Gov. Christie starts new round of public forums

MANASQUAN, N.J. (AP) - July 16, 2012

The Republican governor's office says he'll spend much of the summer holding public forums along the coast to bash Democratic lawmakers, who he says are blocking tax breaks. The first stop on his so-called "Endless Summer Tax Relief Tour" is scheduled for Monday at an outdoor pavilion in Manasquan.

Even though the state budget has been passed and signed, Christie and Democrats are still bickering over it. The issue is whether the state can afford to give the tax relief Christie is demanding.

Both sides say there should be a tax cut. Democrats say they want to make sure the state is bringing in adequate revenue first. Christie says relief should be promised to taxpayers now.

Democrats set aside $183 million in this year's budget to fund the first installment of a 10 percent tax cut for residents, which would be phased in over three years. But they are holding the purse strings and say they will pass a law releasing the funds in January only if the state is hitting Christie's optimistic revenue targets.

The governor's budget relies on revenue growth of more than 7 percent over the next 12 months, more ambitious than any other state in the country.

Democrats and some independent analysts say it's unwise to commit to spending that money because the governor's projected rate of growth is unlikely to materialize.

In a series of town hall events this spring, Christie has pronounced that "the Jersey Comeback" has begun. He says Democrats have no trouble spending taxpayer money except when he wants to dedicate it as tax relief. He also increased the amount of surplus in the state budget, to cover unexpected revenue dips.

Democrats say there's no evidence Christie's economic agenda has helped New Jersey rebound from its economic slump.

While Christie says more than 80,000 private-sector jobs have been created under his administration, they say unemployment remains higher than the national average and the state is ranked 47th in economic growth.

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