BY TOM HESTER SR.
Democratic legislative leaders are critical of Gov. Chris Christie’s proposed $32.1 billion 2012-13 state budget, declaring it political theater, and describe his call for a 10 percent state income reduction, a tax cut for the rich at the expense of the middle-class.
“Gov. Christie just doesn’t get it,” Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald (D-Camden) said. “His zeal for tax breaks for the rich while middle-class families struggle with the highest property taxes in the nation is wrong. He has essentially proclaimed ‘Mission Accomplished’ after a net 20 percent property tax increase.
“Democrats will begin reviewing this plan (the budget) line-by-line, but will do so continually focused on ways to combat property taxes and restore the property tax relief cut by this governor,” Greenwald said. “Middle-class property tax relief is our priority.”
Assembly Speaker Sheila Y. Oliver (D-Essex) said “What we got today was merely a speech, nothing more. As we’ve seen with each of the Governor’s prior budget proposals, the devil will be in the details that have yet to be delivered to us. “Now begins the intensive process of dissecting his proposals to ensure that our priorities are being met and that the working poor and the middle class will not once again bear the largest burden. Unfortunately, at first glace, that same recurrent theme appears to be in place.
“No matter how the governor dresses it up, a 10 percent across-the-board income tax cut is still a disproportionately generous gift for the wealthiest among us, one that will have little-to-no impact on the lives of working class New Jerseyans," Oliver said. "Even more puzzling is the lack of details on how the governor intends to pay for his millionaires’ gift.
“The most glaring omission in his speech, however, was the complete and utter absence of a plan to address property taxes," Oliver said. "Every media outlet, every elected official and the majority of our citizens have identified property taxes as the single most pressing issue facing our state and yet the governor has once again failed to make this a priority. Together with Senate leadership, we intend to make this a focal point of our budget process in the coming weeks and months. It’s become clear that the governor, much like a magician, has become the Master of Distraction. So while he waves around one hand with gimmicks like ‘The Jersey Comeback’ and an income tax cut proposal, he’s hoping no one will notice that his other hand has been slashing programs for working families for the last two years.”
Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee Chairman Paul Sarlo (D-Bergen) said, “The average property taxpayer is shelling out $1,275 more now than they did before the governor took office. Unemployment continues to hover at levels higher than the national average. Many of our schools and towns are still behind where they were three years ago. These are the real needs of the middle class. Yet all we continue to hear about is an income tax scheme that will effectively just put more cash into the pockets of the very rich.