Christie, Democrats at odds over tax cuts and hikes
In his State of the State Address, Gov. Chris Christie called on the Democrat-controlled NJ Legislature to lower taxes while also pledging to veto any income tax increase he gets from lawmakers. Democratic leaders fired back and said the governor has to consider every revenue-raising option to help turn New Jersey's economy around.
"We will not win the fight to keep and create good paying jobs for our middle class families in New Jersey unless we lower taxes," Christie said. "It is you, and only you, the State Legislature, who can lower taxes further and make New Jersey more prosperous for our middle class families and their children."
The Democratic leaders of the General Assembly and State Senate quickly responded to the governor's call for tax reductions.
"We want to cut taxes. Who wouldn't want to cut taxes? Well all do, but we cannot put this state in a further hole," said State Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford). "Doing things and promising things that can't happen or you can't pay for, we're supposed to have gone beyond that and started to focus on the realities."
The state's pension system is dramatically underfunded and the Transportation Trust Fund is on pace to run out of money to fund new projects at the end of this fiscal year on June 30. The governor and lawmakers are working on funding solutions for the TTF and negotiating pension fund reforms.
"He (Christie) wants us to come up with a tax cut. We need to figure out how we can fund all of our obligations first. We have obligations that we have to meet and fund before we can start doing all the easy things," said Assembly Speaker Vinnie Prieto (D-Secaucus).
If the governor stays true to his word a millionaires' tax increase is not an option despite Democrats' long support of the income tax hike for the wealthy.
"I have vetoed four income tax increases passed by this body and make no mistake, I will veto any more income tax increases that come before me," Christie said in his State of the State speech.
Democrats said the governor needs to keep an open mind.
"You have to look at everything and saying that he will veto an income tax bill if we send it to him, that's not acceptable because you have to meet at the midway point," Prieto said. "Everything does have to be on the table."