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Thursday, August 11, 2005Past Issues - S | M | T | W | T | F | S
 
South Jersey

April 15, 1998

Torricelli plan for battleship gets torpedoed

By ALAN GUENTHER
Courier-Post staff

CHERRY HILL - The battleship USS New Jersey should be moved as a tourist attraction to the Camden Waterfront, U.S. Sen. Robert Torricelli said Tuesday in a wide-ranging interview.

But the Democratic senator's proposal was swiftly torpedoed hours later, when a state legislator said the Camden-Philadelphia area did not attract enough tourists to support the ship.

'It's going to Bayonne,' said state Assemblyman Joseph Azzolina, R-Monmouth. The assemblyman chairs the USS New Jersey Battleship Commission, which has already raised $3 million to restore and locate the historic ship in North Jersey, where it is expected to draw more than 300,000 tourists from the New York-area market.

In response to local problems, Torricelli promised to provide $1 million in federal funds to repair a dike and solve flooding problems in Logan and Greenwich townships in Gloucester County.

Nationally, Torricelli said parents should be allowed to save up to $2,000 a year, tax-free, to help pay for the education of their children in public or private schools.

And he said a proposal to lower the legal limit for intoxication to .08 percent blood-alcohol content may be too strict.

'Some people tell me that with a single glass of wine, a small person, not accustomed to drinking, could be found in violation of the law,' Torricelli said. 'If that's true, then we've gone too far. Before this is settled, there is a scientific inquiry here that is not yet complete.'

He also opposed recent efforts to extract more money in a court battle with the tobacco companies. An earlier settlement agreement won important concessions, he said. Advertising aimed at children would have ended. The government would have won more than $300 billion from the industry. He said he feared efforts in recent weeks to extract at least $500 billion may go too far.

U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, the state's senior Democratic senator, supports the tougher controls on alcohol and tobacco. Torricelli admitted Tuesday that he has been unable to smooth over a public feud with Lautenberg. He called their chilly relationship 'unfortunate' and declined further comment.

In general, Torricelli reported that the United States is in the middle of a prolonged period of world peace and economic prosperity. But those good times could easily end.

To maintain its progress, the United States needs to invest more in its schools and universities, assuring that people have access to high-quality education.

And he said he was appalled at the lack of direction and purpose in U.S. foreign policy.

'We are not using our true potential to manage international events. We're watching economic and political developments in Russia and hoping for the best. That is unforgivable.

'If Russia returns to dictatorship and military aggression,' he warned, 'our children will have a right to never forgive us. It will be one of the great squandered opportunities of all time.'

Acknowledging today's deadline for filing income tax returns, Torricelli called for a simplifying of the federal tax code.

He also said families should be allowed to save up to $2,000 a year, tax-free, to help pay some of the costs of educating their children. The money could be used to buy computers or supplies - or pay private school tuition.

The proposal requires no expenditure by the federal government, he explained, but parents would be given a tax break for the money they put aside to help their children learn.

In regard to federal spending, Torricelli said he didn't break a campaign promise last year when he cast the deciding vote against a constitutional amendment to require the federal government to balance its budget.

He said he voted against the Republican-sponsored amendment because it would not have allowed the federal government to incur debt if a war broke out or if the economy turned sour.



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