Gov. Christie: Latest gas-tax compromise ‘dead on arrival’
Gov. Chris Christie said the Democrats' latest plan for replenishing the Transportation Trust Fund is "dead on arrival," deeming the package of tax cuts as insufficiently fair to green-light a 23-cent per gallon hike in the gas tax.
That's not surprising, given that Christie has demanded a broad-based tax cut, such as the sales tax reduction the Assembly passed in late June that stalled in the Senate.
Senate President Stephen Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto are hoping to pass the bill with the two-thirds majority that would be needed to overcome a Christie veto. But that would require Republican votes, and the Assembly GOP's leader, Jon Bramnick, said Monday evening that the support isn't there.
“There are not enough votes to pass the Prieto-Sweeney bill,” said Bramnick, R-Union. "We need compromise that includes a broad-based tax reduction for all New Jerseyans.”
Months of behind-the-scenes had led to a proposal in June for targeted tax cuts benefiting estates, retirement income, charitable donations and the working poor, in exchange for the first hike in the gas tax since 1988.
A Senate committee advanced that plan, but Christie and Prieto then struck a surprise deal to instead cut the sales tax from 7 percent to 6 percent. That plan would have cost around twice as much in projected revenue to the state once fully implemented -- $2 billion a year, as opposed to $1.1 billion. Sweeney and other senators balked.
When the state entered the new fiscal year without a way to pay for road, bridge and rail projects, the state shut down state-funded projects, prompting layoffs that could grow in numbers as the stalemate drags on.
Sweeney offered a compromise to Christie that the governor rejected. Christie made a counteroffer last week that the Democratic legislative leaders found unacceptable, so the lawmakers opted for a new approach -- a modified version of their original plan, scrapping the charitable deduction tax break, adding breaks for veterans and commuters and speeding up the phase out of the estate tax.
Christie said he reviewed the latest plan over the weekend and can't support it.
“I proposed a significant plan for tax fairness, one that included a reduced sales tax and retirement income tax cuts to offset any increase in the gas tax. The Assembly overwhelmingly approved that plan," Christie said. "The Democrat Senate responded by doing what Democrats always do on taxes: impose an immediate massive tax hike with a promise of future tax relief long after I am out of office. It is unfortunate that Speaker Prieto has now given in to this failed approach.
“As I have said for two years, any solution for a Transportation Trust Fund must have as its foundation tax fairness. This proposal does no," Christie said. "Hopefully when they return to New Jersey after the Democrat National Convention in Philadelphia, the Democrats will put forward a plan consistent with that principle. Their current proposal, however, is dead on arrival.”
The Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee is scheduled to meet at 11 a.m. Friday to consider the revised plan. It could then get a vote in the full Senate on Monday, Aug. 1.
The Assembly has not yet scheduled a date to consider the bill.
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