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Gov. Jim Florio Takes Blames For Democratic Election Losses

November 8, 1990

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) _ Gov. Jim Florio took responsibility for the Democratic Party’s election losses and close calls in New Jersey, and said parts of his bitterly disputed $2.8 billion tax package may be rewritten as a result.

″I got the message that the results were really directed at me,″ Florio said at a news conference Wednesday. ″It was a strong message, a humbling message.″

The backlash by New Jersey taxpayers nearly cost U.S. Sen. Bill Bradley his bid for re-election to a third term Tuesday. Bradley, considered nearly invulnerable, barely fended off a challenge from little-known Republican Christine Todd Whitman, who lost by fewer than 55,000 votes.

Florio, who wasn’t on the ballot because he was elected governor just last year, said that in the wake of Bradley’s close call, elements of his tax legislation were open to possible changes, particularly the school funding formula.

In his first six months in office, Florio raised the state income tax for wealthy New Jersey residents and increased the state sales tax from 6 percent to 7 percent.

The higher income tax, which goes into effect Jan. 1, will pay for a complex program of property tax relief and higher funds for the state’s disadvantaged schools.

Republican leaders touted the election results as a repudiation of the Democratic Party under Florio. Top GOP legislators repeated their call for a repeal of the tax package.

″He just spawned an electoral disaster for his own party,″ GOP State Chairman Bob Franks said.

Florio conceded that he might have pushed his agenda too fast and without regard for opinions outside his administration.

At his news conference, Florio stopped well short of saying he would consider repealing any of his tax legislation. But the governor repeatedly said the school aid formula might be modified and that he would discuss his administration’s policies with Democratic legislative leaders.

″Everything is on the table for people who are responsible and constructive,″ Florio said in response to a question about the school funding formula.

State Senate Minority Leader John Dorsey said Republican leaders have acknowledged the need for higher taxes to increase revenue for poor school districts to comply with a state Supreme Court ruling. But Dorsey disputed the size of the tax increase needed to comply with the ruling.

In its ruling, issued in June, the court said that New Jersey’s system of using property taxes to fund schools was unfair to poor districts and unconstitutional. The state has until July 1991, to devise a plan to improve the funding for disadvantaged schools.

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