New Jersey Voters Pan Christie Millionaire-Tax Veto, Quinnipiac Poll Says

Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, the second-richest U.S. state by income per person, ran afoul of almost two of every three voters by vetoing a tax on residents with incomes of more than $1 million, a survey shows.

The veto was the wrong thing to do, according to 61 percent of voters in the Quinnipiac University survey released today. Thirty-three percent of the 1,461 respondents agreed with the Republican’s rejection of the levy.

“People always like a millionaire’s tax,” Maurice Carroll, director of the Hamden, Connecticut, school’s polling center, said in an interview. “Almost none of the deficit- cutting things that have been talked about -- except the millionaire’s tax that Christie vetoed -- win much support.”

A majority of New Jersey voters also said they oppose reducing school funding by $820 million, firing 1,300 state workers, closing psychiatric institutions and cutting municipal aid -- all part of Christie’s plan to erase a projected $10.7 billion deficit for the fiscal year that begins next month.

Voters gave Christie, 47, a split rating on his job performance, with 44 percent approval and 43 percent disapproval. While 44 percent said he is a leader, 43 percent said he’s a bully. The governor has clashed with unions for teachers and other public employees and refused to reappoint the state’s only black justice on its Supreme Court.

Life in Garden State

Seventy-five percent of those tallied said they are dissatisfied with life in New Jersey, the largest rate ever in Quinnipiac surveys that go back to at least 1997.

Democrats who control New Jersey’s Assembly plan a June 21 vote in an attempt to override Christie’s veto of the income-tax surcharge, Speaker Sheila Oliver said June 15. Assembly Minority Leader Alex DeCroce, a Republican from Parsippany, said June 15 that Republicans in his house won’t back the override attempt.

Christie’s spokesman Michael Drewniak said the poll won’t sway the governor to rethink his opposition to the tax, which he has called a “jobs killer.”

“We will be pleased to watch the Democrats vote on Monday in favor of raising taxes for the second time in three weeks,” Drewniak said today in an e-mailed statement. “They can add that to their runaway record of raising taxes more than 150 times in eight years” of political control.

Tax Cap

On the issue of property taxes, survey respondents backed Christie’s proposed constitutional amendment, 67 percent to 25 percent, that would cap annual increases at no more than 2.5 percent. Residents pay an average $7,281 a year in real-estate taxes, the highest in the nation, according to state data.

“The message to lawmakers who oppose it is they do so at their own political peril,” Drewniak said of the cap. “New Jerseyans want this and recognize the need for it.”

The millionaire tax would raise the top personal-income rate to 10.75 percent from 8.97 percent. Democrats lack the two- thirds majority needed in each chamber to override Christie’s veto. The measure passed on party-line votes of 46-32 in the lower chamber and 23-17 in the Senate.

$637 Million

The bill would raise an estimated $637 million by renewing a surcharge on about 16,000 filers with income above $1 million. A temporary levy on incomes of more than $400,000 enacted last year by former Democratic Governor Jon Corzine expired Dec. 31.

Under the present measure, a family of four with an income of $1.2 million would pay an additional $11,598 in state taxes, according to projections from the non-partisan Office of Legislative Services.

“One year ago, the state of New Jersey imposed an income tax increase as a ‘temporary’ solution to declining state revenue,” Christie wrote in his veto message. “Now they’ve come back with another tax increase they claim to be ‘temporary.’ It is time to say no.”

Quinnipiac conducted its telephone survey from June 10-15. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.6 percentage points.

To contact the reporter on this story: Terrence Dopp in Trenton, New Jersey, at tdopp@bloomberg.net.

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