Republican gubernatorial candidate Christopher J. Christie said yesterday that his primary opponent, Steve Lonegan, and Democratic Gov. Corzine don't understand how their tax policies would hurt New Jersey residents.

But his opponents and their friends said Christie was the one who doesn't get it.

Surrounded by about two dozen mostly Republican taxpayers at a Statehouse news conference, Christie said state residents were "suffering" because of Corzine's policies.

"There is real pain to people across New Jersey every day because Jon Corzine wants to keep growing government," he said. "We can no longer afford the government of Jon Corzine. Only Jon Corzine is going to be able to afford to live here."

Asked if he was implying that Corzine doesn't understand tax affordability because he is a multi-millionaire, Christie said, "I don't know why he doesn't get it but it seems to me he doesn't get it."

Democratic Party Chairman Joseph Cryan, also a Union County Assemblyman, came back at Christie by comparing him to former President George W. Bush, saying in a statement, "Just like Bush, Chris Christie refuses to level with the people of New Jersey."

Cryan and other Democrats have been criticizing Christie in recent weeks for not coming up with more specific budget proposals, saying he plans to improve some programs, including aid to universities, but not how he would pay for them.

Christie has said he would cut the personal income and business taxes. He also would cut an unspecified number of state jobs, including about two-thirds of the state's non-union patronage workers. Christie has promised to review state regulations, particularly those affecting businesses.

After finishing with Corzine, Christie went after Lonegan's plan to impose a flat 2.5 percent income tax, saying it would raise taxes on 70 percent of the state's taxpayers, "including senior citizens." Lonegan acknowledged that many people – about 50 percent - would be paying higher taxes, but said the flat tax would stabilize the state's economy.

"A flat tax brings economic growth and prosperity to New Jersey and will elevate everybody," Lonegan said.

Lonegan eventually would lower his 2.5 percent flat tax to 1.5 percent. The state's current income tax ranges from 1.4 percent to 8.9 percent, depending on income, and Corzine plans to raise it on the state's highest income residents, to 10.25 percent.

According to the latest independent polls, Christie leads both Lonegan in the June 2 Republican primary and Corzine in a hypothetical general election. But Christie's campaign began attacking Lonegan in a radio ad late last week, which was taken as a signal he is concerned over Lonegan's growth in the race.