On eve of Christie budget address, N.J. Assembly leader argues against tax cut

As Gov. Chris Christie prepares to deliver his annual budget address to the New Jersey legislature Tuesday, the top Democrat in the Assembly is concerned what that spending plan might entail.

Assembly Speaker Vinnie Prieto said he hopes the budget proposal will not call for cutbacks in programs that help the middle class.

“In the last few years, we saw rebates not fully funded, actually pushed off into the next year, and what we are doing is crushing the middle class and the working poor in the state of New Jersey,” Prieto said. “We’re going to be mindful to make sure that everything we have in place for them stays there.”

And this is not the time for the governor to renew a call for an income tax cut, Prieto said, because the state simply can’t afford it now, especially in the face of mandated payments to its pension system.

“How are you going to do that without hurting everything else when you have pension payments that are scaling? There’s $2.4 billion this coming year,” he said. “Everybody would love a tax cut, but we need to afford it.”

Hoping to have discussions with the Christie administration on how to boost state revenue including, Prieto said one possibility would bean increase in the gas tax to pay for road and bridge repairs.

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