In all that matters in politics and government, communications come between thoughts and actions, between theory and practice, between the ideal and the actual. Often, communications influence the thoughts that, through further communications, result in decisive actions. And sometimes, in order to make change, you're going to have to produce smaller bills.
So it is in the case of property tax reform.
The problem had long been recognized. Among others, reform proposals written by the New Jersey Tax Policy Committee of 1972, the State and Local Expenditure and Revenue Policy Commission of 1985-1988, and the Governor's Property Tax
Commission of 1997 had all been ignored. The paralysis of analysis prevailed. In 2001, the winds of change began to blow. Then Senator Bill Schluter decided to break the log-jam that has prevented good ideas for property tax reform in New Jersey from becoming good laws. His novel and non-partisan approach called for a special convention. The people
of New Jersey would democratically elect the delegates. And, just as the 1966 convention was limited to one issue (then, legislative reapportionment), so this convention would be limited to one issue (now, property taxes).
This session, as in the last, Sen. John Adler and Assembly Majority Leader Joe Roberts were the champions for this effort. Their companion bills, A-1786 and S-263, were the vehicles designed to carry the promise of property tax reform to
The bill creates a task force to
consider and develop
recommendations regarding a
constitutional convention designed to
change the existing property
But there was one problem. The governor was an opponent of the special convention approach.
Thankfully, the governor remained willing to listen to our position on this. In the end, he exhibited the strength and the courage to change his mind. And the change was made manifest in a smaller bill. Another step was interposed between the people and their desire for property tax reform. But that step would move us in the right direction.
In July, Mayor Gary Passanante of Somerdale, League Executive Board Member and Chairman of our Property Tax Reform Review Committee, hosted the governor's signing of A-97. The bill creates a task force to consider and develop recommendations regarding a constitutional convention designed to change the existing property tax system. The signing of this bill is the most significant step toward true and lasting property tax reform in over 30 years.
The 15 member Property Tax Convention Task Force will issue its report by December 31, 2004. This report will contain not only its recommendations but, if appropriate, a draft legislative proposal to implement the convening of the constitutional convention.
The consistent communications of the supporters of the convention approach helped to influence the thoughts that led to decisive action. And change was made with a smaller bill.