Christie using cuts to the poor as leverage for tax cuts for the rich

Confused about what’s going on in Trenton? Wondering why Christie is calling back the Legislature when everyone thought they’d be on vacation?

This is commentary from political blogger and cartoonist Rob Tornoe.

Confused about what’s going on in Trenton? Wondering why Christie is calling back the Legislature when everyone thought they’d be on vacation?

Unlike most things in New Jersey politics, this one is pretty straightforward.

Gov. Christie is hoarding money saved by cuts to programs aimed to help poor and working class families, and using it as a bargaining chip to ram through tax cuts that will predominately favor the rich.

Sadly, it’s all so he can get a bright, shiny tax cut star to wear to the Republican National Convention in Tampa in August.

“Lowering the tax burden imposed on every New Jersey resident is a matter of unique and critical public interest that demands our immediate and full attention,” Christie wrote in his letter to members of the Legislature. Keep in mind, “every” really means “wealthy” when Republicans tend to use it.

If his intentions were to truly help New Jerseyans in need, maybe he would have thought twice before vetoing many items from both the budget and supplemental spending bills that would have actually helped alleviate the burden on middle and working class families.

These cuts include:

– $50 million to restore the earned-income tax credit for the working poor, something he proposed himself back in February.

– $330 million in programs that would have sent some energy tax receipts to municipalities to help relieve property taxes.

– Bills that would have given municipalities two additional years to spend affordable housing trust funds before they revert to the state.

Sadly, no one in Trenton is altruistic, and both sides are playing politics on this one. Still, this time around it seems Democrats are taking the route of fiscal responsibility. After all, they did set aside $183 million in the budget to pay for Christie’s tax cut, so long as the extremely-optimistic revenues Christie promised actually happen. It’s Christie who is acting like a spoiled brat on Christmas Eve.

“I have to wait until tomorrow morning?!? But I want my tax cuts now!!!!”

“The governor’s insistence on tax cuts now, before we know if we can truly afford them and six months before they would even take effect, is a platform built on national campaign rhetoric rather than fiscal reality,” said Senator Paul Sarlo, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee. “Let’s be perfectly clear: we all want to cut taxes. But first, we absolutely need to be fiscally responsible.”

The Legislature also passed an income tax increase on millionaires, using the fund to help shoulder the property tax burden for middle-class families throughout the state. Their plan would only affect about 16,000 millionaires in the state, and the tax increase would only be applied on every dollar earned over $1 million. 

Sensible, right? Targeted to help middle and working class families, right?

Not according to Christie, who has become no more than a parrot for Republican talking points when it comes to millionaires and job creators. 

I guess he doesn’t count the guy looking to start a pizza joint in Beachwood as a job creator, which is a shame. If only property taxes were lower, that guy might be able to afford to start his business and hire some employees.

As long as we continue to coddle the wealthy, things will be okay, right Governor?


Rob Tornoe is a political cartoonist and a WHYY contributor. See more of his work at, and follow him on twitter @RobTornoe.

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