True to his word to barnstorm the state over the summer and hammer legislative Democrats for refusing to approve a tax cut immediately, Gov. Chris Christie has spent the past two weeks or so making public appearances and exhorting his audiences to contact legislators and demand action before Labor Day.
He’s drawing crowds as well as media coverage as he fulfills his pledge to kick Democratic backsides all over the state all summer for failing to include a tax cut provision in the state budget.
If a recent poll is any indication, however, the Governor may find it necessary to step up his speaking schedule. The poll found 49 percent of respondents agreed with the position taken by legislative Democrats to delay a tax cut until the end of the year and assess revenues rather than act now when it appears all but certain that revenue will fall short of Administration projections. 43 percent supported the Governor’s demand for action now.
While the six point spread is rather modest, it falls outside the poll’s margin of error, an outcome which cheers Democrats with its suggestion they’ve succeeded in fighting Christie to a draw over what was to be the Administration’s signature issue.
The same poll, incidentally, gave Christie a 54 percent job approval rating, while 53 percent voiced disapproval of the manner in which the Legislature handled the budget.
It is, though, the tax cut proposal which has overshadowed all else. Christie abandoned his initial proposal for a 10 percent cut in income tax rates for all wage earners and threw his support behind legislation sponsored by Senate President Steve Sweeney to grant a tax credit of up to $1,000 based on property taxes paid.
Despite the Administration’s hope that Democrats would unite behind Sweeney’s bill, they balked at the timeline and instead set aside $183 million in the budget to be used for a tax cut if, by the end of 2012, revenues reached the level Christie predicted.
While the Administration and the Office of Legislative Services—the Legislature’s research arm—differ on the amount of a potential shortfall, both agree there will be one.
The Democrats’ logic for delaying a tax cut is one easily understood in basic everyday household terms.
The kitchen table conversation goes something like this: “Yes, honey, I know we need another car, but let’s wait until December to see if I get the raise I’ve been hoping for so we can afford it.”
Legislative Democrats have come across as reasonable, supporting a tax cut, (buying a new car), but suggesting that it’s wise and prudent to wait to determine if it’s affordable (if the raise comes through).
Democrats point out as well that whatever version of a tax cut might be enacted, it wouldn’t be effective until January of 2013 in any event, thus waiting until the end of this year to decide if it’s feasible won’t cause any harm.