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The Democrat-led Legislature has promised to cut taxes if Gov. Chris Christie hits his revenue targets in the coming months, but the Republican governor has a warning for New Jerseyans:
"Be very suspicious."
After offering such advice at a June 26 town hall meeting in Ocean County, Christie suggested that Paul Sarlo, chairman of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, had broken a promise not to have any tax hikes in the new state budget.
"Oh, and by the way, that same senator, Paul Sarlo, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, who said in February on NJTV, ‘there will be no tax increases in this budget,’ voted – voted the other night in the Senate Budget Committee to raise income taxes $800 million," said Christie, according to a video posted June 26 on YouTube.
PolitiFact New Jersey found that the governor’s statement is mostly accurate, but missing a couple of critical details.
Sarlo (D-Bergen) vowed to not include new taxes in the upcoming budget during a February TV interview and then voted last month to raise income taxes by around $800 million in the new fiscal year.
But the governor failed to mention two points: that tax hike technically was separate from the budget bill approved by the Legislature, and it only would have affected taxpayers with more than $1 million in taxable income.
First, let’s discuss Sarlo’s earlier comments and recent vote.
In a Feb. 22 interview on NJToday, Sarlo said the following in regard to the spending plan for fiscal year 2013, which started July 1: "There will be no new taxes in this budget."
But at the June 21 meeting of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, Sarlo voted for a bill raising the state income tax rate on taxable income exceeding $1 million.
That tax hike -- known as the so-called "millionaires tax" -- would generate between $754 million and $836 million in fiscal year 2013, according to the nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services. The money would be used to boost property tax relief payments.
By June 28, the Legislature -- with Sarlo voting yes -- had approved the tax hike. Christie conditionally vetoed the legislation on July 2 and called on legislators to amend the bill to implement a tax cut.
Democrats, who set aside $183 million in the fiscal year 2013 budget for a possible tax cut, have said the reduction only would occur if Christie meets his revenue projections between now and December.
Now, let’s address the points missing from Christie’s claim.
When discussing Sarlo’s vote "to raise income taxes $800 million," the governor failed to mention that the tax hike only would apply to taxable income exceeding $1 million. Unless they’re millionaires, the people at that town hall meeting would not pay higher income taxes.
Also, Christie’s statement suggests that the tax hike was part of the budget sent to him by the Legislature. But it technically wasn’t.
The millionaires tax bill was separate from the fiscal year 2013 budget bill approved by the Legislature on June 25. Christie approved the budget, with various changes, on June 29.
The millionaires tax would have added money to the fiscal year 2013 budget, but it was still considered separately.
In a statement issued before Christie’s conditional veto, Derek Roseman, a spokesman for the Senate Democrats, said: "This bill was not considered in conjunction with the budget, is not part of the budget, and whatever happens to it will have no impact on the budget."
The governor's office did not respond to requests for comment.
At a town hall meeting, Christie claimed Sarlo "said in February on NJTV, ‘there will be no tax increases in this budget’" and "voted the other night in the Senate Budget Committee to raise income taxes $800 million."
It’s accurate that Sarlo said "there will be no new taxes in this budget" and later voted to increase income taxes by around $800 million in the new fiscal year. But Christie failed to mention that the tax hike was considered separately from the budget bill and that it only would have affected millionaires.
We rate the statement Mostly True.
To comment on this ruling, go to NJ.com.
Chris Christie Calls Budget Committe Chair an "Arrogant SOB", a video posted June 26, 2012 on YouTube
NJToday, Budget & Appropriations Committee Chairman Says Spending..., Feb. 22, 2012
Senate Bill S-1147, Increases the gross income tax rate on taxable income exceeding $1 million contingent on enactment of certain homestead benefit enhancement legislation, approved by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee on June 21, 2012
Senate Bill S-2096, Makes FY 2013 supplemental appropriation of $789,000,000 to Homestead Benefit Program and amends budget language provisions to provide for significantly enhanced property tax relief payments to beleaguered homeowners and tenants, approved by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee on June 21, 2012
The Star-Ledger, Senate budget panel approves millionaires tax in party-line vote, June 21, 2012
Audio recording of Senate Budget & Appropriations Committee, June 21, 2012
Assembly Bill A-3201, Increases the gross income tax rate on taxable income exceeding $1 million contingent on enactment of certain homestead benefit enhancement legislation, passed by the Legislature by June 28, 2012
E-mail interview with Derek Roseman, a spokesman for the New Jersey Senate Democrats, June 28, 2012
The Star-Ledger, Gov. Christie offers compromise tax cut at special Legislature session, July 2, 2012
New Jersey Governor’s Office, Governor Chris Christie Calls on Legislature to Join Him and Immediately Act to Deliver Middle-Class Tax Relief, July 2, 2012
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