NorthJersey.com

State Coalition: More Taxes For The Rich

The Record (NorthJersey.com) — Wednesday, May 13, 2009

BY JOHN REITMEYER
NorthJersey.com
STATE HOUSE BUREAU

A coalition of labor unions, environmental groups and other liberal organizations is asking Governor Corzine to fix the state's budget problems by raising taxes on the wealthy.

Higher taxes on businesses and those making $300,000 or more annually could generate $437 million in new revenue, according to the Better Choices for New Jersey coalition.

Steeper registration fees for the owners of SUVs and other heavy gas-guzzling vehicles would bring in another $80 million, the coalition members said Wednesday during a State House news conference.

Governor Corzine is expected to announce his remedies Thursday to fix a state budget that has been rocked by revenue losses brought by the bad economy.

The governor has already cut departmental spending and put state workers on unpaid furloughs to save cash, but he still faces a roughly $1.2 billion deficit for the budget in place through June 30.

The state constitution requires Corzine and the Legislature to maintain a balanced budget.

The Legislature, meanwhile, is also considering the governor's $29.8 billion spending plan for the budget year that begins July 1.

State Treasurer David Rousseau is scheduled to appear before lawmakers next week to update revenue forecasts and discuss additional cuts for the new budget.

Republicans have been pressing Corzine to cut spending to ease the budget problems, citing programs such as those that provide special funding for inner cities and preschool education as examples.

"I am not questioning the need to protect our most vulnerable — sick and disabled people and working-class parents — but Governor Corzine and his legislative allies continue to ignore some very obvious places to cut, which would be fair to the entire state, not just a particular constituency," said Assembly Republican Leader Alex DeCroce, R-Morris. "There is no justification for continuing to use the state's budget for political payoffs when so many middle class property taxpayers are losing jobs and struggling to stay afloat."

Corzine's office did not immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday.

But Eva Bonime, executive director of New Jersey Working Families and coordinator of Better Choices for New Jersey, said the budget has been cut enough.

The coalition's plan provides $517 million in new revenue for the budget by placing more of the burden on "those can afford to pay a little more," Bonime said.

Coalition members will be pressing Corzine and the Legislature to adopt its ideas during the next six weeks leading up to June 30. The group formed last year when Corzine also sought to reduce state spending through widespread cuts.

"There are better choices," said Ev Liebman, director of organizing and advocacy for New Jersey Citizen Action.

They also bristled at any suggestion that the state's taxes on businesses and the wealthy are already too high — a frequent complaint of New Jersey's business community.

"We don't have a bad business climate," said Mary Forsberg, interim president of New Jersey Policy Perspective, a Trenton-based think tank. "It really is a semantic thing."

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