ANGELA DELLI SANTI,Associated Press
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — The Legislature's budget expert is now projecting that New Jersey will end the 2012 fiscal year with up to $200 million less revenue than the Christie administration anticipated in May.
The revised projection by legislative budget officer David Rosen was sent in a memo to lawmakers after the fiscal year ended June 30. All the numbers aren't in, however; the administration's accounting of revenue collections for the year won't be finalized for several months.
The projection nonetheless calls into question the "Jersey Comeback" Republican Gov. Chris Christie has been touting and jeopardizes the 10 percent tax cut he has commanded legislators to enact. The Democrat-led Legislature funded the first phase of the cut — worth $183 million — but said they wouldn't release the funds until January, and then only if the state can afford it. When fully phased in, the cut would cost more than $1 billion a year.
"The tax cut is right where it should be for now, which is on the sidelines," said Assembly Budget Committee Chairman Vincent Prieto of Secaucus.
Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak dismissed Rosen's latest projection as "rank speculation" to fuel partisan rancor.
Prieto said the latest projections are concerning, but come as no surprise since they mirror what Rosen, of the Office of Legislative Services, told lawmakers in May. Also in May, Treasurer Andrew Eristoff shaved $514 million off original revenue estimates, as sluggish tax collections continued through the busy spring months.
Bill Holland, a spokesman for Better Choices for New Jersey, an umbrella organization that advocates for working families, referred to the tax cut as "reckless" and said a more sensible approach would be to ensure that the state has the money to deliver the economic growth New Jerseyans need.
The administration, however, noted that income, sales and business tax collections surpassed Treasury's revised May estimates. June figures were not released.
Christie has embarked on a national media tour since signing his third state budget into law on June 29.
He told a think-tank audience in Washington on Monday that Democrats left his tax cut proposal on the table after he agreed to their plan for property tax relief rather than an income tax cut, and said he would to add income eligibility limits. Christie said he and the Democratic Senate president, Steve Sweeney, had a deal but it fell apart when rank-and-file Democrats balked. The governor said that was because they were intent on denying him a tax cut to tout at the Republican National Convention next month in Tampa, Fla.
Christie has refused to sign legislation increasing the income tax rate on millionaires, however.
Democrats have tried, and failed, three times to get Christie to reinstate a tax surcharge of nearly 2 percentage points on millionaires.
In the latest effort, Democrats passed legislation that would have used the additional $800 million in revenue generated by the millionaire tax to restore property tax rebates for the elderly and disabled and those earning less than $75,000 a year. Christie conditionally vetoed the bill and increased the budget surplus, but he's failed to get Democrats to commit to his tax cut.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.