The way Gov. Chris Christie makes it sound, Democrats in the state Assembly are a bunch of crazed junkies looking for their next fix of raising taxes and he’s the one forcing them into withdrawal.
At a June 13 town hall meeting in Atlantic County, the Republican governor pointed to his opposition to a proposed gas tax increase as an example of him fighting off the Democrats’ addiction.
"Now I’ve been governor now for over 800 days and we vetoed two income tax increases. They wanted to raise the gas tax by $2.4 billion. We said no to that," said Christie, according to a video posted June 14 on YouTube. "Imagine now if you’re paying 20 to 25 cents more a gallon. That’s what the Assembly Democrats would have gotten for you. We’re saying no to all that stuff.
"So now…you got to see what’s happening with the Assembly Democrats. They’re like people going through withdrawals. They haven’t gotten to raise a tax in over 800 days. They’re down on the ground. They’re sweating. They’re twitching. It’s ugly, ‘cause I keep saying no."
Such colorful language, and yet so misleading, PolitiFact New Jersey found.
There has been a proposal to raise the motor fuels tax by about $2.4 billion, but despite Christie’s suggestion, it hasn’t been pushed by the Assembly Democratic leadership and stopped by the governor. In fact, the legislation has never made it to the governor’s desk for him to take any action.
State Assemblyman Albert Coutinho (D-Essex) has introduced the bill twice over the last roughly two years, but has never received additional legislative sponsors or a committee hearing. The full Assembly has never voted on the proposal.
As Coutinho put it, "this bill is going nowhere."
First introduced in May 2010, Coutinho’s bill called for annual increases of 8-cents-per-gallon in fiscal years 2011 through 2013. According to the nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services, those increases were projected to generate a total of about $2.4 billion over the three-year period to go toward the state’s Transportation Trust Fund.
Coutinho said the tax hike would allow the state to stop borrowing for the fund, which supports various transportation projects.
But the bill, which Coutinho reintroduced in January for the current legislative session, hasn’t moved an inch since being referred to an Assembly committee.
"Leadership’s not looking to do this," Coutinho told us. "Nobody seems willing to politically have that conversation."
Tom Hester Jr., a spokesman for the Assembly Democrats, explained that Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver does not support raising the gas tax.
"Hundreds if not thousands of bills are proposed each session without getting a hearing. Nothing unusual about it at all," Hester said in an e-mail. "The governor is once again misleading the public."
Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak noted how other Democrats have indicated support for a gas tax increase, including state Sen. Raymond Lesniak and state Assemblyman and state Democratic Party chairman John Wisniewski.
As for Christie’s role in stopping such a tax hike, Drewniak added: "The Governor was emphatic many times amid this discussion by Democrats that he would not sign legislation increasing the gasoline tax and add a new tax burden on over-taxed New Jersey residents.
"The unambiguous promise of a veto is often just as effective in stopping legislation in its tracks as is the actual act of a veto."
At a town hall meeting, Christie claimed Assembly Democrats "wanted to raise the gas tax by $2.4 billion. We said no to that." Now Democrats are "down on the ground. They’re sweating. They’re twitching. It’s ugly, ‘cause I keep saying no," Christie added.
The governor’s right about there being a Democratic proposal to raise the motor fuels tax by about $2.4 billion, but Assembly Democratic leaders have stopped the bill from moving forward. Since its first introduction in May 2010, the bill has never received additional legislative sponsors or a committee hearing.
Since Christie’s claim "ignores critical facts that would give a different impression," we rate the statement Mostly False.
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