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February 14, 2014

Re:  2014 Municipal Legislative Priorities

Dear Mayor:

With the 216th State Legislature in place, and the Governor’s Budget Address on February 25, we would like to identify the major municipal legislative priorities for 2014.    The League Leadership along with the League Legislative Team, are in regular contact with the Christie Administration, the Senate President, the Assembly Speaker and legislative leaders on both sides of the aisle and have identified the following issues as priorities for 2014.  We now ask for your assistance in advancing the following issues which are identified as priorities in 2014.      Please be sure to engage not only your State Legislators but also your local media, through op-ed or letters to the editors, as well as your taxpayers.

Interest Arbitration (Staff contacts: Mike Cerra or Lori Buckelew)
In less than 6 weeks the 2% cap on interest arbitration awards will expire.  Without any legislative action any contract that expires on or after April 1, 2014 will NOT be subject to the 2% cap on base salary items in the aggregate per year of the contract during the interest arbitration process. Without those limits, arbitrators will be able to impose awards similar to those issued prior to the implementation of the 2% hard cap.  As such, municipalities would still have to comply with the tax levy cap and the appropriations cap without the aid of the 2% hard cap. 

A major legislative priority for us is to convince the Legislature to permanently extend the limitations on arbitration awards, beyond the April 1 ‘sunset’ date.  .  Failure to extend the 2.0% cap on interest arbitration awards will force municipalities throughout the State to further reduce or even eliminate crucial services, personnel, and long-overdue infrastructure improvement projects in order to fund an arbitration award.   For more information and a sample resolution please see our January 21 Dear Mayor Letter.  

Shared Services (Staff contact: Lori Buckelew)
Senate President Sweeney has reintroduced the Shared Service Bill as S-1.  Initially our main objection to S-1 was a fundamental issue respecting our voters and the concept of self-determination.  However, our objection has now expanded to the Civil Service changes.  When initially introduced last session the bill removed or reduced many of the roadblocks that increase the costs of shared services – things like terminal leave, pay, civil service mandates, employee tenure requirements – many of the original provisions in bill could have reduced the costs and hurdles to shared services and consolidations, produced municipal savings and promoted relief for our taxpayers.   But, as introduced S-1/A-1838 seems to discourage shared services from a municipality’s perspective by continuing the hindrances imposed by Civil Service.

The vast majority of Mayors are willing to consider options, but do not want to see their citizens punished, if they disagree with the decisions reached by LUARCC.  They trust the judgment of the people who elect them.  We look forward to working with Senate President Sweeney in addressing our concerns.

Affordable Housing (Staff contact: Mike Cerra)
The Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) is under a February 26 deadline to act on new regulations.   While we await COAH’s actions, we note that the September 2013 State Supreme Court decision also invited the State Legislature to reconsider its laws regarding affordable housing.     Meanwhile, it is of utmost importance to protect the municipal affordable housing trust funds.   The loss of this funding would then result in a financial obligation placed upon our property taxpayers.  A short term regulatory fix would be appropriate, but ultimately there is a need for significant reform to establish a reasonable and achievable program for municipalities.     For more on the Supreme Court decision, please see the League’s October 1, 2013 Dear Mayor letter. 

Energy Receipts Restoration (Staff contact: Jon Moran)
In 2012, with bi-partisan support, both houses of the Legislature passed A-2921/S-1900 (See our letter at www.njslom.org/letters/2012-0629-A2921.html), which would have phased in the restoration of Energy Receipts/CMPTRA property tax relief funding that had been drastically reduced to cover State spending priorities in 2008, 2009 and 2010. That bill was vetoed by the Governor, who cited State budget concerns.  In 2013, the Assembly passed A-2753, which would has phased in the restoration and provided for direct payment of Energy receipts taxes to municipalities. (For greater detail, visit www.njslom.org/letters/2013-0123-energy.html). 

In 2014, we look forward to further consideration of this matter and to ultimate approval of legislation that will assure local property taxpayers compensation for hosting transmission facilities and lines that allow gas and electric energy corporations to serve customers and conduct business in our Garden State.

Verizon Business Personal Property Tax Matter (Staff contact: Jon Moran.)
Assemblyman Ralph Caputo has introduced A-366, which would clarify the responsibility of certain telecommunications corporations to continue to remit Business Personal Property Tax (BPPT) payments to municipalities. Verizon claims an exemption from the BPPT in any municipality where the corporation unilaterally determines, in any given year, that it no longer supplies dial tone and access to at least 51% of a local telephone exchange. For more on this, see /www.njslom.org/letters/2014-0107-Verizon.html.
Once again, we will push for favorable action on this common-sense initiative.

NJ Municipalities Look to Washington for Emergency Assistance (Staff contact: Jon Moran)
Since January 2, Governor Christie has issued five Executive Orders declaring weather-related States of Emergency.  And the winter is not over yet.

No one anticipated the severity of this year's winter, which has exhausted the resources of local governments all around the State. Although we are told that none of these storms, individually, arose to a level that would allow us to access FEMA assistance, the cumulative impact needs to be considered.
League President, Mayor Suzanne Walters of Stone Harbor, and First Vice President, Mayor Gerry Tarantolo of Eatontown, have contacted our U.S. Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker, asking these former Mayors to intercede on our behalf to address this matter.  We will keep you posted. 

Also the Division of Local Government Services is expected to soon issue guidance on the cap exception for extraordinary costs caused by the storms.

To contact your League staff, call 609-695-3481 and: for Michael Cerra, ext. 120 (or mcerra@njslom.com); for Lori Buckelew, ext. 112 (or lbuckelew@njslom.com); for Ed Purcell, ext. 137 (or epurcell@njslom.com); and for Jon Moran, ext. 121 (or jmoran@njslom.com).

Very truly yours,

Suzanne M. Walters, President, NJLM and
Mayor, Stone Harbor

William G. Dressel, Jr.
Executive Director

 

 

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