Thousands rally in NJ against budget cuts

Thousands of New Jerseyans gatheredSaturday near the Statehouse to protest Gov. Chris Christie'sproposed budget cuts. Organizers say members of public employee unions hope a show offorce will sway the state's top politicians to fight Christie. Therally formally started around noon, but crowds started to form by10 a.m., and the site soon became packed with people, most of whomwore red or white shirts touting their unions. Christie has called for workers to accept wage freezes, and he'spushed for them to contribute toward their health benefits. Among those taking part were members of the New Jersey EducationAssociation and the Communications Workers of America. They werejoined by several community and nonprofit groups that will losesome or all their funding if Christie's plans are adopted. Police had blocked off a long stretch of roadway near theStatehouse by early Saturday morning, and nearby parking lots soonwere filled with cars and dozens of buses that brought protestersfrom all parts of the state. Many people marching to the rally carried signs criticizing thegovernor and his positions. One read, "Christie for ex-governor,"while another said, "NJ's biggest loser: Steal from the poor, giveto the rich." The latter was a reference to the so-called "Millionaire'sTax" legislation that the Republican governor vetoed on Thursday,just minutes after it was passed by the Democratic-controlledLegislature. The measure would have restored a higher income tax on thosemaking more than $1 million, an increase Christie said wouldcontinue to drive top earners out of New Jersey. He had long vowedto veto the tax, which was enacted for one year by formerDemocratic Gov. Jon Corzine and expired in December. However, several groups involved in Saturday's rally say theDemocrats' bill did not go far enough: they want lawmakers toreinstate the surcharge on households earning more than $400,000. "Over 100 community organizations have endorsed this rally, andthey're out there with a very clear message to the governor andLegislature: that we've got to stop those cuts and restore the taxon those earning over $400,000 a year," said Bill Holland, aspokesman for Better Choices for New Jersey, one of the groupsorganizing the rally.

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