TRENTON The state Assembly’s point man on the state budget indicated today that he would not support a tax on electronic cigarettes, which has been proposed by Gov. Chris Christie.

After hearing from a string of witnesses who spoke against the proposed tax at a budget committee hearing today as well as a previous hearing, Assembly Budget Committee Chairman Gary Schaer (D Passaic) said he and the committee’s members Democrats and Republicans opposed it.

“You and your colleagues seem to have caught us in the spirit of bipartisanship,” Schaer, a smoker who occasionally uses electronic cigarettes, said. “It seems that both sides of the aisle find the governor’s tax pretty not what we want. Your testimony, combined with so many others, has really given us a very important perspective.”

Christie called for taxing electronic cigarettes which deliver nicotine in the form of water vapor at the same rate as normal cigarettes, $2.70 a pack, although it was unclear how the tax would apply to the electronic cigarettes.

Christie’s proposed budget, outlined in February, estimated the tax would bring in $35 million a year, which Schaer said would need to be found elsewhere.

“We need to be aware as a legislative body that this governor has proposed the tax on e cigarettes to the tune of $35 million,” Schaer said. “So although it may be this committee’s intention to recommend that that not be in the budget, it will then be this committee’s responsibility&#8230 to find $35 million with which to respond with a balanced budget.”

Schaer’s opposition does not necessarily kill the proposal. Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D Hudson) will have final say over what goes in the budget the Assembly passes, and is currently non committal.

“This is the beginning of the budget process. I could understand his comment for how overly taxed we are in this state,” Prieto said in a phone interview. “This is something that will be taken into consideration, and we’ll have a robust caucus discussion”

It was also unclear how the proposal would fare in the state Senate, where two Democrats state Sens. Joe Vitale (D Middlesex) and Richard Codey (D Essex) have introduced a bill (S1867) with their own version of an e cigarette tax.


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