By Michael Aron
Chief Political Correspondent
They assembled early at the State House, about 30 business leaders upset at the Democrats’ call for tax hikes to balance the budget.
“We’ve had enough. The business community has had enough anti-business legislation,” said New Jersey Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Thomas Bracken.
Normally it’s blue collar people who rally here or the needy or the unionized. But today was the day the suits took to the State House steps.
“The primary way to increase our revenue is to attract more businesses to the state, nurture the companies that are here, encourage them to grow here,” Bracken said.
The business groups weighed in this morning as a budget bill begins working its way through the legislature.
Gov. Christie wants to balance the budget by cutting $1.6 billion out of the state’s pension contribution.
Senate and Assembly Democrats have an alternative plan — to hike taxes on business and on personal income over $1 million.
“Let’s not turn back the clock. This millionaires tax is first and foremost is a significant tax increase on the small businesses that make up our state,” said NJ Business and Industry Association acting President Melanie Willoughby.
Despite being on a collision course over the budget, Christie, Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto appeared together at a noon bill-signing.
When they want to, they can cooperate.
The Senate Committee was scheduled to take up the budget at noon, the Assembly committee at 1 p.m., but both rooms were empty as Senate and Assembly leaders and staff negotiated final details.
Word spread that maybe the governor’s office was in on that, too.
“Obviously we would love for the governor. We’re still talking to him hoping he’d agree to something. We don’t expect it. We expect it to be a Democratic budget at the end of the day. Honestly we would think the Democrats will vote for it. Republicans will not. But we’re still speaking to the governor for one reason. We have to try,” Sweeney said.
“Everybody has to have some skin in the game and I think those millionaires, somebody making over $1 million should be and I think would be willing to be paying that little extra to help the rest of the residents,” Prieto said.
The business leadership is not so sure.
“Fifty taxpayers in the state New Jersey pay 5 percent of the overall tax. One hundred pay 6 percent. Four hundred pay 10 percent. And the top 1 percent of our tax payers which are embedded in this group pay 40 percent of all the taxes in New Jersey and the top 10 percent pay 72 percent. What is fair? Having this group pay 100 percent of the taxes?” asked Bracken.
The two committees will meet this evening.
Democrats will pass the tax hikes, Christie will veto them and there are not enough Democratic votes to override him.