Dem leaders in N.J. prepare budget with ‘millionaires tax’

Democratic leaders in New Jersey’s Legislature are proposing their own budget plan that they say will fully fund the state’s pension obligations.

A day after Senate President Steve Sweeney called for increasing the tax on the wealthiest New Jersey residents to raise revenue, Assembly Speaker Vinnie Prieto announced his own proposal.

“Hopefully, the governor will not take an ax to this budget — and some of the things that are near and dear to our heart and important to the residents of New Jersey that are some safety-net programs,” said Prieto, D-Hudson.

Before there can be any vote, Prieto said Thursday, details of a proposed income tax surcharge on wealthy residents, known as “the millionaires tax,” and a corporate business tax surcharge need to be worked out with the Senate.

Senator Tony Bucco, the ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, advised his colleagues not to expect a favorable reaction from Gov. Chris Christie.

“I think it’s going to be dead on arrival,” said Bucco, R-Morris. “We are taxed to death now — everyone, not only the millionaires.”

Christie has said the state can’t afford the legally required contribution to the state pension system. And he has resisted any attempt to revive a tax surcharge on the state’s wealthiest residents.

In addition to making the pension payment, Prieto said, the tax surcharges would help fund restoration of  women’s health care services, nursing homes and domestic violence prevention programs.

Fairleigh Dickinson political science professor Peter Woolley said Prieto is using a strategy straight from the Democratic playbook.

“The idea is to force the governor to go, item by item, and take out measures which are frequently not just pushed by the governor but poll well, so to force the governor into a defensive position,” Woolley said.

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