Chris Christie vetoed a millionaire tax hike that would have boosted the state's pension fund. (AP Photo/Mel Evans) Chris Christie vetoed a tax hike on millionaires that would have brought in $1 billion to boost the state’s pension fund. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

New Jersey millionaires are again safe from income tax hikes next year, Gov. Chris Christie (R) declared Monday.

In his latest defense of the state’s top-earning workers, Christie vetoed the Democrat-backed “millionaire tax” from the $34.1 billion budget – the largest in state history.

Christie has already rejected the tax increase three times as governor, but this year’s veto comes as New Jersey confronts a $1 billion budget shortfall due to less-than-expected income tax payments.

“I strongly believe that punitively raising taxes on our already overtaxed residents and small-business owners is not the answer to the state’s short- and long-term fiscal challenges,” Christie wrote in a statement late Monday.

The Republican governor also ruled out the Democrats’ plan to pour $2.25 billion into the state’s dwindling pension fund. That move, which was highly anticipated, will cost taxpayers about $4.2 billion over time, according to the governor’s financial advisers.

Christie has repeatedly assailed the Democratic-controlled legislature for targeting the wealthy to pay for a “bloated, broken pension system.” Despite criticism that the system is near collapse, Christie has maintained it could last another 30 years.

State Senate President Steve Sweeney (D), who helped craft the budget, has said tax increases are necessary to keep the pension system alive and accused Christie of “punishing the middle class.”

Big businesses in the state have long blamed high taxes for forcing the wealthy to flee. A report from Regent Atlantic, a wealth management firm, says that the state’s tax policies lost $5.5 billion in taxable income in 2010 alone. 

The state still ranks second for millionaires per capita – making up about 7.5 percent of all households.