Senate GOP challenges tax claim in Skoufis campaign ad

Senate Republicans fired off a salvo this week when Democratic Assemblyman James Skoufis began airing a new TV ad for his Senate campaign in which he says he kept his promise to oppose tax increases, voting against 195 “tax hike bills” since he took office in 2013.

The Senate GOP’s campaign arm disputed that message on Thursday by pointing out that Skoufis voted this year for the Assembly’s budget proposal, a non-binding resolution introduced at the outset of three-way budget negotiations among the governor and leaders of the two legislative chambers. The Assembly plan included what Senate Republicans described as $20 billion in new taxes, including a tax increase on the state’s highest earners that they said would have raised $13.5 billion over multiple years (they didn’t say how many).

“James Skoufis is running an ad that says he’s the defender and protector of hardworking taxpayers, but the truth is he voted for $20 billion in new and higher taxes just this year,” Senate GOP spokesman Scott Reif said in a press release, demanding that Skoufis remove that ad.

A Skoufis campaign spokesman disputed the charge and returned fire, saying that Skoufis’ Republican opponent for the 39th Senate District has voted to raise taxes in Stony Point and his own pay as a town councilman.

“This is another extreme lie from extremist Tom Basile,” campaign spokesman Jon Heppner said. “James Skoufis has proven to oppose tax increases, while Tom Basile has proven to increase property taxes on local businesses while continually raising his own taxpayer-funded salary.”

The Assembly’s Democratic majority proposed a tax surcharge this year on household income greater than $5 million a year, which was projected to raise $232 million in the first year. Senate Republicans opposed that proposal and all of the other Assembly proposals that they collectively characterized as $20 billion in new taxes. None of them became law.

The 195 “tax hike bills” Skoufis has voted against include increases in local sales and mortgage taxes and the statewide gasoline tax, according to his campaign.

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