Majority Leader Greenwald Discusses 25% Property Tax Relief for Seniors with NJ AARP
Christie Makes New Appeal for a 10% Income Tax Cut
The New York Times
July 2, 2012
By Kate Zernike
TRENTON — Gov. Chris Christie called a special session of the Legislature on Monday to argue his case again for a 10 percent income tax cut, saying “the New Jersey comeback” depends on it.
But as with most things the governor does, Democrats viewed his half-hour speech less in terms of what he actually said and more for what it said about his national ambitions, and what some believe are his hopes to be the Republican vice-presidential nominee.
The Democrats, who control the Legislature, noted that they had passed a budget allowing the tax cut Mr. Christie is seeking, if revenue comes in according to his optimistic projections by the end of the year. Even if they had done as the governor asked on Monday and voted right away to approve the cut, they noted, state residents would not be able to claim it until next year, when they file their taxes.
The governor, in his remarks to lawmakers gathered in the Assembly chamber, asked: “What are we waiting for?”
The Senate president, Stephen M. Sweeney, replied in his own remarks: “What’s the drama?”
“What’s the urgency?” Senator Sweeney, a Gloucester County Democrat, said. “There’s urgency to cutting people’s taxes, but we shouldn’t provide tax relief we can’t afford. We’re not going to say, ‘Go ahead and spend the money,’ if we have to make cuts later.”
“It’s ironic,” he added, “that the Democrats are the fiscally responsible ones, and the Republicans want to spend money not knowing whether it’s going to be there.”
The governor has the power under the State Constitution to call the Legislature back for a special session to discuss “pressing matters.” He had already been threatening to taunt the Democrats all summer long to get his tax cut — as he said in a town-hall-style meeting last month, “to kick their rear ends from one end of the state to another.” (He told another audience he intended to give the Democrats the same order he had given to residents of Asbury Park before Hurricane Irene last year: “Get the hell off the beach.”)
But he could not compel them to vote on anything, so the session seemed more about drama than substance.
Mr. Christie urged the Democrats not to take “take our cue from Washington, D.C.,” which is paralyzed, he said, “because people talk at one another and not to one another.”
“It’s just a constant fight to see who wins the next 24-hour news cycle,” he said. “Is that really who we aspire to be here in New Jersey? I say no. Here in New Jersey, we aspire to talk to each other, we aspire to like the people we work with across the aisle.”
But the two sides have mostly been talking past each other on tax relief since the governor proposed his budget for the fiscal year that began this week.
Mr. Christie wanted a 10 percent income tax cut, saying it would make the state more welcoming to what he calls the job creators. Polls show that most New Jersey residents prefer a cut in property taxes, which are a significantly higher burden.
The governor based his budget in February on the assumption that the state’s revenue would increase 7.3 percent, far more than most other states, which are projecting an average increase of 4.1 percent.
With revenue coming in at a lower than projected rate for several months running, the Legislature passed a budget with the tax cut, under the condition that it would take effect only if the governor’s projection came true.
It also passed a Democratic proposal to provide a property tax break for those with incomes up to $250,000. But that proposal was to be paid for with nearly $800 million raised by increasing the marginal tax rate on the 16,000 residents who earn more than $1 million — a proposal that the governor vetoed on Monday.
Democrats noted that the governor also vetoed an income-tax cut, in the form of an earned-income tax credit, for the working poor. They also argued that he had rejected help with property taxes, by vetoing a plan passed by the Legislature to return money from energy tax receipts to municipalities, who in turn could use it to avoid property tax increases.
“The only consistency Governor Christie shows is his devotion to protecting the mega-rich,” said Louis D. Greenwald of Camden County, the leader of the Democratic majority in the Assembly. While the governor accused Democrats of increasing taxes, Assemblyman Greenwald noted that the governor himself, with a reported income between $600,000 and $750,000, would not pay more in taxes under the Democrats’ plan. “It’s safe to say the other 99 percent would not, either,” he said.
“The governor will move from 30-second sound bite to 30-second sound bite because he needs media attention like you and I in this room need oxygen to survive,” he told reporters after Mr. Christie’s speech.
Mr. Christie argued in his speech that the tax cut was not about politics. “It’s not about polls or conventions or speeches or TV sound bites,” he said. “It’s about the people of New Jersey.”
But even before he took the podium, the governor was on the airwaves, with a radio advertisement boasting about how he had vetoed an $800 million tax increase passed by the Democrats.