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Lawmakers spar over Christie's tax record, tax cut proposal

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Chris Christie's record on taxes has been a hot topic during budget hearings.
Chris Christie's record on taxes has been a hot topic during budget hearings. - (Aaron Houston / NJBIZ)

As the Legislature continues its slog through budget hearings, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are trading barbs over a favorite topic: taxes.

Last month, Gov. Chris Christie announced a plan to give income tax credits to households making up to $400,000 per year. Those credits would be based on property taxes paid. The plan also includes tax credits for renters, and would boost the state's Earned Income Tax Credit from 20 percent to 25 percent of the federal credit.

Assemblyman Christopher J. Brown (R-Medford) on Thursday called on lawmakers to pass a bill he and other Republicans are sponsoring to enact Christie's proposal.

"We need to stop bickering and start working together to cut taxes," Brown said in a press release. "Our tax plan will give some much-needed breathing room to most taxpayers in New Jersey."

Brown also took the opportunity to challenge legislative Democrats, saying they raised taxes and fees 115 times during the last decade.

Democrats, however, say the Republican record on taxes is nothing to brag about. While the two sides dispute exactly how much property taxes have increased during Christie's tenure, no one disputes they have gone up.

"We have the highest property tax bills in New Jersey, history at the moment," said Assemblyman John J. Burzichelli (D-West Deptford) during a Thursday budget hearing. "The growth rate might be stymied, but bills are still the highest property owners have seen."

Burzichelli said the governor also has cut municipal aid, which he said trickles down to impact property taxes.

David Brogan, first vice president at the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, said he worries Christie's tax cut proposal could get caught up in the politics of budget season and an election year.

"I think anytime you have complex issues like this in an election year it makes it more difficult," he said.

NJBIA supports the tax cut, and Brogan thinks it has a good chance of passing, in large part because it includes a so-called "circuit-breaker" clause that would allow lawmakers to cancel a given year's tax credit if state revenue numbers are too weak that year to support the cut.

"I think the chances are greater than 50 percent that it gets done," he said.

Brogan said the tax cut would be a big help to the majority of businesses, who pay their business taxes via their gross income taxes. But he said the cut would also send a positive message to other businesses, whose employees live here and who want to be located in a state that welcomes businesses.

He said other recent changes, including the change to a single sales factor and the phase-out of an energy surcharge, are also positive steps.

"Those are all pieces of the puzzle that start to create the perception of a better business climate," he said. "And that in turn will breed confidence in the business community."

Write to the Editorial Department at editorial@njbiz.com

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