by Charles Wowkanech/ Philadelphia Inquirer
Gov. Christie likes to claim he hasn't raised taxes. But the burden on New Jersey's working families has gone up during his time in office. What gives?
While it's true that the governor hasn't increased individual tax rates, he has cut rebates and credits that help working families. The result is that New Jersey families are paying more in taxes, but Christie gets to claim that he hasn't raised them.
In 2009, while he was running for governor, Christie promised property-tax relief. He also promised that he'd maintain the homestead rebate, which offers direct property-tax relief to middle-class families. Christie even attacked his primary opponent, Steve Lonegan, after Lonegan proposed eliminating the rebate. But when Christie became governor, he slashed the rebate. Today, the average homeowner is paying a property-tax bill that is 19 percent higher than it was when Christie made his campaign promises.
In 2010, Christie cut the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which helps low-income workers make ends meet when their wages don't keep up with the cost of living. Studies show that the EITC increases worker productivity. As a result, most who receive the credit do so for only a few years before they work their way to a salary above EITC qualification. This program has the power to end the cycle of poverty for low-income families. By shrinking the EITC, Christie has effectively raised taxes on those who can least afford it.
Meanwhile, Christie vetoed the restoration of the millionaires' tax, protecting the very wealthy from sharing in the sacrifice that working families are making. (Granted, property taxes are also up for those families, so even they saw a tax increase under this governor.)
Has anyone escaped paying higher taxes under Christie? Only if you consider corporations people.
Christie has given $2.3 billion in tax cuts, subsidies, and other incentives to the business community. Put that in perspective: In the decade before Christie became governor, New Jersey granted $1.2 billion in corporate tax breaks. That's a stark illustration of Christie's agenda: Corporate welfare is a higher priority than the well-being of working families.
Christie's claim about not raising taxes is true, but context tells a much different story. He has protected millionaires and given billions to the business community, while taxes are up for working families. New Jersey can't afford four more years.
Charles Wowkanech is president of the New Jersey State AFL-CIO.