By now it is no secret that Democrats may be on a collision course with Governor Christie over the so-called millionaire’s tax ( which is a bit of a misnomer because it actually kicks in at 400k, and those folks are hardly “millionaire’s” ). In fact, Repubs maintain that people above 400 already pay 41% of the taxes. And last year with that additional tax it was 43% ). So the question now is how does everybody find a way to save face and avoid what some believe to be a high stakes game of chicken.
As Republican Joe Malone pointed out during budget hearings this week, there is currently no bill to renew that top earner surcharge. Democrats seem to take Christie at his word that he will veto such a bill. So maybe the Democrats will send it to him and force his hand?Then both sides can fight it out and see who the public sides with.
One Republican lawmaker tells me “the budget may not get done before June 30.” Does that mean shutdown? One Democrat says it’s unlikely to happen, but if there is no budget, there is no government. It’s like the sign on the wall at the food court in Fast Times at Ridgemont High – “no shirt, no shoes, no dice.”
So, there is a proposal that Republicans may float to keep the state afloat…so to speak. Swap out $600 million in pre-k funds for school aid. It would basically eliminate the pre-k program which Christie said during the campaign “we simply cannot afford.” But Democrats hold it dear. they say studies show it’s effectiveness in getting kids acclimated to learning. And of course even the elimination of pre-k wouldn’t get us all the way toward making up the $820 million in school cuts. But, it would be a partial restoration. And with some districts forgoing pay raises ( who would later need to be rewarded ) you might come close. It would certainly avoid an awkward confrontation over the millionaire’s tax. And Dems may not wanna go down that road. If the government gets shutdown over higher taxes for the rich, Christie will be the darling of the national media. He might even grace the cover of Newsweek as the man who “stands up for Conservative principles.”
Bottom line is this: Republicans are making the transition from talking about what bad shape the state is in fiscally ( because of Democrats over the last 8 years ) into governing and “it hasn’t gone smoothly.” Moreover, now Republicans are starting to hear it on the local level as the threat of property tax increases looms, and little jonny’s lacrosse team will be no more. You have three new leaders with the Speaker, Governor and Senate Prez…perhaps they will find a way for everyone to chalk up a victory and leave for vacation on july 1.