Could Christie rehabilitate his national image? [AUDIO]
The New Jersey Senate and Assembly are expected to approve a Democrat-sponsored $34.1 billion budget Thursday. The spending plan includes a millionaire's tax increase that Gov. Chris Christie has promised to veto. If he makes good on his veto vow, the governor could help rehabilitate his national image that has suffered because of the so-called Bridgegate scandal.
Democrats said Christie's political future was not an issue for them.
"I'm not really concerned about any of that," said Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford). "What I'm concerned about is, we have an obligation to make our pension contribution and to provide a balanced budget that meets our financial obligations. Christie's going to do what he's going to do at the end of the day."
The governor has not stated publicly if he plans to run for the Republican nomination for president in 2016, but many political experts think vetoing any tax increase might help rebuild his bona fides as a true fiscal conservative. The top lawmaker in the Assembly insisted he's not thinking about that either.
"I can't worry about that and that I can tell you," said Assembly Speaker Vinnie Prieto (D-Secaucus). "My obligation is to put the best budget forward. I can't worry about that because then I couldn't lead and we couldn't govern."
On Wednesday, a judge heard oral arguments in a lawsuit seeking to prevent Christie from slashing this fiscal year's payment into the public employees' pension fund. The governor said he has to do it in order to keep the budget balanced. Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson ruled in favor of Christie. Attorneys for the governor argued successfully that Christie has the authority to cut contributions to the pension fund in order to keep the budget balanced.
The Democrat-sponsored State Budget would increase the state income tax rate on those earning over $1 million annually from 8.97 percent to 10.75 percent. The tax hike would generate an estimated $724.5 million and impact roughly 16,000 taxpayers. The budget also calls for corporate business tax increases. Christie said he would veto any tax hike.