Could Dems force gas tax hike without Christie? ‘Absolutely not,’ GOP leader says
Three and a half weeks ago, when New Jersey lawmakers could not agree on a proposal to fund the Transportation Trust Fund with a gas tax increase, Gov. Chris Christie issued an executive order that froze hundreds of road and bridge projects.
It’s now the end of July, the TTF will run out of money in about a week and a half, hundreds of road workers are still laid off, and there is still no agreement in sight.
Another version of the plan was put forth by New Jersey Democrats in the Senate and Assembly five days ago, but Christie declared the plan “dead on arrival” because it calls for a 23-cent-per-gallon gas tax hike but, he says, not enough other tax cuts to balance things out.
Christie had previously endorsed a plan to hike the gas tax but lower the state sales tax — one that got him into a heated debate with New Jersey 101.5's Bill Spadea.
But Senate and Assembly Democrats have been hoping they'll have enough Republican support to override a Christie veto — after all, plenty of Republicans backed the version that traded the gas tax for the sales tax break and other cuts.
The legislature has never before overridden one of Christie's veto.s
So what happens now?
Jon Bramnick (R-Westfield), the Assembly Republican leader, is sitting in his office, tapping his fingers on his desk, waiting for a call from Democratic leaders.
“What they’ve put forth is a plan with absolutely no input from the Assembly Republican leadership, and the governor rejected it, so let’s get to the table and work on something that has more tax reductions,” he said.
He stressed: “There’s two sides to this ledger, myself on behalf of the Republicans, and the governor have said if you want to raise a tax, the Republicans in both houses want to make sure you lower some taxes, and this plan doesn’t have enough on the lowering the taxes side of the ledger.
“I’m a big fan of reducing taxes, so if you ‘re going to have a plan, do a plan where we’re all sitting at the table and have some compromise.”
When asked what he’s looking for in terms of tax reductions, Bramnick said he’d be willing to consider all sorts of ideas.
“When you’re talking about negotiations and we’re talking about compromise, obviously nothing is written in stone except we need tax fairness,” he said. “We know that if you’re going to raise a billion dollars in taxes we need to find a lot of taxes to reduce.”
When pressed for specifics, he said “I don’t really want to negotiate in public — unless we do it on 101.5. Have all four leaders there and the governor, and you may want to have a program like that.”
When Bramnick was asked if Democrats could convince enough Republican lawmakers to vote to override a Christie veto of the current Democratic plan put forth, he said "absolutely not.”
New Jersey 101.5 made repeated calls to the office of New Jersey state Senator Steve Oroho, the Republican who first proposed legislation calling for a 23 cent a gallon gas tax hike to fund the TTF. Those calls were not returned.
(Oroho has been a frequent target of Spadea's — the host took to calling him "Darth Oroho" after, Spadea says, an already bad deal for the gas tax got worse. New Jersey 101.5 encourages its hosts to each express their own opinions, which may not agree with one another and don't represent the station overall.)
Senate Republican leader Tom Kean Jr. was also contacted, but did not respond.
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