Storm puts tax cut on back burner

TRENTON – As Democrats’ self-imposed deadline to bring a tax cut plan to the table approaches, Superstorm Sandy appears to have all but stalled discussions on a proposal.

Budget committee leaders in both chambers told PolitickerNJ that the storm that brought massive devastation to the state has momentarily taken all attention away from regular legislative matters – including whether Democrats will hash out a tax cut relief proposal by the end of the year.

Gov. Chris Christie has hammered them since the Legislature passed a budget that failed to provide a plan to cut taxes. Democratic lawmakers told the Republican executive that they would wait until the end of the year and determine first whether revenues would be there to provide for a tax cut.

The governor told reporters during a Monday news briefing that he still believes a relief plan should make its way to his desk, but said he plans to meet with the state Treasurer in the near future to determine if one would be sustainable.

But despite Christie’s continued support for tax cut, lawmakers say discussions on a proposal are not at the forefront of their legislative agenda.

“As a budgetary chairman, I’m just saying it’s still way too premature,” said Sen. Paul Sarlo, chairman of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.

“It’s way too premature. We’re still in a phase two recovery effort,” he said. “We still have areas where people are not in their homes.”

Similar comments were echoed by the chairman of the Assembly Budget Committee, where Assemblyman Vincent Prieto said while he believes “it’s good we took a wait-and-see approach” on providing a tax cut plan, it’s still too soon to discuss details.

“I think it’s probably too early to talk about it,” Prieto said. “We need to make sure that these folks are taken care of first and then we’ll see how everything else comes in.”

A spokesman for the Assembly Democrats, Tom Hester, weighed in with a brief response Monday, saying, “The focus now is only on helping constituents.”

Both budget committee chairmen said they have yet to receive any reports on how much damage the storm has cost the state, but they anticipate sitting down with legislative leaders as early as this week to discuss possible figures.

The New York Times reported today that Gov. Andrew Cuomo plans to ask the federal government for at least $30 billion in aid to help New York City and other areas in the state affected by the storm.

Christie also said today he expects to have initial estimates on damage within the next “day or so.”

Storm puts tax cut on back burner