Chris Christie Threatens Democrats With Summer Session [POLL/AUDIO]
Sometime today, tonight or early tomorrow morning the State Senate and the General Assembly are expected to pass a $31.741 billion Democrat-sponsored State Budget bill.
The measure sets aside $183 million for a to-be-determined tax cut that would be enacted in January of 2013 only if revenue collections match Governor Chris Christie's projections. Christie wants a tax cut now even though his original plan had the same timetable and he is threatening to call the legislature in to work thorugh the summer or until he gets what he wants.
In his State of the State Address and again in his budget message to the legislature Christie proposed a 10% State income tax cut for everybody. Feeling that idea favored the rich, Senate Democrats, led by Senate President Steve Sweeney countered with a 10% property tax cut proposal and Assembly Democrats offered up a 20% property tax reduction plan, half of which would be funded with revenue from a millionaires tax increase.
Earlier this month Christie seemed to compromise and embrace Sweeney's plan.
He said, "We want to cut your taxes this year and we want you to get a 10% credit on your income tax towards your property taxes. That's what the Senate President's plan is. I've wanted to cut taxes across the board for the income tax. There's an area for us to compromise there I suspect and you know the senate President and I have compromised on a lot of things over the last two and a half years."
In advance of the full legislature's vote on a budget bill today that doesn't include an immediate tax cut, Christie is on the offensive.
He said to a crowd at his latest town hall meeting, "They (Democrats) were talking about tax cuts all spring…Silly me, silly me, I actually bought it. I believed it. I said, 'Well, we're going to figure it out. We'll work it out the way we've compromised on a bunch of other things. We'll work it out. We'll get you tax relief…..They fooled me for the last couple of months, but they're not fooling me and they're not fooling you again. You know what's going to happen. In January there will be the next excuse."
The Governor says when he gets the budget bill he has a feeling his red veto pen will run out of ink by the time he's done deleting spending items added by the Democrats.
A defiant Christie has a warning for Democrats.
He says, "I was willing to meet them half way, but if they want a fight they're going to get one and they're going to get one all, long, hot summer until they cut your taxes."
Last Thursday, Assemblyman Joe Cryan was leading the group of nine fellow Democrats from the Assembly in threatening to vote 'no' on the budget unless the Rutgers-Rowan University merger bill is delayed until after this November's elections. He said his faction of Democrats doesn't oppose the merger. They just feel it needs a lot more vetting.
Since then two Democrats in the Cryan-9 have peeled off and now say they will vote for the budget.
Yesterday, when asked about how Christie will react to the budget bill when he gets it, Cryan said, "I expect he's going to veto a significant amount of Democratic initiatives in the budget to sustain and validate his numbers for a tax cut…..Chris Christie is going to do what's made him Chris Christie. He's going to over react, be loud, thump a lot and in fairness I think he will take the red (veto) pen out and I think a lot of Democrats understand that what they're putting up isn't what's really going to happen at the end of the day."
Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick says, "I think we should work through the summer if they (Democrats) don't want to do a tax break."
Bramnick says it's up to you to decide whether you think Christie will sign off on anything the Democrats want without a corresponding tax cut.
He says, "We'll see who blinks first, but this Governor, he doesn't blink too quickly."
The full legislature is scheduled today to vote on other bills that are outside the budget but still related to the spending plan.
One bill would phase-in, over five years, the restoration of $331 million in municipal property tax relief funding. First year funding would be about $66 million. The bills ensure that each municipality in the State will be restored to the 2007 (SFY 2008) Energy Tax Receipts and Consolidated Municipal Property Tax Relief Aid level, over 5 years and a poison pill will protect that level of funding for each municipality, while continuing to require aggregate Energy Tax Receipts inflation adjustments.
Edison Mayor Toni Ricigliano, who also serves as Vice Chairperson of the League's Energy Receipts Restoration Task Force, says, "We salute Assemblyman (Troy) Singleton and Senator (Paul) Sarlo for their leadership. They and their cosponsors have heard what New Jersey Mayors have been saying, and they have responded. The bill recognizes that municipalities have long been denied revenues that they were promised, and to which they are entitled."
Christie hasn't spoken out specifically on the bill, but in the past he's said mayors are wrong to claim the revenue belongs to them.
The Democrats' State Budget plan calls for spending $404 million less than the spending plan proposed by Christie in February and $62 million less than the revised budget State Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff presented to budget committees in May.
The Democrats' plan calls for $133 million in new spending and they claim to have identified $112 million in cuts.
Another measure increases the Earned Income Tax Credit program to 25% of federal earned income tax credit amounts. That would cost the state $50 million in the first year. While Christie mentioned increasing the credit in his Budget Address he has not taken a public position on this particular bill.
Democrats are trying again to secure almost $7.5 million for family planning and women's health services. Christie has already vetoed this measure in the past.
$5 million would also be added to expand the neighborhood revitalization State tax credit under another bill. The Democrats have also added $25 million in State aid for nursing homes.