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FROM 222 WEST STATE STREET
Bill Dressel, League Executive Director

 

Voters Must Be Free
From Financial Coercion

Bill Dressel

The will of voters should not be compromised by financial pressures from state government. No matter how lofty the goal, the League must stand against such an affront to the democratic process.

  Current legislation designed to encourage shared services also seeks to punish local voters who reject shared services measures that are advocated by a state commission. The legislation, if passed, would withhold tax relief funding based on the outcome of an election. This sets a very dangerous precedent. Throughout our nation’s history patriots fought for the right to vote for their own representatives and to democratically determine their own destiny.

On the positive side, this bill would remove many obstacles that prevent municipalities, counties, school districts and other property tax supported entities from sharing more services. For decades, local governments have shared services in order to reduce costs, without jeopardizing the quality of local programs and services. They would do more, but for the impediments that the legislation looks to remove. We sincerely wish that we could support this initiative. But we cannot.

Our opposition is directed solely at the taxpayer penalty provision in the bill. Under that provision, the voters would be threatened with the diminishment of future Consolidated Municipal Property Tax Relief Aid (CMPTRA) funding, if they do not vote in favor of a shared services recommendation, drafted by a state commission.

We must oppose any proposal which would, on the one hand, allow the voters to express their will on any question; but, on the other hand, inform those voters that they will be punished, if their will does not support the decision of an appointed state commission. As taxpaying citizens of the State of New Jersey, voters must be allowed the unencumbered right to determine the future of their communities. And they must be assured equitable access to the benefits secured by their own tax dollars.

We will continue to urge state legislators to remove this onerous provision. Funding for CMPTRA was promised to our property taxpayers, when those taxpayers were asked to relinquish the rights to locally collect a variety of taxes on businesses that supported local revenues.

Voters have the right to hold their elected representatives accountable; not the other way around

 

Editorial from New Jersey Municipalities, Volume 89, Number 4, April 2012

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