Dems defend Corzine's budget proposal

March 12, 2009 4:51:45 PM PDT
Democrats in the New Jersey Assembly deflected criticism Thursday that Gov. Jon S. Corzine's recession-year budget proposal hurts middle-class taxpayers. Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts Jr. said the Democratic governor's election-year budget includes a funding increase for education, preserves property tax rebates for the neediest residents and barely cuts aid to towns.

"This budget is a billion dollars less than the budget Gov. Corzine introduced in his first year - 2006," said Roberts, D-Brooklawn. "He's the first governor in 60 years in New Jersey to introduce in his fourth year in office a budget that is smaller than the budget in his first year, and that is an extraordinary achievement."

Corzine proposed a $29.8 billion budget Tuesday, and was quickly criticized for cutting too much from programs that aid the middle class.

The budget would eliminate rebates for those earning more than $75,000 a year, and eliminates the property tax deduction for state income tax filers next year, costing the average taxpayer $300.

Rebates help offset the nation's highest property taxes, which average $7,045. Households earning up to $100,000 got an average rebate of about $1,115 last year.

While Roberts said the budget maintains property tax relief for seniors and low-income earners, Assembly Republican Leader Alex DeCroce claimed property taxes have risen nearly 19 percent during Corzine's first three years in office.

"How can you pretend to be on the side of middle-class families when you more than double what they pay in property taxes?" asked DeCroce, of Morris Plains.

Assembly Democratic Leader Bonnie Watson Coleman of Trenton lauded Corzine for introducing a budget that protects the most vulnerable citizens by preserving anti-foreclosure programs and aid to food pantries. The budget also contains $25 million to expand preschool education in poor districts.

The budget requires legislative approval. A balanced budget must be in place by July 1, the start of the new fiscal year.


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