As the assembly plods through its agenda, slowly making its way toward what will likely be an anti-climactic budget vote, one argument continues to play out in the chamber.
Taxes or fees?
Several bills sponsored by Republican lawmakers seek to raise various fees and caps and cut aid from the state in an effort to balance the budget. Each Democratic legislator who rises to speak on the bills makes a point of calling the revenues a “tax” and chiding Gov. Chris Christie for going back on his promise not to raise taxes.
In defense, Republicans continue to repeat the mantra that the budget includes no increases in broad based taxes, but instead cuts $4 billion in spending without turning to income tax hikes.
Among the revenue bills the Democrats have sought to label a tax are an increase in the civil service testing fee, a hike in the hospital assessment cap and the cuts to municpal and school aid that Democrats say will force local tax increases. Even Democrats voting for the various bills, such as Majority Leader Joe Cryan, who has so far voted in favor of every budget bill, say the additional charges will devastate taxpayers forced to pay them.
“Don’t take it as any endorsement,” Cryan said before voting in favor of one of the revenue bills.
Republicans counter the charge, using terms like “user fee” and “filing fees” to describe the charges.
Be prepared for this argument to continue this fall when one senate seat is up for special election and well into 2011 when every seat in the legislature is up for grabs.