Weekly Roundup: Week of Jan. 16

TRENTON – In his State of the State address, Gov. Chris Christie made it clear that he was not going to raise taxes, as Democrats have wanted him to do, on the wealthiest residents.

Rather, he has decided to go farther in the opposite direction and provide an across-the-board income tax cut over a three-year period for taxpayers from all walks of life.

On top of the tax cut, Christie has also called for increasing state aid to the 500-plus school districts that receive a relatively small portion of it, since much of it goes toward the struggling schools, formerly known as the Abbott school districts.

Details on how he could provide for both items was not immediately forthcoming, as that information will be unveiled in the weeks leading up to the budget-crafting season.

Democrats, however, were immediately skeptical, saying Christie is taking his eyes off the tax that is more problematic, the property tax, and that an income tax cut would disproportionately help wealthy residents. As Assemblyman Lou Greenwald said, the amount middle-class families would save would not be enough to buy a week’s worth of groceries.

Nonetheless, Christie believes in the merits of the plan and took it to the state and national media to promote the plan throughout the week.

The plan may have difficulty passing muster if middling tax collections remain. Just one day after the State of the State speech, the state Treasury Department said its revenue collections were below expectations. In prior months when that has happened, officials largely attributed the drop-off to bad weather.

In addition to the fiscal fix-its, Christie also unveiled other efforts he’d like to see implemented, such as reforming the state education system and putting in place secure in-house drug-treatment for non-violent offenders. The treatment program would not only help promising individuals get back on the right path, but Christie believes it could save money and the state would not have to settle for “warehousing” people.

Upon further review

While Christie talked about new proposals, some of the recently-passed bills by the Legislature failed to get the governor’s signature, falling victim to the pocket veto.

Some of the big ones were the ones that would require stricter requirements for teen drivers, same-day registrations for weddings, and one that would ban future employees at such lobbying groups as the League of Municipalities and the state Association of Counties from entering the state pension system.

Scrutinizing subsidies

Good Jobs First, a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit agency, recommended in a report earlier this week that subsidized programs should be required to file reports detailing how they spend taxpayer funds.

Among the programs that could use better tracking, in varying degrees, the group said, are the Urban Enterprise Zone, the Business Employment Incentive Program and the  Business Retention and Relocation Grant.

Court victory

There was some blowback this past week to Christie’s attempts at changing the compensation rules for unused days off,  after the Communications Worker of America won an appellate court decision against the state Civil Service Commission concerning rules about vacation leave for state workers.

The regulation authorized the use of so-called “paid leave bank days,’’ that were designed to avoid layoffs and compensate workers for wages lost during a furlough.


  Weekly Roundup: Week of Jan. 16