WNYC's Bob Hennelly is an award-winning investigative journalist. While at WNYC he has reported on a wide gamut of major public policy questions ranging from immigration and homeland security to power outages and utility mergers.
Governor Chris Christie said Wednesday that Democrats are holding his proposed 10 percent across-the-board income tax cut hostage as they continue to push for a hike in the state's lapsed millionaire's tax.
Christie has twice vetoed the levy on high-end earners and has vowed to do so again.
"Now is the time to have a fight," the governor said to a packed school gym in northwest Bergen County.
Christie’s $32.1 budget proposal, which he unveiled in February, included the income tax cut. It was based on an optimistic 7.4 percent increase in projected revenues, the highest in the nation. But projections for this year and next now suggest revenues may be between $700 million and $1.4 billion below original estimates.
Christie has insisted, despite the revenue numbers, that the state is on the rebound, adding tens of thousands of private-sector jobs since he's been in office. He says the tax cut would accelerate the rebound.
The state Senate and Assembly, both controlled by Democrats, sent their revised version of the state budget to Christie this week. The governor must act on the Legislature’s version by June 30.
Christie has the power of the line-item veto over the budget sent to him by Democrats. It would take two-thirds of the legislature to override the governor's veto.
In the spring, Democrats offered competing tax-cut proposals via the property tax. Some versions included the revival of the state's millionaire's tax, which Christie has consistently opposed.
At one point, Christie said he could compromise and support a proposal by Democratic Senate President Stephen Sweeney to provide tax relief through a property tax credit but that deal never materialized.
Instead, Democrats included a provision that the state would set aside $183 million for a tax cut aimed at property tax relief but it would only be released if the state's revenues had rebounded sufficiently to support it.
"We are the ones being fiscally conservative," said Democratic Senate Budget Chairman Paul Sarlo.
Christie continues to try to tie the state's Democratic Party with Jon Corzine, the state’s former governor and former head of embattled firm MF Global.
"Jon Corzine ran this state into a bridge abutment and than went back to Wall Street and did the exact same thing," Christie said.
It was Christie's 88th town hall since he has been in office.