Last week, Governor Chris Christie first announced his re-tooled tax cut plan on NJ 101.5 FM's Jim Gearhart Show.

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New Jersey taxpayers would be able to claim an income tax credit of up to 10 percent of their property tax bill. Republican members of the Assembly have turned the proposal into a bill that mirrors Christie's idea exactly.

"It sends a message to the people of New Jersey that we get it," explains Assemblyman Declan O'Scanlon, one of the bill's sponsors. "We realize that you're the most over-taxed people and net, the most taxed people in the nation…..Look, it's a start. I mean, ultimately, we need to hold the line on taxes and roll back taxes even further as we move forward."

Assembly members Chris J. Brown, Amy Handlin and Scott Rumana are the other sponsors of the measure.

"We're now offering tax cuts for middle-class and working-class New Jerseyans. We've now addressed every issue those Democrats in the Legislature put up," said Christie when he first unveiled his plan. "The question is why can't we return some of this money to the people who paid it in the first place?"

Christie's proposal and the Assembly GOP bill would provide:

  • The 10 percent credit Is Capped At $10,000 Of Property Taxes Paid And All New Jersey Homeowners With Up To $400,000 In Income Will Be Eligible For Relief, Phased-In Over Four Taxable Years.
  • A refundable gross income tax credit for homeowners with $400,000 or less of taxable income, which would lead to an average savings of $775 per household
  • A phase-in over four taxable years
  • An increase in the "renter's credit" from $50 to $100 for tax year 2013, rising to $200 by tax year 2015.

Qualifying homeowners under Christie's plan would get a $100 credit for the second half of 2013, then four percent of their property taxes next year, 8 percent in 2015 and 10 percent in 2016 and thereafter. The proposal includes a provision that lets the Legislature scrap the cuts if they're not affordable.

"Unless you have a disdain for letting people keep more of their money there's no reason not to support this bill," says O'Scanlon. "The people of New Jersey, they are under the greatest weight of tax burden in the nation and they feel it. They know it. They tell us this."

Democrats Response

The top Democrat in the State Senate backs the idea of a tax cut for two reasons. He thinks it's would be great for New Jerseyans and he insists the plan Christie is touting is actually his proposal.

"We want to see a tax cut happen, but we want to be able to pay for it," explains Senate President Steve Sweeney. "We hope we have the resources to do it. It's a good thing for New Jersey if we can……Listen, it's nice to be able to say you're going to do a tax cut when you don't have to worry about paying for it."

The Democratic head of the Assembly Budget Committee also supports a tax cut if the state can fund it long-term. He has a plan that hasn't worked since Christie took office.

"We've been champions of giving a property tax cut all along, but obviously it has to be paid for," says Assembly budget boss Vinnie Prieto. "If you come up with something that would pay for it and moving forward would pay for it I would definitely be for it. A millionaire's tax (increase) is something that comes to mind right away."

The millionaire's tax route has been tried twice by Democrats during Christie's term points out Sweeney and the Governor has vetoed it both times.

"After forcing property owners to forgo a tax cut for a year, it is outrageous that (Christie) is trying to shift blame to Democrats for his fiscal irresponsibility," says Democratic State Senator Barbara Buono, Christie's likely opponent in the 2013 gubernatorial race. "If he really wants a tax cut, he should agree to sign a millionaire's tax that ensures we can pay for relief for working- and middle-class families."

Republican Response

Republican leaders in both houses of the legislature are sounding off on Christie plan.

"New Jersey's middle- and working-class families need the legislature to immediately consider this tax cut," says Senate GOP Leader Tom Kean. "An overdue 10-percent income tax reduction for families would be both relieving and refreshing. Legislative Democrats should make it a priority to serve the public with this responsible tax reduction, instead of worrying whether the public's money will continue to support their special political interests."

The top Republican in the People's House also supports the Governor's proposal and he wants the legislature to take action sooner rather than later.

"The Governor announced a tax relief plan this morning for New Jersey," says Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick. "As soon as the legislation is drafted, I am asking Speaker Oliver to call a special legislative session in order to consider this important proposal. I am prepared to work with Speaker Oliver and other Democratic members on the legislation."

The Christie campaign is also responding to Buono's criticism.

"With a record of voting to raise taxes 154 times, Senator Buono just can't help herself when it comes to standing in the way of delivering tax relief to middle and working class New Jerseyans," says campaign spokesman Kevin Roberts. "Senator Buono must explain to New Jersey families why she refuses to support Governor Christie's bipartisan compromise plan to lower property taxes for the middle class and increase the Earned Income Credit for working families."

"It's inexcusable to rail against the tax burden of New Jerseyans while standing directly in the way of real, meaningful relief."