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Christie on NJ Taxes: ‘Whose Money Is It?’

Gov. Chris Christie with ‘Ask-the-Governor’ host Eric Scott (left) Monday night.
 

Gov. Chris Christie clearly relishes the prospect of carrying the debate over a state income tax cut into 2014. His comments on New Jersey 101.5 this week left no doubt about it.

The governor, doing his last “Ask-the-Governor” program of 2013 on Monday night [GET VIDEO & AUDIO], was asked about State Senate President Steve Sweeney’s position that the state’s current revenue and spending obligations, especially those affecting local property tax rates, rule out an income tax reduction.

Christie said: “Steve doesn’t usually use typically Democratic rhetoric but he did on that one. That’s right out of the Nancy Pelosi playbook. You can’t pay for a tax cut? Whose money is it in the first place?”

The governor seemed to be sharpening his needle on an exchange of talking points that began during the League of Municipalities Conference in Atlantic City last month, when Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno forecast a 2014 income tax cut battle. Sweeney, (D-Gloucester), dismissed that as a “sound bite” and argued that an income tax cut would come at the expense of aid to localities, causing property taxes to rise.

“When you take revenue away from towns, there’s only one place for it to go — the taxpayer. So let’s not play shell games,” Sweeney said, in an address at the conference.

But Christie, who approaches 2014 leading the 2016 Republican presidential polls, signaled Monday that he is very comfortable framing Democrats as tax raisers.

“It’s like the Democrats think they’ve taken possession of the money,” the governor said. “And then, in order to give some of it back to you, the people have to figure out how to pay for that. No, no, no, no. We’re the ones in charge of the government and our goal every day should be how do we take less of their money.”

Sweeney’s response to similar remarks from Christie on Dec. 3 were just as pointed.

“The governor keeps talking about a tax cut, no one has wanted a tax cut more than me, but when you dig into the numbers you realize that homestead rebates have been cut by billions of dollars, municipal aid has been cut by more than $340 million a year and poor working people are paying $53 million a year more,” he said.

Monday night, Christie said again that he’ll be raising the subject directly with Sweeney and incoming Assembly Speaker Vinnie Prieto, (D-Hudson). But he’s holding the specifics of any income tax proposal close to the vest until his budget is presented Feb. 25.

“I may propose something, I may not,” Christie said Monday night. “That’s why people will tune in on Feb. 25.”

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