Gov. Chris Christie may say that he and state Senate President Stephen Sweeney agree on property tax relief, but don’t believe it, Sweeney told a town hall Monday evening.
The Democrat spent much of the town hall distancing himself from Christie, saying that the governor’s tax relief plan is too complicated and focuses more on helping wealthy New Jersey taxpayers, not the middle class.
Christie touts “an income tax plan where 95 percent of the money goes to the wealthy,” Sweeney said. “My plan, the Senate plan, all of the money goes to the middle class because it’s capped at $250,000 (annual income).”
Sweeney hosted the town hall at Camden County College to promote his plan with fellow Democrats, state Senators Fred Madden and James Beach. Between the three districts, the senators represent much of Camden and Gloucester counties, as well as part of Burlington, Cumberland and Salem.
The plan “isn’t really complicated. It isn’t sexy. It’s pretty simple,” Sweeney said. Take your property tax bill, provided you earn less than $250,000, and divide it by 10—that’s the savings the Democrats’ bill offers, he said.
Christie’s plan relies on a series of calculations that uses income, annual property taxes, income tax deductions and multipliers and subtractors to arrive at a savings, Sweeney said. But the bottom line, he added, is that more New Jerseyans will save with the Democrats’ plan.
Charts displayed average savings town-by-town in a comparison of the Democrat vs. Christie plan. In West Deptford, the Democrat plan would save taxpayers $499 on average, compared to $147 under Christie.
New Jersey Senate Democrats have a comparison savings calculator at their website, Real Relief.
“If you put money in the hands of people that actually need it, they spend it. And that means the tax cut goes back into the economy, which helps create jobs,” Sweeney said. Wealthy people tend to save, not spend, the money, he added. “Give those tax cuts to the middle class and they’ll actually go out and spend. That’s when tax cuts really work.”
Since taking office, Christie has sliced taxes for the wealthy, while average property tax bill has shot up 20 percent, Sweeney said.
There didn’t appear to be much dissent among the 60 town hall attendees, if lack of push back is any indication. Instead, the freewheeling Q&A offered a snapshot into the minds of residents and their concerns.
There was the 23-year resident of Cherry Hill who already knows she can’t afford to retire in New Jersey. And the senior citizens who asked about cutting taxes for residents who don’t have children in the school systems. The mom who spoke through tears over what she calls the “politicization” of public education in New Jersey. And the man who said Democrats need to fight Christie’s feistiness—often on display when someone publicly argues with the governor—with their own sound bites.
Most comments seemed to carry the same general theme.
“As a family, we only have a set amount of dollars and we have to spend them wise,” a Cherry Hill man said. “I just want the government to spend my money wise too.”
Sweeney tried to address individual concerns, but often turned the debate back to Christie and his administration, saying that the governor prioritizes the wealthy over the middle class. Property tax relief must not follow that path, Sweeney insisted.
“This isn’t the perfect solution—there’s more work to be done,” Sweeney conceded about the Democrats’ plan. “But when you have the ability to help some people, this is the fastest way and the easiest way to do it.”