Sweeney to try again for ‘millionaires tax’ as pension issue divides Christie, Dems

 New jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney, left, and Assembly Speaker Vinnie Prieto say they would like consensus on New Jersey's budget, but don't hold out much hope. (AP file photo)

New jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney, left, and Assembly Speaker Vinnie Prieto say they would like consensus on New Jersey's budget, but don't hold out much hope. (AP file photo)

Two months before the deadline for a new state budget, Democrats who control New Jersey’s Legislature question whether they’ll be able to negotiate a spending plan with the Christie administration. 

Meanwhile, in a bid to raise revenue for the state to contribute to public workers’ pension systems, Senate President Steve Sweeney intends to again introduce a measure for a tax surcharge on New Jersey’s wealthiest residents.

Assembly Speaker Vinnie Prieto said he would much prefer consensus to Gov. Chris Christie slicing through a spending plan approved by lawmakers with a veto pen.

But Democrats want a budget increasing state contributions to the public employees pension plan, he said, something Christie is challenging in court.

“If we can get to fully funding it, it would be the ideal scenario and we’re going to try and look at every resource that we can,” said Prieto, D-Hudson. “If the governor would come along with what we propose, that would be wonderful.”

The preference for negotiation is a bipartisan one, according to Sen. Tony Bucco, the ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee.

“That’s what we’re all down here for, whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat, is to come up with a solution to our problems on a bipartisan basis in coming to a resolution,” said Bucco, R-Morris.

But Sweeney is doubtful about lawmakers and the administration working out a budget together.

“Not if the solution is all on the workers’ backs,” he said Tuesday, referring to the public union members.

Sweeney said he will introduce legislation to impose an income tax surcharge on millionaires even though Christie has adamantly opposed such a plan.”I will, because we really don’t have much of an option at this point. But my willingness is to negotiate with the administration on this,” he said. “The door is wide open, let’s find a way, let’s sunset it, we did that with some other things.”

Christie has vetoed four previous legislative attempts to apply a “millionaires tax.”

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