By ANGELA DELLI SANTI
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) â¿¿ Democratic gubernatorial candidate Barbara Buono has unveiled her economic plan for New Jersey, and it contrasts sharply with Gov. Chris Christie's policies.
Buono's plan, unveiled early Monday, focuses on shoring up the middle class. It provides tax breaks to small businesses, pledges to make higher education more affordable and restores safety net cuts made by Christie during his first term.
The former chairwoman of the Senate budget committee says her plan "reflects an understanding that economic growth begins with the middle class. We will create better jobs in New Jersey not just by offering tax credits to corporations, but by investing in our workforce, schools, working families, small businesses and infrastructure."
But Christie, who has dominated the campaign against Buono so far, says his opponent's unstated agenda is to raise taxes that kill jobs and stifle economic growth.
An oft-used campaign line, recited again Tuesday, is that Buono has voted to raise taxes and fees 154 times during her 18 years in the legislature. Those include additional fees on builders and developers and increases in energy taxes.
Christie, a Republican who is popular among business leaders and enjoys high job approval ratings overall, has approved generous corporate subsidies â¿¿ worth more than $2 billion overall â¿¿ to attract new businesses to the state and keep those already here from leaving.
He has spent less on worker training, rejected a tax surcharge for millionaires and vetoed the Democrats' attempt at raising the minimum wage by at least $1 per hour. Christie offered a smaller wage increase phased in over three years, which Democrats rejected. The issue will be settled by voters with a question on the November ballot.
Buono's plan shifts tax subsidies away from corporations and toward the 95 percent that are categorized as small businesses, with emphasis on those in advanced fields like biotechnology and life sciences.