TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Gov. Chris Christie called a special legislative session for Monday to state his case for a middle-class tax cut.
Christie announced his plans in a letter sent Saturday to Senate President Stephen Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver. The special session was scheduled for 11 a.m. at the Statehouse.
"(We must) continue to move forward by letting people, and not government, enjoy more of the earnings produced by their own labor, or take a step back to repeat the days where taxes are the answer to each and every challenge," the Republican governor said in his letter.
Christie and the Democrat-controlled Legislature have been feuding for months over budget matters. Initially, it wasn't clear whether majority party members from either chamber would attend the session, though senate leaders said later Saturday afternoon that their members would attend. Assembly members were also expected to show up, though a formal decision had not been announced
"The Assembly has no immediate response (to Christie's decision), but this much is clear — the governor just vetoed tax relief for the working poor and has repeatedly opposed property tax relief for the middle-class amid his manic zeal to protect tax cuts for the mega-rich," Assembly spokesman Tom Hester Jr. said Saturday.
Senate President Steve Sweeney voiced similar views.
"We presented the governor with a budget committed to providing middle class property tax relief and, regardless of the governor's political theatre, no tax breaks will even go into effect until 2013," Sweeney said Saturday. "While the last thing anyone wants in the middle of a heat wave is hot air coming from Trenton, we will be there (Monday)."
The governor's call for a special session came a day after he slashed $361 million from the state budget that Democrats sent him and gutted other Democrat-backed programs before signing the $32 billion spending plan into law.
Christie and the Legislature have been feuding for months over budget matters. The governor has been touting the beginning of what he calls an economic rebound, saying his budget revisions help ensure the "Jersey Comeback" continues.
Democrats, though, have disputed Christie's "comeback" assertion throughout the budget process, pointing to New Jersey's 9.2 percent unemployment rate and 47th ranking in terms of economic growth. They also have chided him for failing to act on a measure that would increase taxes on millionaires and use the roughly $800 million in new revenue it would generate to restore property tax rebates. Christie delayed action on the bill Friday and has vetoed similar bills twice before.
The majority party also denounced the governor's cuts made Friday, including $7.5 million to family planning centers and $50 million that would have increased a tax credit for the working poor. He also vetoed a bill that would have returned $66 million in energy taxes to cities and towns, which say the money would help offset sky-high property taxes.
New Jersey residents pay the highest property taxes in the country, averaging more than $7,700 per household a year. Christie says taxpayers have begun benefiting from a 2 percent property tax cap, but he wrote in his letter that more work is needed.
"That budget, which contained billions of dollars in spending, failed to address the single issue that strikes at the heart of our shared interests, and our continued prosperity," Christie said. "Lowering the tax burden imposed on every New Jersey resident is a matter of unique and critical public interest that demands our immediate and full attention."
Republican leaders said they support Christie's stance.
"Families and small businesses deserve certainty that their tax burden will be reduced, not a 'maybe' from the same politicians that raised them 115 times in the last ten years," Senate Republican leader Tom Kean Jr. said Saturday. "Republicans will be in Trenton on Monday ready to work."