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 tried to cajole the Democratically controlled legislature on Monday to add tax cuts to their list of bipartisan accomplishments for the year. And to drive home the point, he hit the national airwaves after his address.
Fox Business, CNBC and ABC's Nightline will give Christie a platform to role out his latest attempt at bipartisan reform.
For months he has said tax cuts would send a message to the nation that New Jersey was truly open for business.
"Despite our differences, we've managed to buck the conventional wisdom and actually get things done," Christie said. And, in elevating Trenton Democrats, he took a swipe at Washington, D.C., which he said "has been paralyzed because people talk at one another” instead of to one another.
Christie gave up on pushing for his proposed across the board 10 percent income tax and instead aimed to revive a compromise tax cut plan he had worked out with Democratic Senate President Stephen Sweeney in May.
Democratic Senate President Stephen Sweeney said Democrats had already set aside $183 million for property tax relief, but only if the state's sluggish tax revenues perked up enough to justify it. He said Christie's revenue projections were just not panning out yet.
"This is theater right now. We have provided the resources," Sweeney told reporters after Christie's speech. "It looks great nationally providing tax cuts. You heard the message . You know compromise not partisanship like Washington DC. That is a national speech not a state speech."
The plan was dropped when state revenue numbers came in several hundred million below estimates, and members of the Democratic caucus pushed ahead with a revival of the state's millionaires' tax, which Christie vetoed last week.
Democratic Majority Leader Senator Loretta Weinberg said the Democrat’s wait and see plan was the most responsible course of action.
“We are being the fiscal conservatives and he's the borrow-and-spend Republican. It’s kind of a switch in roles here," Weinberg said.
Phillip Kirschner, with the New Jersey Business and Industry Association which represents thousands of businesses statewide, said his members would have preferred Christie's original 10 percent income tax cut. Such a cut, he reasoned, would have been ploughed back into job creation. "Most of the businesses in New Jersey, about 81 percent, are organized as partnerships or LLCs that are pass through entities and they pay income tax not corporate tax," Kirschner told WNYC.
Gordon MacInnes, president of New Jersey Policy Perspective, a progressive think tank, said that Christie's focus on tax cuts was shortsighted.
MacInnes used the recent departure of drug giant Roche from their headquarters facility in Nutley, where they had been for 80 years, to make his point. MacInnes said Roche did not leave because New Jersey's taxes were too high, but because of other intangibles like the quality of research and development facilities they would benefit from at their new location.
"And look what happened. They moved 4,500 headquarter jobs to San Francisco California to a state where the taxes are about as high as they are in New Jersey,” MacInnes said.