On Tax Day, Christie offers (another) tax credit plan

With a touch of theatrics and an eye toward his re-election, Gov. Christie used today, Tax Day, to drop a revived tax credit plan on the Democrats who control the Legislature. 

"Everybody who works and makes up to $400,000 would be getting a tax cut under this plan," the Republican gov said.

The plan doesn't cut property taxes for New Jerseyans, who have the nation's highest average property tax bill. Instead, it reduces income taxes, and for most New Jerseyans it links that reduction to how much they pay in property taxes.

But only two of Christie's words matter as he faces re-election in six-and-half-months: TAX and CUT.

"I assume that it will be a substantive campaign discussion if they don't pass it," Christie said of the Dems.

Christie made the announcement on the friendly confines of right-leaning NJ101.5 FM. His plan comes in the form of a procedural move known as a "conditional veto" to a Democratic bill that sought to restore Christie's previous cut to the Earned Income Tax Credit for the working poor.

That cut would be restored under Christie's proposal. The centerpiece, though, is this: Homeowners with $400,000 or less in income would get a tax credit equivalent to 10 percent of their annual property tax bills. The credit would be phased in over four years and capped at $10,000 a year. 

Average savings would be $775 per household, according to Christie. And renters would get a gradual increase in their tax credit to $200 per year by 2015.

The move is similar to the income tax cut plan Christie offered last year during a special summer-time address to the Legislature. It was blocked by Democrats because Christie's budget overestimated how much revenue the state would be getting in, and they said the state couldn't afford a tax cut.

To address that concern, Christie is offering a "revenue circuit-breaker" that would allow the Legislature to prevent implementation of the cut if the state can't afford it. The Legislature would be able to do this without the gov's Hancock.

Of course, there is politics all over this proposal. Democrats can either hand Christie a major tax cut plan that he could run his re-election campaign on -- or stay consistent, block the plan and give Christie a stick to beat them in both the gubernatorial and legislative elections in November.

Christie's expected gubernatorial opponent, Sen. Barbara Buono (D., Middlesex), said today that she wants any tax cut for the middle class to come from the rich through a so-called millionaire's tax, which Christie has vetoed. 

She also referenced the recent Christie-imposed delay on the issuance of another tax rebate -- the homestead rebate program for senior citizens, the disabled and those making $75,000 or less. About $400 million in payments are delayed until after the new fiscal year begins in July because Christie missed his revenue projections for the current year.

Here's Buono's statement: "Under Chris Christie, New Jersey has more than 400,000 out of work, the middle class pays the highest property taxes in the nation, and the working poor have suffered a tax hike. Yet for years, Christie has never wavered in protecting millionaires. After forcing property owners to forgo a tax cut for a year, it is outrageous that he is trying to shift blame to Democrats for his fiscal irresponsibility. If he really wants a tax cut, he should agree today to sign a millionaire's tax that ensures we can pay for relief for working and middle class families."

And while Republicans in the Legislature are on board -- they have already called for a special legislative vote on the proposal -- Democrats are lining up against it. Here's Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver: "The governor has failed to reveal how he intends to finance the higher education restructuring act he demanded to have enacted last July, finance the future infrastructure needs of NJ and has failed to address New Jersey's burgeoning unemployment rate. Election year posturing to the citizens of our state is shameful."