Higher Taxes On Rich Proposed As Way To Raise $1B For State

CourierPostOnline — Thursday, March 27, 2003

Gannett State Bureau

TRENTON — The Fairness Alliance joined other groups that oppose Gov. James E. McGreevey's proposed budget cuts Wednesday, announcing a plan that could provide nearly $1 billion in new revenue by recapturing a portion of the state and federal tax-cut windfall enjoyed by New Jersey's wealthiest residents.

The Fairness Alliance includes advocacy groups for children, education, affordable housing, seniors, workers, municipalities and students.

"The governor said, `Show me the money,' " said the Rev. Reginald Jackson of the Black Ministers Council of New Jersey. "And we're here to show him about a billion dollars."

But the so-called "millionaire's tax" - though widely debated as an alternative to cost cutting - has not won favor with the McGreevey administration.

"We share the alliance's concerns, and we understand where they're coming from," said Micah Rasmussen, spokesman for the governor. "But this is not a proposal the governor would support."

Alliance members said when budget cuts are proposed, the poor people are the most burdened.

"We must work together to fight for quality of life in New Jersey," Staci Berger, program director for NJ Citizen Action, said. "We aim to recapture the windfall from tax cuts that benefit the rich."

"The people on the bottom are always affected the most," Jackson said. "It's the drastic majority of citizens in New Jersey that are poor or are minorities living in cities."

New Jersey Policy Perspective created the Recapturing the Windfall plan, which would include:

"We all need to share the burden in tough times like these," Muriel Berman, of United Seniors Alliance, said. "But this budget calls on those most in need to make most of the sacrifices. Instead we need to invest in the future and protect the vulnerable."

Representatives said the proposed budget cuts would also negatively affect students.

Edithe Fulton, president of the New Jersey Education Association, said necessary money wouldn't be available for pre-K, after-school and music programs; libraries; and text books.

"Slashing education aid . . . is not the answer," Fulton said. "It robs people of their full potential and weakens our economy, hurting us all."

Senior citizens and disabled residents are also in danger of losing funds.

"(It) would disqualify thousands of seniors and disabled people from prescription funding," Berman said. "According to the AARP, access to prescription drugs is a life-saver and programs like PAAD and Senior Gold would save the state money in the long run. Those most in need shouldn't have to make the sacrifice."

"It's hard to strike a balance when you can't afford to fund every program," Rassmusen said. "We are in difficult economic times, and the last thing we want to do is make it worse. This is not the time to raise income taxes."

"Everyone in New Jersey today pays lower taxes than before the Bush and Whitman income tax cuts," Jon Shure, president of New Jersey Policy Perspective, said. "And they'll still pay lower taxes. But those who've gotten back the most will see a smaller cut, with the money being used to ease the impact of a struggling economy and devastating budget cuts."

The Fairness Alliance plans to continue their fight for fair taxation by gaining support from more organizations, legislators and lawmakers.

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