Philadelphia Inquirer

NJEA To Rally For Tax Increases

The group supports the "millionaire's tax" to offset budget cuts to schools, health care and the arts

The Philadelphia Inquirer — Saturday, May 31, 2003

By Terry Bitman
Inquirer Staff Writer

Seeking to tax the richest 2 percent in the state more to provide additional funds for schools, New Jersey's influential teachers' organization is leading a demonstration today on the steps of the Statehouse in Trenton.

"This rally is really focused on stopping the governor's cuts in a number of areas, not just education, and saying, 'Here's a solution,' " said Karen Joseph, New Jersey Education Association spokeswoman.

The solution: what the NJEA and nearly 100 other groups calling themselves the Fairness Alliance have dubbed the "millionaire's tax." The tax is designed to infuse about $1 billion into the state budget for education, health care and the arts by raising income taxes on those earning more than a half-million dollars a year.

Under the proposal, which has not been introduced in the legislature but apparently has the support of some Assembly leaders, those earning more than $500,000 a year would see their state tax rise by $1,100; those earning more than $1 million would have their taxes increased by $10,800; and those with annual income above $2 million would see a tax increase of about $42,000.

Joseph said that about 50,000 households in the state would be affected by the increases if the new tax plan were enacted.

The alliance's proposal also calls for tax breaks for low-income families and individuals. The minimum family income that would subjected to state income taxes would be raised from $20,000 to $25,000; the minimum income for an individual would be raised from $10,000 to $15,000.

Just more than 9 percent of the population, or 232,000 households, would benefit, Joseph said.

The McGreevey administration, facing a projected $5 billion gap in the state budget that is to go into effect July 1, is not advocating increases in the income tax.

Today's noontime rally follows by about two weeks a demonstration led by the New Jersey School Boards Association seeking more school aid.

Gov. McGreevey has proposed cuts in most state programs for the next fiscal year, but has advocated increasing aid to public schools by $200 million. Local school officials said this amount would do little to offset rising inflation and steady increases in areas of mandatory spending.

As a result, most districts turned to local taxpayers for more money. In April, voters rejected 53 of the 104 budgets on the ballot in Camden, Burlington and Gloucester Counties.

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