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By Caryn Shinske June 19, 2011

NJEA ad: Not renewing Jersey’s millionaire’s tax gives break to wealthy residents

In the latest attack ad on Chris Christie, the New Jersey Education Association contends the Republican governor is coddling millionaires while he cuts education, women's health care and public safety.

The TV ad, which was also posted on the NJEA-funded website, claims that the governor cut taxes for the rich.

The ad shows various images of Christie and in capital letters states sources of contributions to the governor and what programs he cut. The ad says, "We thought he was different but he took thousands in contributions from Wall Street executives, thousands from insurance executives, thousands from drug company executives, and as soon as Chris Christie was governor, he gave a tax cut to millionaires -- a back-door deal to reward the people who put him there. And what about the rest of us? Christie cut our schools, women’s health care and our public safety -- all to give a tax cut to millionaires. Chris Christie. Now it’s clear whose side he’s really on."

PolitiFact New Jersey decided to check whether Christie "gave a tax cut to millionaires."

The tax bracket has been around since 2004, when Gov. Jim McGreevey approved higher income taxes on residents earning more than $400,000. It became known as the "millionaire’s tax."

For tax year 2009, Gov. Jon Corzine approved a one-year tax rate increase for varying income levels to help generate additional revenue for the state: 8 percent on income over $400,000; 10.25 percent on income over $500,000; and 10.75 percent for income above $1 million. The tax rates were to revert to 2008 rates on Jan. 1, 2010 -- before Christie took office.

Democrats, however, wanted to renew the surcharge and approved a bill that would raise the rate from 8.97 percent to 10.75 percent for about 12,000 state residents earning more than $1 million a year. The increase would have generated $637 million in revenue for Fiscal Year 2011, according to an analysis of the proposed surcharge done by the nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services.

Christie vetoed the bill minutes after Senate President Stephen Sweeney brought it to his office.

The Legislature was unable to muster enough votes for a veto override, which meant the surcharge was not reinstated.

So did Christie "cut" the tax, as the ad claims?

He actually did not cut anything, because there was nothing to cut. The tax had expired before he took office.

The NJEA told PolitiFact New Jersey Christie's veto is the same thing as a cut.  It's "a distinction without a difference," said spokesman Steve Wollmer. By vetoing the bill, Christie assured that millionaires would continue to pay the lower rate.

Kevin Roberts, Christie’s deputy press secretary, said it wasn't a cut; Christie was just keeping his promise that he wouldn't raise taxes.

To recap: The NJEA ad says that Christie "gave a tax cut to millionaires," which suggests that the governor specifically enacted a cut for a select few. In fact, the tax had expired and, when the Democrats tried to renew it, the governor opposed it. That's not a cut; his veto maintained the status quo. Still, the governor’s veto failed to enact a higher tax rate, meaning a lower rate applies. To some, that’s break enough. We rate the NJEA’s claim Half True.

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Our Sources

Phone interview with Kevin Roberts, deputy press secretary for Gov. Chris Christie, May 10, 2011

Phone interview with David Rosen, New Jersey Legislative Budget and Finance officer, May 11, 2011

Email interview with Steve Wollmer, New Jersey Education Association Communications director, May 10, 2011

"Rosen casts doubt on GOP millionaire’s tax criticisms,", March 28th, 2011

New Jersey Education Association website videos, accessed May 10, 2011

Millionaires For Christie video, accessed May 10 and 11, 2011

"Millionaire Migration and State Taxation of Top Incomes: Evidence from a Natural Experiment," by Cristobal Young, Department of Sociology, Stanford University, and Charles Varner, Department of Sociology, Princeton University, accessed May 11, 2011

New Jersey Assembly Bill A10, New Jersey Senate Bill S10 and New Jersey Senate Bill S1364, accesssed May 11, 2011

The Star-Ledger, " NJ Gov. Chris Christie swiftly vetoes 'millionaire’s tax,’ property tax rebate bills," May 21, 2010

The Star-Ledger, "NJ Treasurer says Christie would veto millionaire’s tax," March 30, 2011

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More by Caryn Shinske

NJEA ad: Not renewing Jersey’s millionaire’s tax gives break to wealthy residents

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