08/16/2012 12:29 pm ET Updated Aug 16, 2012

Joe Kyrillos, New Jersey Senate Candidate, Open To Tax Hikes

A Republican U.S. Senate candidate with close ties to Mitt Romney and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said that he's open to raising taxes on the rich.

New Jersey state Sen. Joe Kyrillos, who is challenging Sen. Bob Menendez (D), told NorthJersey.com that he will consider raising taxes on the wealthy, a rare position for a Republican candidate, citing a need to raise more revenue. He also said he would not sign the anti-tax pledge from Grover Norquist's group, Americans for Tax Reform.

NorthJersey.com reports:

“I understand over time we’re going to have to raise more revenue,” Kyrillos, a veteran state legislator seeking to oust Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez, said in an interview Tuesday.

Kyrillos said he would not sign the anti-tax pledge promoted by the group Americans for Tax Reform, as has every Republican New Jersey House incumbent and the past two candidates for Senate. Overall, 238 House members and 41 senators, nearly all of them Republicans, have signed the pledge.

“I want to do things differently than we’ve done,” Kyrillos said.

NorthJersey.com reported that Kyrillos did not specify which taxes he'd increase, but noted his support for a tax hike for hedge fund managers.

Earlier this year, Christie indicated that he wanted to get more hedge funds to move to New Jersey, citing a desire to lower their taxes, compared to tax rates in neighboring Connecticut and New York, the home to most hedge funds.

In June, Kyrillos indicated support for extending the Bush-era tax cuts, saying that they were needed for economic growth, PhillyBurbs.com reported.

Kyrillos, a state legislator since the late 1980s, is viewed as Christie's closest ally in the state Senate. He served as chairman of Christie's 2009 gubernatorial campaign and was a member of his transition team. In March, Christie raised $600,000 for Kyrillos' Senate campaign.

Earlier this year, Christie proposed a new income tax plan for the state, which favored tax cuts for the wealthy, according to the nonpartisan New Jersey Office of Legislative Services. Kyrillos indicated that he supported the plan.

A former chairman of the New Jersey GOP, Kyrillos served as New Jersey chair of Romney's presidential campaign during the 2008 Republican primary. In April, Romney attended a $5,000-a-plate fundraiser for Kyrillos in New Jersey horse country.

Kyrillos recently announced his support for Romney's selection of House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) for vice president, praising Ryan's work on economic policy.

Kyrillos, a member of the state Senate Economic Growth Committee, has been focusing on economic issues in his race, conducting a June tour of businesses across New Jersey. NJBiz.com reported in June that Kyrillos indicated he supports "reforming the tax code" and touted Christie's work on economic development, which has included tax cuts in the state.

On his state Senate website, Kyrillos cites as one of his legislative achievements the sponsorship of Christie's "toolkit," which focuses on property tax cuts and new local government tools, including changes to public employee pensions and benefits.

PolitickerNJ.com reported in June that Menendez was leading Kyrillos 47-34 in a Quinnipiac University poll.

UPDATE: 2:30 p.m. -- Kyrillos' statement that he would consider tax hikes for the wealthy is causing dissension within New Jersey's normally tight-knit Republican Party. Republican congressional candidate Eric Beck, who is challenging Rep. Rush Holt (D) for his Princeton-area seat, issued a statement Wednesday saying that while he is voting for Kyrillos, he does not agree with his tax proposal.

I like Joe. I respect him. I will definitely be voting for him as our next United States Senator. But I disagree with his recent statement on raising taxes. We need to talk about growing the economy and creating jobs, not raising taxes," said Beck, a former state director for the Concord Coalition. "Simply raising taxes on the rich will not bring in more money or help fix our economy. The debate being forced by those on the far left about raising taxes versus not raising taxes ignores the real problem facing our country. The real conversation needs to be about comprehensive tax reform. That's how we are going to encourage entrepreneurs and small businesses to start investing and creating jobs.



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