TRENTON – A 10 percent income tax cut would sap $1 billion from the public school system, and Democrats want to know how that is going to work.
“We’re already under-investing in education,” said state Senate President Steve Sweeney, (D-3), West Deptford, following Gov. Chris Christie’s State of the State address
The across the board tax cut would come “at the expense of schools,” he said, but the majority was not informed as to where the money would come from.
Sweeney and other Democratic leaders took a populist tone on the tax cuts, accusing Christie of coddling millionaires at the expense of the working class.
“When you delve down into the number this is another windfall for multi-millionaires in the state at the expense of schools because that’s where the money comes from when you cut taxes,” Sweeney said.
Speaker Sheila Oliver, (D-34), East Orange, said Christie hinted that it might come from the additional school funding for 13 underperforming Abbott districts.
Oliver also said she understood from the speech that Christie is horse-trading the tax break in exchange for restoration of the Earned Income Tax Credit, which Oliver listed as a priority this morning. She called the trade-off “the wrong thing to do.”
“He can’t bring (the EITC) back in exchange for a 10 percent income tax cut across the board,” she said, which nets millionaires over $7,000 but puts much less than $100 in the pockets of a family making $50,000. “It sounds good – 10 percent across the board – but it is disproportionate, once again,” she said.
Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald, (D-6), Voorhees, said the tax break for a middle-class family with income of $100,000 amounts to less than “a grocery bill for a family of five.”
“It does not pay your grocery bill,” he said. “This governor’s priorities have missed the mark…(H)e has doubled down on a tax benefit for the wealthy.”
Sweeney said, “We’re not going to jeopardize the economy of the state for a sound bite.”
Asked whether a compromise may be in the works in which the tax break is rolled back at the upper levels, Sweeney said, “That’s a discussion to have,” once other questions have been answered.
Sweeney also was critical of what he called the governor’s lack of focus on jobs. The governor has said New Jersey is on the comeback trail, however, unemployment in the state has remained stubbornly above 9 percent .
“We gave him 30 (jobs) bills last year and he vetoed almost every one of them,” Sweeney said. “Our unemployment rate, he can say it’s down but it’s higher than the national average. So if you want to get serious you have to stop trying to give bailouts for the multi-millionaires in the state and start looking out for the middle class and the poor.”