New Jersey governor proposes 10 percent income tax cuts

January 17, 2012: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, bottom center, delivers his State of the State address in Trenton, N.J.

January 17, 2012: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, bottom center, delivers his State of the State address in Trenton, N.J.  (AP)

Governor Chris Christie said Tuesday that he wants to reduce income tax rates by 10 percent in New Jersey, across all income brackets.

The first-term Republican laid out some details in his State of the State speech, in which he said that his fiscal discipline over the past two years has worked, proclaiming "the New Jersey comeback has begun." The state has added private-sector jobs, he said, while keeping a lid on government costs.

He listed his next priority as bolstering low-performing schools through measures he's long proposed, such as changing the tenure system and introducing merit pay for educators. His third priority for the year, he said, is to crack down on violence in cities through steps like overhauling the bail system to keep suspects who have histories of violence in custody as they await trial on new charges.

High-income families would get the biggest boost from his proposed tax cut. Families making more than $500,000 now pay just under 9 percent of their incomes in state taxes. Under Christie's plan, the highest rate would drop to just over 8 percent, meaning that the annual state income tax paid by a family with $600,000 in taxable income would drop from about $39,000 to around $35,000.

A family making $50,000 would see its tax bill fall from about $1,270 to about $1,140.

Christie also said he wants to restore the earned income tax credit for the state's working poor. That credit was cut two years ago amid a fiscal crisis.

Christie said that after New Jersey residents shared the sacrifice during the depths of the recession, they should share in benefits now that the economy is improving.

The tax changes, he said, share the benefit -- and he said they move in the opposite direction from states such as New York, Illinois and California, where there are proposals to raise some taxes.

Christie did not lay out exactly how he would pay for the cuts. He's scheduled to give his full budget proposal to lawmakers in about a month.

While Christie's profile has risen within the national Republican party due to his blunt style and ability to work with Democrats, finding cooperative Democrats over the next two years in office will be more challenging as they begin moving into position to challenge Christie for the governor's office in 2013.

Christie was also moving into campaign position Tuesday, releasing a highlight reel video titled "Governor Chris Christie: The Jersey Comeback Has Begun." He also planned to hold two town hall events this week in Voorhees and Irvington.

New lawmakers also were sworn in Tuesday in the second such ceremony in as many weeks, and the governor started taking action on more than 100 bills sent to his desk that were left over from the most recent session. He signed laws giving town the option to move school elections from April to November and to allow wineries to ship directly to customers.

While looking forward, lawmakers also spent some more time Tuesday paying homage to DeCroce, who had been the GOP's leader since 2003. Assembly Republicans elevated Jon Bramnick of Westfield into the post.