Democrats won't deliver on their vow to give residents a tax cut in January if the state can afford it, Gov. Christie predicted Wednesday, but he didn't say whether he would sign the budget they delivered.
The Republican governor was campaigning for a second day for his signature budget item: the first phase of a 10 percent tax cut.
Christie told a town hall audience in Mahwah, Bergen County, that Democrats who would defer the tax cut - including Senate Budget Committee Chairman Paul Sarlo (D., Bergen) - can't be believed.
"I'll bet you every dollar in your pocket that January's going to come and they're going to have another excuse for why they can't do it," Christie said.
At a town hall Tuesday in Brick, Christie called Sarlo "one arrogant SOB" for crafting a budget in which Democrats hold the purse strings on tax relief.
Sarlo and the Democrats have not responded to the latest attack, but Senate Democratic leader Loretta Weinberg of Bergen County has spoken about what she called Christie's "irresponsible demand for . . . immediate implementation" of a tax reduction that would not take effect for six months even under the governor's scenario.
"He's acting like a mortgage speculator trying to sell a high-risk deal that produces immediate political profit for him but leaves New Jersey taxpayers holding the bag," said Weinberg.
The showdown over when, and if, New Jerseyans see a modest tax reduction next year will play out by week's end. A balanced budget must be in place by Sunday, the start of the new fiscal year, or government technically runs out of money and nonessential services must shut down.
Christie hasn't said what he'll do. But at a town hall Friday in Readington, Hunterdon County, he pulled out a red pen and indicated his readiness to veto funding for specific programs Democrats support - unless they relent on the tax cut.
The governor is unlikely to act until the Senate votes on a separate bill that would fund property-tax rebates for the poor and middle class by raising taxes on the wealthy. The measure is all but certain to be approved in a party-line vote and Christie is equally certain to veto it.
Democrats handed Christie a $32 billion budget that funds the first phase of a tax cut, but holds the money aside, giving Democrats the power to release the funds when - and if - they're satisfied that the administration is coming close enough to hitting its ambitious revenue targets.