Commuters in New Jersey and Pennsylvania are bracing for a January wallet drain, the latest destructive act from Gov. Christie.
That's when 97,000 people in New Jersey and 42,000 in Pennsylvania will see less money in their paychecks because Christie unilaterally ended a bi-state income tax agreement that had been humming along without a hitch for more than 40 years.
The swap allows people who work across state lines to pay income taxes at their home state's tax rates. It encourages commerce and employment across state lines - essentials that have fallen off Christie's agenda.
Initially, Christie killed the arrangement in attempting to intimidate Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D., Gloucester) into lowering the estate tax by raising the income tax on Sweeney's South Jersey constituents who work in Philadelphia. Christie was trying to strong-arm unions into giving up health benefits without negotiating. Sweeney bent. The estate tax was reduced. But the unions are holding their ground.
Christie's tactic will hurt low-income New Jersey residents and high-income Pennsylvanians the most. New Jersey residents making between $20,000 and $35,000, with a tax rate in that state of up to 1.75 percent, may see their tax payments almost double if subjected to Pennsylvania's 3.07 percent rate. Meanwhile, Pennsylvanians earning more than $500,000 could see their taxes nearly triple at New Jersey's 8.97 percent rate.
The looming tax hike has infuriated important New Jersey employers, including Campbell Soup; Destination Maternity; and Subaru, which is threatening to put off an expansion.
Sweeney has vocally opposed the unfair tax hike, but not much has been heard from other South Jersey politicians who should be defending commuters in their districts. Where are the voices of State Sens. Diane Allen (R., Burlington); Nilsa Cruz-Perez and James Beach (D., Camden); or Linda Greenstein and Shirley Turner (D., Mercer)?
Assembly members from Delaware River districts that will be hit by the tax hike should be fighting this.
Pennsylvania legislators opposing Christie's high-handedness include State Sen. Pat Browne (R., Lehigh), who has pointed out that Christie's maneuver will undermine what had been an economic peace treaty and prompt many New Jersey businesses to simply move to the Pennsylvania side of the river, where the tax climate will be more favorable.
Christie, as usual, isn't listening, so Gov. Wolf and Mayor Kenney should try harder to get his attention. Here's an idea: Hold up planned expenditures by tightening the Delaware River Port Authority's purse strings. Commuters can play a role by calling Christie (609-292-6000). Be polite to the person who answers, but make sure Christie gets the message that he's being a donkey.