The history of New Jersey municipal property tax relief funding legislation is one of guarantees made amid a
fanfare of press releases, only to be abandoned a budget cycle or two later. This year’s state budget problems have caused the Governor to recommend further cuts, despite statutory requirements for increments.
Don’t take this as an indictment of our current state elected officials. If the polls were right at the time, the primary concern of the
voters who elected them was property tax relief. But other serious problems have arisen since that time.
Throughout state budget deliberations, we will press our case
for property tax relief funding. But we need to realistically recognize that we won’t
be receiving sufficient state controlled property tax relief revenues to help us balance
But that doesn’t mean the state can’t help. There are two sides to the budget equation. And sitting on the scales, opposite revenues, are a great and weighty lump of state
mandated expenditures. Forced by state law to fund these mandates, local elected
officials have long needed to look elsewhere for savings.
Last year, Hardyston Township Manager Marianne Smith developed a list of costly mandates at the request of Assembly Budget Committee Chairman Lou Greenwald.
This year, League President Tim McDonough asked us to go back to that list and to
focus on mandates that could be relaxed or eliminated, in the light of both state and local revenue short-falls.
As a run-up to the Governor’s March 10 budget address to the Legislature,
we launched a statewide campaign for state mandates relief. The 1995 amendment to the state Constitution limited the ability of the state’s Legislative and Executive branches to impose new mandates. We saw the importance of that amendment last year, when the state tried to impose new costs on municipalities served by State Police rural patrols. But as effective as the amendment has been in limiting new mandates, it left us saddled with decades worth of old ones.
And so this year, we’re asking the Legislature and the Governor for meaningful
mandates relief. It won’t cost the state a penny. And it will help us to pinch some.
Editorial from New Jersey
Municipalities, Volume 86, Number 4, April 2009