As expected the Assembly Democrats’ motion to override the governor’s veto of a proposed tax increase on income over $1 million has failed. The vote broke down 47-33 along party lines. Democrats needed 54 votes to override the veto.
Perhaps the only people in the lower chamber who thought the bill had a chance were those in the gallery, who came sporting T-shirts and buttons in support of the override. Behind the scenes Democratic lawmakers said getting enough votes to overturn the governor’s veto of the measure passed in both houses earlier this month was never really a possibility. They knew from the start the votes weren’t there, but Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, (D-East Orange) called for a vote to make sure the 33 Republicans were on record.
The plan, said lawmakers, was to force Assembly Republicans to vote for a second time against restoring the so-called millionaire’s tax, in effect pitting Republicans against the 600,000 senior citizens and disabled residents the tax was slated to help. Democrats see the issue as potentially decisive for the party in 2011, when every seat in both houses is up for election.
“I think it would be safe to say we will be seeing this issue again,” said Democratic Assemblyman JohnWisniewski, (D-Sayreville) the state Democratic Chairman. “I’m not a seer but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that.”
The party had hoped to use the $637 million collected from the tax to restore property tax rebates to 600,000 seniors. The math, they say, is easy, tax 16,000 to help 600,000.
“I really don’t see the math from their side,” said Assembly Majority Leader Joe Cryan, D-Union Township. “Going into a redistricting year, I don’t see it.”
For their part, Repubicans say they are comfortable with their position and are fulfilling their pledge to keep property taxes static. They argue that the Democrats first passed the millionaire’s tax as a one year stop-gap and then failed to reinstate it when they had the opportunity. Were they sincere and not just looking for campaign mailer material, they would have reinstated the tax during the lame duck session and had former Democratic Governor Jon Corzine sign it before he packed up his office. Their failure to act makes their current argument hollow, Republicans said.
“The fact of the matter is you abrogated your responsibility when you were in charge, when you had the governor behind you,” Assembly Minority Leader Alex DeCroce, (R-Parsippany) told his colleagues. “You didn’t do your job. So I’m saying to you take responsibility now…work with this governor to make sure we have the money in the budget down the line so we can do the things that are necessary for our seniors.”
Republicans had hoped to steer the debate toward Governor Chris Chrisite’s proposed 2.5% property tax cap and away from senior citizens. Several GOP lawmakers brought up the cap, as Democrats shouted to keep them on the topic of the veto override. Democrats headed off the Republican plan by introducing the veto override on the companion bill to the millionaire’s tax, which would restore rebates to seniors, rather than on the bill that would institute the tax.
Later, Republicans tried to force action on the cap but were blocked.
“I think they were trying to strategize there that the senior citizen’s were a better argument than the straight tax increase,” said Assembly Minority Whip Jon Bramnick, (R-Westfield).