Senate, Assembly Approve Democratic Budget

By Michael Aron
Chief Political Correspondent

The two parties had a heated two-hour debate on the Senate floor.

At issue, whether you close a budget gap by taxing the rich or cutting back on the state’s payment into the pension system.

Republicans echo the governor — cut the pension payment.

“We’d love to put $2.25 billion in, the answer is of course. The revenues don’t support it. So do you take away money from hospitals, or the schools or the roadways? Do you? You make that decision? You do a balancing act and you make the best decision possible,” said Sen. Kevin O’Toole.

Democrats say that pension payment was a commitment the governor his now turning his back on.

“Instead, his first act when he finds his administration overestimated revenues yet again is to take what is owed to the public worker and renege,” said Sen. Linda Greenstein.

The Democratic budget makes the full pension payment of $2.2 billion.

To offset that, Democrats hike the tax on income over $1 million.

They put a temporary surcharge on the corporate business tax of 1.35 percent.

And they suspend a business tax incentive program known as BEIP, a move Republicans bemoan.

“Today, this very day, is a ribbon cutting with 1,000 new jobs for Citigroup from New York to Jersey City because of that program. Today,” Sen. Joe Kyrillos said.

Hiking the tax on high-earners and on business was at the center of the debate.

“A millionaire family can’t absorb a little bit more? Just ask to contribute a little bit more? Not condemning them, we not vilifying them for being millionaires, nothing wrong with that. As long as they earn it honestly and ethically, but to contribute a little more to help for the good of our state and community,” said Sen. Joseph Vitale.

“We’ve got a $500 billion economy. We gotta grow that economy. We don’t grow it by chasing out capital,” said Sen. Steven Oroho.

“We need to share the sacrifice. And the wealthy in this state have not shared in the sacrifice,” said Sen. Shirley Turner.

The Senate approved the Democratic budget on a strict party line vote.

It then went to the Assembly, which approved the budget 48-31.

Gov. Chris Christie has said repeatedly he will veto the millionaires tax and the other moves he thinks are counter-productive. The Democrats know that, accept it and even welcome having had an opportunity to draw this particular line in the sand.