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The Public Weighs in on Tax Plan
"Caps and Credits"
Amount to a Whole Lot of Nothing"



 

More than six months ago, the New Jersey legislature embarked on a “special session” to provide comprehensive relief and reform of the state’s burdensome property tax system. In February, they approved a package of bills that are now awaiting Governor Corzine’s signature. The public’s reaction: “Uh, you’re kidding, right?”

The latest Monmouth University/ Gannett New Jersey Poll found that more than 3-in-4 New Jerseyans have been following the legislative process. Among this group, more residents are dissatisfied (49 percent) than satisfied (37 percent) with the “Caps and Credits” plan passed by the Legislature. Democrats, Republicans and independents alike are more likely to be dissatisfied rather than satisfied with the final proposal.

Credits
Only 1-in-10 homeowners (10 percent) believes that they will see significant savings from the “credits” portion of the legislation. This opinion holds even among those who will stand to benefit the most – homeowners earning less than $100,000. Nearly half of homeowners (47 percent) say they will see a small savings from this program, but a sizable 39 percent expect to see no benefit in the end. Among renters – who stand to get a nominal increase in their rebates – only 40 percent expect to gain any benefit at all.

Caps
On the “caps” side of the equation, New Jerseyans are not optimistic that the legislation does anything to actually reform the property tax system. Only 12 percent expect that the current plan will bring long-term relief while about half (47 percent) say that any savings to the taxpayer will disappear fairly quickly. Another 34 percent feel that by the time the plan gets implemented in the coming year there won’t even be any short-term relief for the state’s homeowners.

“For most New Jerseyans, the whole process has been much ado about nothing. In short, they think both the legislature and the governor dropped the ball,” commented Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.

The poll found few respondents who agreed with legislative leaders’ claims that this plan was the product of necessary compromises. Only 31 percent feel it was probably the best deal the state could get given all the issues involved. A majority of 56 percent, on the other hand, believes the legislature could have accomplished a lot more but caved in to special interests. The latter view is shared by majorities of Democrats, Republicans and independents alike.

Poll results indicate that the group most dissatisfied with both the governor and the Legislature’s performance on this issue are homeowners who earn below $50,000 a year.

Murray remarked, “While this group would get the highest possible relief under the plan, it’s still not enough to make a dent in their living expenses. These are the folks who live paycheck to paycheck, and they will continue to just scrape by even with the proposed credits.”

OPINION OF TARGET GROUPS      HOMEOWNERS BY INCOME:
  <$50K             $50-100K              >$100K        
Satisfied with legislature’s plan:
    31%                   40%                     38%
Believe they will see significant savings:
    11%                   11%                     10%
Feel legislature gave in to special interests:
    63%                   50%                     52%
Feel governor showed enough leadership:
    27%                   35%                     39%

Support for Constitutional Convention
Back in October, the Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey Poll found that 66 percent of residents would support a constitutional convention to deal with property taxes if the legislature did not pass “significant reform.” The current poll indicates that the “Caps and Credits” package does not meet this threshold. At this time, 62 percent feel that such a convention should be held to deal with this issue. Only 28 percent oppose holding a convention now and 10 percent are unsure.

Other poll results show that more residents disapprove (40 percent) rather than approve (35 percent) of the job the state Legislature is doing. However, Governor Corzine does nominally better, getting a 44 percent to 34 percent positive job approval rating. The governor’s job rating is largely unchanged from September 2006.

While the governor’s approval rating has held steady, his handling of the property tax issue has not engendered a great deal of public confidence that he will fight for the average taxpayer. During these sessions, the governor said that he, rather than the Legislature, would deal with reforms to the public health and retirement benefits system when state workers union contracts are up for renegotiation this year. New Jerseyans are not optimistic that much reform will come from this process either. Only 1-in-3 believe that Corzine will be a strong negotiator on behalf of the New Jersey taxpayer, compared to 49 percent who believe he will give the unions too many concessions in upcoming contract talks.

The Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey Poll was conducted by telephone with 801 New Jersey adults from February 8-12, 2007. This sample has a margin of error of + 3.5 percent. Most of the findings in this release are based on a sub-sample of 654 residents who are aware of the property tax legislation. These results have a + 3.8 percent margin of error. The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute and originally published by the Gannett New Jersey newspaper group (Asbury Park Press, Courier-Post, Courier News, Daily Journal, Daily Record, Home News Tribune, and Ocean County Observer).


Article published in New Jersey Muni

The Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey Poll was conducted by telephone with 801 New Jersey adults from February 8-12, 2007. This sample has a margin of error of + 3.5 percent. Most of the findings in this release are based on a sub-sample of 654 residents who are aware of the property tax legislation. These results have a + 3.8 percent margin of error. The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute and originally published by the Gannett New Jersey newspaper group (Asbury Park Press, Courier-Post, Courier News, Daily Journal, Daily Record, Home News Tribune, and Ocean County Observer).


Article published in New Jersey Municipalities Magazine, April 2007

 

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