Friday, July 07, 2006

State Budget - Courier - South Jersey Dems united against sales tax

Published by The Courier News, Thursday, July 6, 2006

South Jersey Dems united against sales tax hike

Gannett New Jersey

The unabated state budget crisis has pitted Gov. Jon S. Corzine squarely against South Jersey Democrats.

Corzine's bid to increase the sales tax from 6 percent to 7 percent has divided Democratic lawmakers, who debated the matter behind closed Statehouse doors yet again Wednesday afternoon.

But allies of South Jersey power broker George Norcross have linked arms against Corzine's proposal and emerged as the new governor's most vocal critics.

State Assembly Speaker Joe Roberts Jr., D-Brooklawn, pronounced the proposed 1-cent sales tax increase "dead" Tuesday while state Sen. Stephen Sweeney, D-Woodbury, described Corzine's plan as "unconscionable" in one of two news releases he issued Wednesday.

"Shutting down parks, beaches, casinos, health services and road construction affects tens of thousands of people who are pawns in your campaign to hike the sales tax," Sweeney said in one of the news releases.

The contentiousness erupted less than six months after Corzine was sworn in, vowing to end the "toxic mix of politics, money and public business."

Some observers viewed those words as a rebuke to power brokers such as Norcross, who boasted of his influence over Democrats in tapes recorded as part of a criminal probe of allegations that Palmyra Mayor John Gural was -- as a councilman in 2001 -- pressured to fire the borough solicitor.

Sweeney said in an interview Wednesday that Norcross has played no role in the battle but that Corzine has sought to blame him for the conflict.

"The front office is trying to get a story that everything is being orchestrated by George," Sweeney said, contending he has advocated trimming state workers' benefits as a matter of principle. "No one can get you to take a position unless you really believe it. I'm taking a lot of hassles from state workers for it."

Corzine spokesman Anthony Coley denied Sweeney's claim.

"We're not pushing anything but the agenda of the people," Coley said. "And they want an end to fiscal gimmicks of the past that have created the current fiscal mess that we're in."

State Sen. Diane Allen, R-Edgewater Park, said some Democrats were working more diligently than others to resolve their differences.

"We have three people who are in control in the Democratic Party. Two of the three have already come to a compromise," Allen said, referring to Corzine, Roberts and Senate President Richard J. Codey, D-West Orange.

Corzine has endorsed a compromise proposed by Codey to increase the sales tax but direct half of the revenue toward property tax relief.

Political observers said opponents of the sales tax increase are chiefly worried about getting re-elected.

"Corzine's not up for re-election 'til 2009," Rider University political scientist David Rebovich said. "Legislators are running 16 months from now."

Ingrid Reed, director of the New Jersey Project for Rutgers' Eagleton Institute of Politics, said South Jersey Democrats may feel more vulnerable to voters' backlash than their peers to the north.

"Joe Roberts is very aware of the fact that some of the wins for the Democrats have been narrow ones," Reed said.

Rutgers political scientist Ross Baker agreed but said relations between Norcross and Corzine may be contributing to the impasse.

"There is a history of tension," Baker said. "Personal loyalty and things like that play a major role in the way things operate."


(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. Plainfield Today, Plainfield Stuff and Clippings have no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of these articles nor are Plainfield Today, Plainfield Stuff or Clippings endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

Blog Archive

About Me

Plainfield resident since 1983. Retired as the city's Public Information Officer in 2006; prior to that Community Programs Coordinator for the Plainfield Public Library. Founding member and past president of: Faith, Bricks & Mortar; Residents Supporting Victorian Plainfield; and PCO (the outreach nonprofit of Grace Episcopal Church). Supporter of the Library, Symphony and Historic Society as well as other community groups, and active in Democratic politics.