ANGELA DELLI SANTI,Associated Press
MANASQUAN, N.J. (AP) — Gov. Chris Christie, who famously told New Jerseyans to "get the hell off the beach" ahead of Tropical Storm Irene last summer, has evoked the rejoinder again, this time calling for legislators to return to Trenton for one day this summer to pass a tax cut.
The Republican governor began his so-called "Endless Summer Tax Relief Tour" in Manasquan on Monday, bashing Democrats who he says are blocking tax cuts for homeowners.
Christie urged residents to bug Democratic leaders all summer until they relent.
He told a couple hundred people who joined him at a beach pavilion that if they saw a Democrat on the beach, they should tell him or her: "Just go back to Trenton for one day and vote for the governor's bipartisan tax cut. ... That's what we need to do this summer, get them the hell off the beach to vote for your tax cut."
Christie also asked residents to email Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver to say "pass my tax cut now."
Democrats, meanwhile, say they'll continue to hold the purse strings and will commit to a tax cut only if revenue collections show the state can afford it.
"Time and time again, Gov. Christie has rejected property tax relief for New Jersey's middle class and seniors, to the point that they're suffering under a net 20 percent property tax hike," Assembly Democratic leader Lou Greenwald said. He accused Christie, who is about to embark on a multistate fundraising swing for Mitt Romney, of showboating for a national audience at the expense of working-class New Jerseyans.
Christie, meanwhile, said he'll spend much of the summer holding public forums along the coast.
Even though the state budget has been passed and signed, Christie and Democrats are still bickering over it. The issue is whether the state can afford to give the tax relief Christie is demanding.
Both sides say there should be a tax cut. Democrats say they want to hold off till January to make sure the state is bringing in adequate revenue. Christie says relief should be promised to taxpayers now.
Democrats set aside $183 million in this year's budget to fund the first installment of a 10 percent tax cut for residents, which would be phased in over three years. But they need to pass separate legislation to release the funds. They say they'll do so only if the state is hitting Christie's optimistic revenue targets.
The governor's budget relies on revenue growth of more than 7 percent over the next 12 months, more ambitious than any other state in the country.
Democrats and some independent analysts say it's unwise to commit to spending that money because the governor's projected rate of growth is unlikely to materialize.
"The governor knows full well that the tax-cut plan can't take effect until next year. So why is he spending the hot summer months misleading the public?" Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg said in a statement Monday night. "This is nothing more than bad summer theater with the governor trying to sell a political fairy tale."
In a series of town hall events this spring, Christie has pronounced that "the Jersey Comeback" has begun. He said a tax break will fuel the recovery, while any tax increase would reverse gains the state has made.
He said signing the millionaires tax, which Greenwald sponsored, would be counterproductive.
Greenwald, however, said the additional $800 million in revenue would help struggling homeowners by providing property tax relief.
Christie said Democrats have no trouble spending taxpayer money except when he wants to dedicate it as tax relief. He also increased the amount of surplus in the state budget, to cover unexpected revenue dips.
Democrats say there's no evidence Christie's economic agenda has helped New Jersey rebound from its economic slump.
While Christie says more than 80,000 private-sector jobs have been created under his administration, they say unemployment remains higher than the national average and the state is ranked 47th in economic growth.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.