Republicans move away from Christie in debate

Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno speaks as Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli looks on during a Republican gubernatorial primary debate, Thursday, May 18, 2017, in Newark. Guadagno was generally kinder, but kept hammering her contention, which he says is a lie, that his plan will raise taxes. Ciattarelli has called for an overhaul of the state’s education funding formula to lower property taxes since they are driven in large part by local school districts. Ciattarelli has proposed a tax restructuring package that would increase tax rates on high-income earners, but he contends that the restructuring would cut taxes elsewhere.

In addition to audit savings, Guadagno said she would be able to pay for tax relief through $2.5 billion in savings garnered from changing public-sector health benefits and from revenue growth from a more robust economy, among other measures. On the debate stage Thursday, she continued to push her “circuit breaker” plan, which would limit the amount homeowners pay toward the school portion of their property tax bills to 5 percent of their household income.

“The most important thing is that we help the people we need to help most while we take all the time it’s going to take to fix the school funding formula”, she said. Gudagno said that will lead to a $600 million tax hike. And their public statements of late indicate that the debate may also feature two driving forces in the race: taxes and Phil Murphy, the Democratic front-runner who is widely favored to win the governorship.

“We have the highest taxes in the country”.

Ciattarelli vehemently denied this, calling the plan a “tax restructuring” in which tax increase will be offset by cuts, including abolishing the state’s inheritance tax and phasing out the corporate business tax over 10 years.

Still, Guadagno said she does not plan to repeal the gas tax increase if she’s elected because the money is already being spent.

Guadagno has been considered the frontrunner, having earned the endorsement of two-thirds of the county Republican parties.

Guadagno has been leading in the polls, though many voters are undecided and Ciattarelli has been moving up. Ciattarelli voted against the bill and noted that Guadagno could have vetoed it any of the times she served as acting governor when Christie was out of state.

Guadagno touted the state’s economic recovery during her tenure, noting the unemployment rate is less than half what it was when she first came into office with Gov. Chris Christie: now 4.1 percent, down from 9.8 percent.

“She knows that’s a misrepresentation”, he said.

She was not shy about criticizing the unpopular Christie who, as moderator Michael Aron put it, “plucked (Guadagno) out of obscurity” in 2009 and made her his running mate.

I have a theory that at this point most New Jerseyans are so fed up with politicians we barely care who the next governor will be.

Guadagno shot back: “We can do it if we have the will to do it”.

“The CPA in me, nobody loves audits more than I do, but the Lt. Governor has been in charge of the Red Tape Commission for 7 ½ years and her answer to everything is an audit”, he said, adding that the only way to permanently wrestle down property taxes was to address school funding inequities.

“I think she got it wrong”, he said. Ciattarelli said he would. “People in New Jersey are working again, the problem is they can’t afford to live here again”.

Both candidates said they are against legalizing marijuana in the state but are in favor of decriminalization.

Other Republican candidates include Steven Rogers, a commissioner in Nutley, Hirsh Singh, an engineer and Joseph Rullo, a business man.