Chris Christie Renews Focus on Tax Cuts
As Gov. Chris Christie launches a new round of town hall meetings, he's returning to some familiar calls for changes: cutting taxes, eliminating payouts to public workers for unused sick time and pushing local governments to share services.
The Republican governor's policy priorities for the rest of 2012 are laid out in a document obtained by The Associated Press as he plans to start a new round of his signature town hall-style meetings in Howell on Wednesday.
Christie frequently lays out his top priorities -- and repeats them at his town hall meetings -- but with mixed results. His prodding has been a factor in getting some major items adopted, including teacher-tenure reform and a cap on property tax increases. But other items he pushes have stalled in the Legislature.
The items on what the governor calls his "Middle-Class Reform Agenda" are not surprises. The top item -- a tax break -- has been fiercely debated since early this year and was even promised by the Democrat-controlled Legislature in June, though not to Christie's satisfaction.
Earlier this year, Christie called to cut income taxes by 10 percent. He later ditched that and latched onto an alternate plan offered by Democratic lawmakers. Under this plan, the income tax cut would be equal to 10 percent of the taxpayer's property tax bill. In this form, only taxpayers with incomes under $400,000 would qualify. As part of the plan, he also would expand an earned-income tax credit for the working poor -- a measure he vetoed from the current state budget.
In June, the Legislature adopted a state budget that calls for a tax cut -- but only if it's shown that state revenue is strong enough to pay for it.
Since then, Christie has been railing against lawmakers for refusing to pass his cut, which he says would save an average of $775 for nearly 80,000 families. His cut would go into effect in January.
For their part, Democrats have criticized Christie for making an annual practice of vetoing their bill that would raise income taxes on people with incomes over $1 million and using the proceeds to pay for tax cuts for nearly everyone else.
Christie's list of priorities also includes items he's been calling for since his first year in office, but which have not gotten much traction in the Legislature.
One measure would address government ethics and would ban anyone from holding multiple elective offices, would require lawmakers as well as top administration officials to complete annual financial disclosures and would extend "pay to play" limitations -- that now apply to government contractors -- to labor unions.
He also continues to push for eliminating sick-pay payouts to government employees. Democrats have supported limits, but not generally getting rid of the payments entirely.
Christie also is promoting a plan that would require local governments to share services if they request a state analysis of the idea and the analysis finds that sharing would save tax money.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)