If it seems like it’s harder to pay the rent, you’re not imagining things. New data from the U.S. Census Bureau indicates that the cost of rental housing in the state has been rising faster than inflation and is taking a greater portion of income than ever, Colleen O’Dea reports for NJ Spotlight. Statewide the median rent — $1,213 per month — was 1.3 percent higher in 2012 through 2016 compared with the previous four-year period. The median rent rose by 10 percent or more in more than 100 municipalities.
BENEFIT CUTS NEEDED TO FIX NJ PENSION SYSTEM, PANEL SAYS
Cuts in health benefits for state and local government employees are needed to repair the state pension system, a commission created by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says. In releasing the final report of the New Jersey Pension and Health Benefit Study Commission, Christie said he hoped the incoming Democratic governor, Phil Murphy, would act on the panel’s recommendation to cut health benefits by $4 billion a year, James Nash reports for The Record. Christie, a Republican, said that in his last month in office he would be willing to work on legislation to cut the health benefits.
MURPHY PLANNING TRIP TO SEE DAMAGE IN PUERTO RICO
Gov.-elect Phil Murphy and his wife, Tammy, will visit hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico next week. In his one-day trip, Murphy will meet with Gov. Ricardo Rossello and will visit some of the areas that were hit hard by Hurricane Maria in September, Matt Arco reports for NJ.com. The trip is scheduled for Dec. 15.
NEW PLANETARIUM IS LARGEST IN WESTERN HEMISPHERE
When the new planetarium at the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City opens this weekend, it will be the largest in the Western Hemisphere and the fourth largest in the world, James Barron writes for The New York Times. This has sparked a bit of a rivalry with the Hayden Planetarium at the Museum of Natural History in Manhattan. Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the Manhattan planetarium, conceded that New Jersey school groups may find it easier to get to the Jersey City planetarium. If the new facility has a really good projector, he added, “That’s great.” Paul Hoffman, the president and chief executive of the Liberty Science Center responded by noting that his planetarium has 10 projectors.
HAVING A LAWYER MAKES BIG DIFFERENCE FOR ASYLUM SEEKERS
The number of people seeking asylum in the United States has grown since 2005 but the number of rejections has grown at a faster rate, according to data from a nonpartisan research group at Syracuse University. A major factor in the success of asylum applications is the person’s access to legal representation, according to the data. In New Jersey, a coalition of legal service providers, judges, private attorneys and law professors are trying to set up a publicly financed universal legal representation program for low-income immigrants who are detained and facing deportation, Monsy Alvarado writes for The Record.
PEARL HARBOR MEMORIAL TUCKED AWAY IN A TURNPIKE REST STOP
“New Jersey is home to plenty of oddities,” Mike Kelly of The Record writes, citing the Margate elephant, the ghost museum in Asbury Park and the Edgewater condominium that wraps around a cemetery. But the Pearl Harbor memorial at the Richard Stockton Service Plaza may be one of the oddest.