MANASQUAN, N.J. - Gov. Christie, who famously told New Jerseyans to "get the hell off the beach" ahead of Tropical Storm Irene last summer, has evoked that witticism again, this time using it to urge legislators to return to Trenton for one day this summer to pass a tax cut.
The Republican governor began his self-styled "Endless Summer Tax Relief Tour" Monday, bashing Democrats who he says are blocking tax cuts for homeowners.
He urged residents to badger Democratic leaders all summer until they relent.
He told a couple of hundred people at a beach pavilion that if they saw a Democrat on the beach, they should tell him or her: "Just go back to Trenton for one day and vote for the governor's bipartisan tax cut. . . . That's what we need to do this summer, get them the hell off the beach to vote for your tax cut."
Christie also asked residents to e-mail Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D., Gloucester) and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D., Essex) to say, "Pass my tax cut now."
Democrats, who control the Legislature, said they would commit themselves to a tax cut only if revenue collections showed the state could afford it.
"Time and time again, Gov. Christie has rejected property tax relief for New Jersey's middle class and seniors, to the point that they're suffering under a net 20 percent property tax hike," Assembly Democratic leader Lou Greenwald (D., Camden) said. He accused Christie, who is about to embark on a multistate fund-raising swing for Mitt Romney, of showboating for a national audience at the expense of working-class New Jerseyans.
Christie said he would spend much of the summer holding public forums at the coast.
Christie and the Democrats are bickering over the state budget even though it has been passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor. The issue is whether the state can afford to commit right away to the tax relief Christie is demanding.
Democrats agree there should be a tax cut, but they say they want to hold off until January to make sure the state is bringing in adequate revenue. Christie says relief should be assured now.
The Democrats set aside $183 million in the budget to fund the first installment of a 10 percent tax cut to be phased in over three years. But they need to pass separate legislation to release the money. They say they will do so only if the state is hitting Christie's optimistic revenue targets.
The governor's budget relies on projected revenue growth of more than 7 percent over the next 12 months - a more optimistic outlook than any other state.
Democrats and some independent analysts say it is unwise to commit to spending the money because the governor's projected rate of growth is unlikely to materialize.
"The governor knows full well that the tax-cut plan can't take effect until next year. So why is he spending the hot summer months misleading the public?" Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg said in a statement. "This is nothing more than bad summer theater with the governor trying to sell a political fairy tale."
In town hall events this spring Christie has pronounced that a "Jersey comeback" has begun. He said a tax break will fuel the recovery, while any tax increase would reverse gains.
He said signing the so-called millionaires' tax, which Greenwald sponsored, would be counterproductive.
Greenwald, however, said the additional $800 million that tax would generate would help provide property tax relief to homeowners who are struggling.
Christie said Democrats have no trouble spending taxpayer money except when he wants to dedicate it as tax relief. He said he also has increased the amount of surplus in the budget to cover unexpected revenue dips.