State lawmakers are currently in the process of working out a new budget and it’s anybody’s guess, at this point, what the final product will be. Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D) told NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider that although an agreement has not been reached, she thinks the Democratically-controlled legislature is close to sending the governor a responsible budget.
Since delivering his State of the State speech, Gov. Chris Christie has been pushing for an across the board 10 percent income tax cut, but has recently hinted at a compromise with Democratic lawmakers who have been pushing for property tax relief.
At the annual AARP New Jersey Day, he told the attendees “we want you to get a 10 percent credit on your income tax towards your property taxes. Now that’s what the Senate President’s plan is. I’ve wanted to cut income taxes across the board by 10 percent. Well, there’s an area for us to compromise in there, I suspect.”
Sen. Weinberg is optimistic that a property tax cut will be part of the budget.
“I think it’s very likely since the governor, finally in his infinite wisdom, adopted our Senate President Steve Sweeney’s plan as a property tax cut versus an across the board income tax cut. We’ve gotten that far but I’m not yet prepared to say exactly how that’s going to be instituted in the budget that we send to the governor. But certainly, I think both houses of the legislature and certainly the Democratic majority would like to be able to give a property tax cut to the citizens of New Jersey.”
Much has been made about the difference between the Senate budget plan and the Assembly plan, and how the two chambers can come together. Asked whether she will she have as much of a problem with members of her own party in the Assembly as she would with the governor, she joked “well you know the old saying ‘I belong to no organized political party, I’m a Democrat.'”
All kidding aside, Weinberg said that she and her Democratic colleagues are responsible legislatures who realize that the two houses have to reach an agreement.
The subject turned to the June 5 primary and what she thought of the outcome of the election in which the newly drawn ninth district garnered much of the attention due to the battle between Democratic congressmen and former friends Steve Rothman and Bill Pascrell. She thinks voters were turned off by the negative campaigning by the Rothman camp
“I think Congressman Rothman, whom I supported and who I am really sad that we in Bergen County have lost a really good congressman, somebody who stood up for us on every variety of issue. Having said that, yes I thought his campaign was too negative. I think people know Bill Pascrell. Even people in Bergen County, they know a bit about him. And I think that they were not charges that anybody was prepared to believe.”
Lastly, Weinberg has been vocal in her criticism over the governor’s out-of-state travels. Gov. Christie has been a prominent participant at political fundraisers and campaign events for Republican candidates, most notably Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney.
“Maybe with a little tongue and cheek since we want to cap vacation and sick leave for public employees perhaps when the governor is traveling on a purely political junket, that that portion of his salary — if it’s two days during the week it would be two days of his salary gets returned to the taxpayers of New Jersey. Now I’m not talking about when he’s going on a trip that will really do something for New Jersey in terms of a trade mission or anything of that sort. But when he’s going on purely political junket to speak on behalf of a, very often, right wing ultraconservative perpetrator of the war on woman candidate, maybe that portion of that salary he should turn back to the taxpayers.”