GARFIELD, N.J. — Gov. Christie on Wednesday ramped up public pressure on Assembly Democrats to agree to his tax-cut plan.
The Republican governor told a town hall audience in this Bergen County town that Democrats in the lower house are obsessed with raising taxes. Christie is trying to drum up support for his plan to reduce income taxes by 10 percent over four years. The Assembly and Senate have offered competing plans.
The Assembly plan would reduce taxes 20 percent — 25 percent for seniors and the disabled — funding the reduction by reinstating the so-called millionaires' tax. Christie previously has vetoed a millionaires' tax.
The Senate plan provides a tax credit of up to $1,000 based on amount of property taxes paid.
The Senate's plan and Christie's would be funded through tax collections, which the administration forecasts will increase significantly in the recovering economy. Their plans would cost about $1.4 billion a year when fully phased in. The Assembly plan would cost nearly $3 billion.
Christie on Wednesday exploited differences in the Democratic-sponsored plans, while embracing the proposal put forth by Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D., Gloucester), which is closest to his own.
He has been dismissive of the Assembly plan because it contains the millionaires' tax, and he said this week he would not debate Assembly M ajority Leader Louis Greenwald (D., Camden) on the merits of the competing plans. Greenwald asked for the debate after Christie said he was willing to hash it out with Democrats at any time.
Christie also reset a legislative time clock he instituted last year as a reminder that the Legislature has "60 days left" before the traditional summer recess. He said he was looking forward to the fight to come on some of his major policy initiatives that have not come up for legislative votes, such as ending lifetime teacher tenure and eliminating cash payouts for unused sick time at retirement. The payments to government workers, which can total six figures, are draining municipal and local school budgets.
He had particularly harsh words for the Assembly, which he accused of spending too much and blocking key initiatives.
"The Assembly Democrats for the last decade treated you like the money tree," Christie said.
Christie wants to eliminate the cashouts for future workers. The Assembly plan would allow up to $7,500 in accrued sick leave to be negotiated for use as a credit toward postretirement medical benefits.
Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, who often is excluded from private discussions between the governor and Sweeney, said Christie was putting politics ahead of policy-making.
"The governor can play all the silly games he wants with a clock, but the Assembly Democrats are focused on middle-class and senior-citizen property-tax relief, job creation, and economic fairness for hardworking families," Oliver said. "The governor is, of course, welcome to put aside his devotion to tax cuts for millionaires and join us in our effort."