New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R) has taken some lumps for his hard-nosed approach to spending cuts in an effort to salvage the state’s budget. In his brief stint, Gov. Christie has stood up to teacher’s unions, wealthy municipalities, and transit – without too much fuss to date. Property tax rebates are disappearing and other taxes are going up. And yet, in a bad economy, there’s been surprisingly little grumbling as taxpayers seem to appreciate that there’s enough hurting to go around.
Until this week.
When Gov. Christie revealed his budget plans, which included painful spending cuts all around, both Republicans and Democrats alike appeared surprised to see tax cuts… for the rich. Gov. Christie’s budget failed to extend the recent increase in the state’s top income tax rate, initially put into place by then Gov. Jon Corzine (D). The result is that the top 2% of NJ taxpayers will face a reduced rate in the upcoming tax year while other taxpayer rates stay the same. The cost in lost revenue? About $1 billion.
Christie’s response to the criticism from the Democrats? “If they wanted it so badly, they could have had it.” The Governor was referring to the fact that the increase could have been made permanent or extended for a longer period of time when it was first enacted (shades of the federal estate tax, anyone?).
So now, of course, the finger-pointing begins. Is Christie to blame for screaming sacrifice and then giving the wealthiest 2% a break? Or is Christie right that any increases should have been extended before now?