- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 20, 2016

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - Gov. Chris Christie raised questions Wednesday about the latest Democratic framework to shore up the state fund for road and bridge work but didn’t rule out accepting the package.

But Christie, a Republican, said during his regular radio call-in show on 101.5 FM that lawmakers have to send him a deal that represents “tax fairness” to get his consideration.

“I do not want to raise the gas tax,” Christie said. “I’ve said that all along, but if they put a package in front of me that represents tax fairness I told them I’d look at it. Everything would be on the table.”

Unlike late last year when he ripped a proposed Democratic plan that included cutting estate and retirement income taxes, Christie highlighted how he had a history of “compromising and getting things done.”

Earlier this week, Senate Democrats proposed cutting estate and retirement income taxes - as they did in December - but also adding a charitable giving deduction in exchange for raising the gas tax.

Christie said he thought a five-year phase in of the estate tax cut was too long and noted that the proposed tax cut for pensions would be immediate, a veiled reference to public unions with whom he’s feuded bitterly over pensions. Charitable giving should be deductible anyway because “it’s the right thing to do,” he said.

The $1.6 billion transportation trust fund faces insolvency this summer. A plan for how to pay for it is stalled, with Democrats saying a gas tax hike is needed, though they haven’t coalesced around specific legislation to do that. They’ve noted that it has been the governor in past years who has sent proposals to the Legislature.

But Christie, with a little less than two years left in his second term, sees it differently. He says the Democrat-led Assembly, where 41 votes constitute a majority and where tax-raising bills must originate, should pass a bill first.

“Tell the people of New Jersey how much you want to raise their taxes,” he said. “And then get 41 of your members to join you in that alleluia chorus … then you’re gonna make my life more difficult. Then I’m gonna have something I’m really gonna have to think about.”

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