begin processing vote-by-mail ballots up to five days prior to election day.

A brief storm moved through North Jersey Aug. 25, causing thousands of power outages once again in less than an hour. According to PSE&G, Jersey Central Power and Light and Orange & Rockland utility companies, Bergen County had 3,836 customers without power, primarily in Franklin Lakes and Teaneck, Morris County had 1,352 outages, with 1,045 in Rockaway, Passaic County had 188 customers without service and Essex County had 334 outages. The Record

And finally…An explanation of how state officials calculate the rate of transmission, a key COVID-19 health metric used in New Jersey.

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