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NJ Lawmakers Still Sparring Over ‘Tool Kit’ Items

Gov. Chris Christie holds a town hall meeting - Moorestown, NJ - Oct 28, 2010 - Photo: Tim Larsen / Governor's Office

Gov. Chris Christie (credit: Tim Larsen / Governor’s Office)

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TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Several key measures will be up for discussion Monday when committees in both houses of the New Jersey legislature convene at the Statehouse.

But Republican leaders in the Democratic-controlled Assembly are fuming that the panels there won’t be focusing more on the so-called property tax “tool kit” reform measures that Gov. Chris Christie has proposed to help control government costs.

Proponents say the reforms are needed to support recently enacted legislation that caps local spending and property tax increases at 2 percent. And GOP lawmakers want to know why Democrats are “dragging their feet” on dealing with the proposals.

Democrats dispute the GOP claims, saying in many cases more information is needed before the measures can be debated. They also defend their progress in moving legislation, saying they’re focused on the needs of the middle-class and working families.

Citing the agendas for Monday, they note that panels in both chambers will consider legislation revising the Christie administration’s medical marijuana use rules.

Assembly committees also will consider measures aimed at funding women’s health care, reforming the state’s affordable housing laws and families struggling with college tuition payments. Meanwhile, lawmakers in the senate will focus on measures related to the horse racing industry and reforming the state’s civil service system.

The latter bill is part of Christie’s “tool kit” proposal, as is a college tenure-related measure due to go before the Assembly’s Higher Education Committee.

Overall, Democrats say the Assembly has introduced 22 measures related to the “tool kit” proposal, including 15 that require fiscal data detailing expected gains or losses in state and local revenues. Of those 15 bills, Democrats say the Christie administration has submitted fiscal data on only four measures.

“It’s time for Republicans to put away their Christie-scripted press releases and join Democrats in working on behalf of working class New Jerseyans,” said Tom Hester Jr., a spokesman for the Assembly Democrats. “We understand it’s hard for the Assembly Republicans to think independently, but their inability to do so is an insult to New Jersey taxpayers.”

Several GOP lawmakers — including Assembly Whip David Rible — say Democrats continue to drag their heels on legislation important to New Jerseyans. They plan to hold a Statehouse news conference Monday afternoon to discuss continued legislative inaction on the “tool kit” proposals.

“(Democrats) refuse to fix the glaring problems in our state,” Rible said. “Instead of getting to work on real property tax reform that will allow our bipartisan property tax cap to succeed, Assembly Democrats plan to hold hearings on medical marijuana, the process of the BPU and hinder our economic revival by instituting another Democratic tax on the kinds of development we need to rebuild New Jersey.”

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)