Partisan fights in NJ Assembly’s lame duck session expected over gas tax, pensions
Assembly members return to work Monday at the State House for the first committee sessions since last June. Democrats and Republicans agreed on the issues that needed to be tackled and they stressed the need for bi-partisanship — but they didn’t agree how to solve the problems and they were already sounding very partisan.
Assembly Speaker Vinnie Prieto (D-Secaucus) said replenishing the soon-to-be-bankrupt Transportation Trust Fund should be the first domino to fall and it would require a gas tax increase. Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick (R-Westfield) said he was open to that if Democrats would be willing to consider lowering other taxes.
Dealing with the underfunded public employees’ pension system, funding education and reining in property taxes were other agreed upon issues to be dealt with, but that's where the bi-partisanship is causing things to come to a screeching halt.
“Lowering property taxes, everybody wants to do that. We want to do that. We’re trying to be realistic," Prieto said. “It takes revenues to do that.”
Republicans said New Jerseyans should be worried when Democrats talk about the need to raise revenue.
“When the Democrats talk about raising revenue that only means one thing; raising your taxes and the only people that are paying those taxes are the residents of New Jersey,” said Assemblyman Anthony Bucco (R-Randolph). “We have to start to live within our means. If we want to make New Jersey more affordable, then these policies have to be solved without the old Democratic way of raising taxes across the board.”
Democrats challenged Republicans to produce detailed plans for how they would like to solve the state’s problems. The GOP then challenged the Democrats to go public with their plans. The plan for bi-partisanship seemed shaky at best.
Kevin McArdle has covered the State House for New Jersey 101.5 news since 2002. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on twitter at @kevinmcardle1.