From the AP:
They’ve talked of keeping parks and the state agriculture department open and maybe boosting aid for towns and cities, but legislators have devoted scant debate this year to sustaining property tax rebates they so highly touted just a year ago.
Democrats who expanded the rebates last year and promised they weren’t an election-year gimmick seem ready to accept Democratic Gov. Jon S. Corzine’s proposal to eliminate rebates for households earning more than $150,000 and scale them back for others.
That has Republicans saying, “We told you so.” They spent last year deeming the expanded rebates a ploy to ensure Democrats — as they ultimately did — kept their legislative majorities in November’s elections.
“Why should the public believe anything we say here based on that experience?” asked Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon, R-Monmouth.
But Democratic leaders said they couldn’t have foreseen the national economic woes that helped threaten state tax revenues and prompt Corzine to propose a $33 billion budget with $2.7 billion in spending cuts.
“No one could have foreseen the national recession to this degree when we passed that rebate program a year ago,” said Assembly Budget Chairman Lou Greenwald, D-Camden.
He noted the massive financial troubles that hit several leading Wall Street firms that employ many New Jersey residents, thus threatening state income tax collections.
“You just don’t see some of these things,” Greenwald said.
The proposed rebate cuts would save the state $519 million.
Households earning up to $100,000 would still get rebates averaging $1,115 under Corzine’s $33 billion budget plan, and senior citizens would still get about $1,270.
But households earning between $100,000 and $150,000 would get $665, or about $300 less than last year.
Households earning between $150,000 and $250,000 would get nothing after getting $745 last year.
Renters would see rebates cut to $80 from as much as $350 last year.
Some fear further declines in tax revenue could lead to sharper rebate cuts, but Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts Jr. _ who has proposed converting the rebate checks to state income tax credits said the rebates have been cut enough.