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Bill Dressel, League Executive Director


If Not Now, When?

Bill Dressel

New Jersey citizens deserve to see action on meaningful and sustainable property tax reforms. And they need to see it now. 

  On May 10, both Governor Christie and the Democratic Legislative Leadership Team held separate press conferences to announce major initiatives. Those initiatives could determine the course of legislative action for this month. And that action could affect local officials’ ability to serve their fellow citizens effectively, efficiently and economically, for years to come.

The Legislative Leadership Team, led by Assembly Speaker Oliver and Senate President Sweeney, emphasized the importance of “shared sacrifice” in this year’s State Budget. They indicated that both Houses would act, on May 20, on a proposal that would reinstitute the “millionaires’ tax” surcharge, on New Jerseyans with taxable incomes of at least one million dollars. The projected $637 million would be used (1) to restore property tax rebate checks for more than 600,000 senior homeowners and tenants to last year's levels; and (2) to protect over 105,000 senior and disabled citizens from increased medication co-payments.

Shortly after that revelation, Governor Christie announced the introduction of a 33 bill package of reforms aimed at solving New Jersey’s property tax crisis.
Obviously, some of these reforms are more valuable than others. And some, such as the 2.5 percent hard cap, will need to be carefully crafted, if they are to be workable and fair to those who depend on vital municipal services. But the bigger danger may be that disagreement about the “millionaires’ tax” will create a political impasse and prevent timely action on the critically

important parts of this crucial “toolkit.” There is no reason for the Legislature to delay consideration of these vital bills.

If the state cannot provide local officials with vital, long-term property tax relief reforms in a year when it will, for the third consecutive budget, cut property tax relief funding—and in year when those cuts will exceed $400 million—then when will it ever? Differences regarding state taxing and spending are significant. However, there is no reason for state policy makers to delay action on some of these ‘tools’—and on immediate and significant mandates relief. s

Editorial from New Jersey Municipalities, Volume 87, Number 6, June 2010

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