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Dems review NJ governor's 10 percent tax-cut plan

Democrats review NJ governor's proposal to cut income taxes for all by 10 percent.
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) -- Democrats in the New Jersey Senate took their first look at Gov. Chris Christie's plan to cut income taxes by 10 percent, and the details they got from the Legislature's budget expert confirmed their suspicions: The higher a resident's income, the bigger their tax reduction would be.

The biggest winners if Christie's proposal is enacted would be the top 1.6 percent of taxpayers, who earn $500,000 or more, David Rosen, the Legislature's chief budget officer, told the Senate Budget Committee. Treasurer Andrew Eristoff declined to testify at Monday's hearing.

"At a time when we should be doing anything and everything to spur the economy and to create jobs, a tax cut that disproportionately favors the wealthy appears to be the wrong thing to do," Sen. Paul Sarlo, a Bergen County Democrat, said at the start of the hearing.

Sarlo chairs the committee holding the hearing, leading Republicans on the panel to comment sarcastically about his open-mindedness on the issue.

Christie proposed a 10 percent across-the-board tax cut phased in over three years. The Republican governor is expected to unveil details of the plan — including how to pay for it — in his budget address on Feb. 21.

Democrats have reacted with skepticism, calling the proposal a give-away to the wealthy at the expense of the middle-class, and wondering aloud how the governor intends to make up for more than $1 billion in lost revenue. They have suggested cutting property taxes instead, which are the highest in the country, averaging $7,576 per household in 2010.

For the state's wealthiest residents, a 10 percent income tax reduction could amount to tens of thousands of dollars saved. A similar cut for low-income wage earners won't equal enough for a week's worth of groceries, Sarlo said.

In the first year of the plan, taxpayers with $50,000 in taxable income could expect to save about $27, while those with taxable incomes of $150,000 would save $184 and those with taxable incomes of $1 million would save $2,422, according to Rosen's figures. Those same taxpayers would save $81, $551 and $7,266 in the third year, respectively.

Questions also arose about how the governor plans to pay for the tax cut, which would cost $1.4 billion when the plan is fully phased in after three years.

Sarlo said lawmakers should be wary of digging the state too big a financial hole, saying that its obligation to the pension fund will top $2 billion a year by 2016 and $1 billion or so will be needed to fund transportation projects through the Transportation Trust Fund. New Jersey is already among the most indebted states.
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