After the budget committees in the New Jersey Assembly and Senate voted along party lines to advance the $35 billion spending plan proposed by Democrats, the full Legislature is expected to pass it on Thursday.
Democrats defended the proposed tax surcharge on income over $1 million and a 15 percent surcharge on the corporate business tax as a painful but necessary step.
The move will provide the revenue to fulfill the pension payment that lawmakers agreed on when they enacted reforms in 2011, said Assemblyman Troy Singleton, D-Camden.
“We don’t get the luxury of walking away from our financial responsibilities and our obligations,” he said. “I wish there was a different way to do it. I wish we had the economic growth that we thought we were going to have.”
Assemblyman Christopher Brown, who joined his fellow Republicans in voting against the budget, said the tax hikes will not fix the pension system problems.
“This game that we keep playing. It’s not what people want. They want a solution not a back and forth between business and unions,” said Brown, R-Atlantic.
At a hearing before the vote, Assemblyman Jay Webber suggested spending cuts be considered instead of raising taxes.
“We’re $1.8 billion short on a pension payment that has to be made for fiscal year 2016. By my calculation, that’s about 5 percent of the revenue,” said Webber, R-Morris. “Shame on us if we can’t find 5 percent in the budget to meet such a high priority.”
It’s easy to say no to new taxes, said Assembly Budget Committee Chairman Gary Schaer.
“I don’t want another tax increase, but how does one pay for the bills unless one walks away and says, ‘I’m simply not going to pay them,’ which I would suggest has been precisely the response of the executive to the pension disaster,” said Schaer, D-Passaic.
Said executive, Gov. Chris Christie, is expected to veto the tax surcharges.