Gov. Chris Christie’s admonishment that New Jersey legislators act immediately on a tax cut was ignored Monday by top Democrats who have promised a tax cut only if the state can afford it.
The governor conditionally vetoed Democrats’ plans to impose an income tax surcharge on millionaires. He offered an alternative that would expand the earned income tax credit for the working poor if lawmakers agree to guarantee property tax relief without tax hikes.
“Will you act today to guarantee a summer of tax relief, job competitiveness, and increased confidence in state government for our citizens?” Christie said Monday. “I am ready. Are you?”
Senate President Steve Sweeney says the special session the governor called Monday was unnecessary because lawmakers have already set aside money in the budget for a tax cut.
“The tax cut won’t take effect until next year,” Sweeney said. ” What the governor is talking about is more theater for the national stage rather than the reality that we passed a responsible budget.”
Sweeney, D-Gloucester, and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, D-Essex, say there’s no rush to approve enabling legislation for a tax cut until they’re sure state revenues can support it.
Analysts dismissed Christie’s speech to New Jersey lawmakers as so much posturing.
Majority Democrats in the Legislature had no intention of giving the governor a policy victory by going along with his call for immediate action to guarantee a tax cut, said Rider University political science professor Ben Dworkin.
But Dworkin says the stalemate will provide political fodder throughout the summer.“The governor is going to go around the state and attack the Democrats for not meeting him in the middle, as he would say, in order to pass a guaranteed tax cut,” Dworkin said. “The Democrats are going to say the governor is being irresponsible.”Even though lawmakers took no action at the special session, Fairleigh Dickinson political scientist Peter Woolley believes Christie still has the upper hand because he has set the agenda by putting the focus on reducing taxes.