TRENTON - Gov. Christie, a Republican, found himself in an unusual position Friday when he vetoed 14 bills containing tax cuts and tax breaks sent to him by a Democratic Legislature.
With a folder containing the vetoes in front of him and his lieutenant governor at his side, Christie explained at a news conference that he rejected nearly half of the 30-bill economic-stimulus package - dubbed "Back to Work NJ" - because the measures were "irresponsible."
Christie said the bills, some of which had broad support from GOP lawmakers, would have resulted in $600 million in lost revenue during the next fiscal year and was not accompanied by spending cuts.
But other measures sent to him he did agree with, Christie said, and he may include them in his budget proposal to be delivered Tuesday. He said that signing the Democrats' package into law before he offered the Legislature his larger vision for the state's finances would be a "piecemeal" approach, and that their action was intended in part to back him into a political corner.
"Are we going to pursue a responsible fiscal policy, or are we going to pursue a fiscal policy that is just trying to make friends with everybody?" Christie asked. "That's not my job, to make friends with everybody. My job is to run this state in a responsible way and get our fiscal house in order."
Democrats responded angrily to the rejection of their legislative priority for the year, which they said would have created jobs.
"Seldom has a governor had such complete disregard for the well-being of working-class residents struggling each and every day to get by," Assembly Majority Leader Joe Cryan (D., Union) said in a statement. "That's disgusting, even for an ideologue."
Christie responded: "Being called disgusting by Joe Cryan is high praise, high praise. If anybody should know disgusting, it's Joe Cryan."
The rejected proposals include adoption of the "single-sales factor" method of calculating a corporation's income tax liability, which would effectively provide tax breaks to New Jersey-based companies that sell to a national market.
Christie pushed for the measure on the campaign trail, and supporters said it would make New Jersey more competitive with surrounding states. New York offers the break to home-state companies, and Pennsylvania is phasing it in.
The proposal, which passed the Legislature last month with no opposition, was championed by the business community and Republican lawmakers for at least a decade. It would have cost the state nearly $100 million a year in revenues when fully phased in.
Another measure vetoed by Christie would have consolidated certain business-related categories of gross income and allowed companies to carry forward losses over 20 years. The bill, which also passed the Legislature with no opposition, would have resulted in $400 million in lost state revenue a year.
A third rejected bill would have provided about $62 million in tax cuts to senior citizens by exempting their pensions from income taxes. The measure passed the Senate without opposition and faced just three "no" votes in the Assembly.
Christie also vetoed a $2 million program, opposed by most Republican lawmakers, that would have provided job training to people receiving unemployment benefits.
Other vetoed proposals would have given tax breaks to people investing in tech start-ups and rehabilitating historic properties.
Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D., Gloucester) said in an interview that lawmakers would try to override the vetoes, given that some of the key bills had enough support. But that would require the support of Republicans, who tend to side with the governor.
The governor talks a great game about making the state business-friendly, Sweeney said, "but all it is is talk. . . . He doesn't want to accept anything unless it's generated from him."
Christie did not take any action Friday on the 16 other bills in the package, and did not indicate how he would handle them.