Christie’s Veto Pen Ready as N.J. Democrats Pass Tax Hikes

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Democrats who control New Jersey’s legislature approved a $35.3 billion budget that would more than double Governor Chris Christie’s planned pension payment and raise taxes. The likely Republican presidential contender said he’ll cut those additions before signing it.

The Senate and Assembly passed the budget largely along party lines Thursday, as well as separate bills to increase levies on businesses and millionaires. Christie, who has vetoed income-tax increases for wealthy residents four times since taking office, said during his monthly call-in radio show that he plans to veto the latest increases as well.

“It’s safe to say they spent a lot of money we don’t have,” Christie said during his hour-long “Ask The Governor” program in which he takes constituents’ questions. “This is what happens when the Legislature refuses to negotiate a budget with me, and then passes whatever they are going to pass. And it’s left to me then to decide what stays and what goes.”

Christie, 52, will officially join the crowded Republican field seeking the party’s 2016 presidential nomination on Tuesday, two people with knowledge of his plans said. He has said he would wait until after the budget was enacted to announce his intentions. The next fiscal year begins July 1.

In February, Christie proposed a $33.8 billion spending plan that cut a promised $3.1 billion pension payment to $1.3 billion.

New Jersey’s pension fund, with seven plans benefiting state workers, teachers and emergency workers, has an $83 billion unfunded liability after more than a decade of skipped and lowered payments. The state’s credit rating has been downgraded a record nine times under Christie because of rising pension and benefit costs and missed revenue forecasts.

The Democrats’ tax bills would raise the rate on income above $1 million to 10.75 percent from 8.97 percent for four years, and corporate levies to 10.35 percent from 9 percent for one year.