407 West State Street, Trenton, NJ 08618  (609)695-3481  NJLM logo 
William G. Dressel Jr, Executive Director - Michael J. Darcey, CAE, Asst Executive Director
LEAGUE POSITION

REGARDING A LIMITED CITIZENS' CONVENTION FOR PROPERTY TAX REFORM

The proposal to call for a Citizens' Convention to address the issues of property tax relief in New Jersey might not be the last, but for now it is most certainly the best hope for meaningful and consistent property tax relief.

The call for a Citizens' Convention is focused exclusively on the need to relieve the people of our State from our well-documented over-reliance on property taxes to fund local governments and schools. The property tax is universally regarded as the most regressive source of revenue.

In this Legislative Session, that call has found expression in companion bills, A-5269 and S-2585, along with SCR-132 and ACR-25.

For too long, the people of New Jersey have suffered from our over-reliance on property taxes. For too long, they have seen the problem studied by special commissions denied the power to effect the changes they came to advocate. And for too long, has blame for the burden been laid on the brows of municipal officials, struggling to fund essential services in a system that they did not create and that they cannot change.

The heavy property tax burden in New Jersey makes businesses hesitate about locating in New Jersey. The heavy property tax burden in Nnew Jersey forces senior citizens, who have spent their adult lives building a home in New Jersey and contributing to their communities, to leave their families and friends behind and to start a new life elsewhere. The heavy property tax burden in New Jersey hurts our State and impairs the ability of our local officials to govern effectively and to provide necessary governmental services.

The New Jersey State League of Municipalities convened a Special Committee to study various reform proposals. After thoughtful consideration and considerable discussion, the Committee, then Chaired by Haddonfield Commissioner Jack Tarditi, unanimously agreed on the need for a Citizens' Convention to address this chronic problem. Only a Convention, such as that envisioned in A-5269 and S-2585 along with SCR-132 and ACR-25, could move reform beyond the political logjam that inevitably blocks property tax reform in the Legislature. It is impractical to consider the value of a specific reform plan if that proposal is doomed to inaction. The Citizens' Convention process provides a vehicle that can actually deliver the promise of relief to the people of our State.

That conclusion was endorsed, by acclamation, by the League's Legislative Committee. We are committed to this course, which was originally conceived by Former State Senator Bill Schluter and Senator John Adler. The new effort is now championed in legislation sponsored by Senator Shirley Turner and by Assembly Majority Leader Joe Roberts and Assemblywoman Linda Greenstein.

The sponsors have given convention delegates a specific mandate. Their recommendations will have to meet the following criteria. They must:

  • Be revenue neutral;
  • Eliminate the inequities in the current system and ensure greater uniformity;
  • Reduce the property tax portion of the overall revenue mix;
  • Provide alternatives, which lessen the local government dependence on property taxes; and
  • Provide alternative means, "including possible increases in other taxes," for funding local service
The citizens of this State, if they approve the call for a Convention, are looking for real reform, not just more cosmetic tinkering with the property tax. It should be clear to all that the League will advocate real reform, both during the Convention and afterwards, when the recommendations go to the voters.

Under current law, both Houses of the Legislature must pass A-5269/S-2585, by majority of full membership. Then, Governor must sign the Bill. ("You need 41, 21 and 1.") This must be done by August 30, 2005, so that the Attorney General can arrange to have the ballot question published by September 9, 2005. Meanwhile, SCR-132/ACR-25, which would ask the people to amend the Constitution to allow the Convention to propose, for popular approval, statutory, as well as Constitutional, changes, would need to pass both Houses with three-fifths majorities (48 in the Assembly and 24 in the State Senate) by early August, so that the Secretary of State could arrange for publication of the proposals in our State's newspapers by August 10, 2005. The SCR/ACR would not be subject to gubernatorial consideration, but would go directly to the people.

The question (in A-5269/S-2585) will ask the voters this. "Do you favor the holding of a Constitutional Convention solely for the purpose of preparing for submission to the voters of the State ... amendments to the New Jersey Constitution and revisions to existing law … which, while revenue neutral in their overall impact, eliminate inequities in the current system of property taxation, ensure greater uniformity in the application of property taxes, reduce property taxes as a share of overall public revenue, provide alternatives which lessen the dependence of local government on property taxes, and provide alternative means, other than a Statewide equalized school property tax, including possible increases in other taxes, of funding local government services …?"

If approved by a majority of votes cast on the question, election of delegates would take place on April 18, 2006 . Each Legislative District would elect two delegates. Candidates would be bound by State Campaign Finance laws.

The two candidates receiving the most votes would be the District's delegates.
In addition to the 80 elected delegates, 10 addittional delegates would be selected, two each by the Governor, the Senate President, the Senate Minority Leaader, the Assembly Speaker and the Assembly Minority Leader.

The Convention would convene on May 10, 2006 . The Convention would need to approve, by majority of its members, any recommendations by August 29, 2006. Recommendations would be referred to the Chief Justice, who will appoint a three member committee, composed of retired judges, to ensure conformity of the recommendations with the provisions of the question that brought the Convention into being. Those are the criteria we've already mentioned, twice.

Recommendations accepted by the committee of three would appear on the ballot on November 7, 2006. A proposal receiving a majority of votes cast for and against that proposal would become a part of the Constitution or a statute, as applicable. Any amendments of the statutes approved by the voters would be subject to amendment or repeal by the Legislature and the Governor, in the same manner as any other statute.

It is our frustration, and the frustration of the citizens of New Jersey , with the inability of the Legislature to enact real tax reform that bas forced us to embrace this proposal. 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 have been ignored.

We see no other avenue that will take us to long lasting property tax relief, at long last. We support A-5269 and S-2585, along with SCR-132 and ACR-25. We welcome your consideration.

 

  NJLM - League Position Regarding a Limited Citizens' Convention for Property Tax Reform
407 West State Street, Trenton, NJ 08618  (609)695-3481  NJLM logo 
William G. Dressel Jr, Executive Director - Michael J. Darcey, CAE, Asst Executive Director
LEAGUE POSITION

REGARDING A LIMITED CITIZENS' CONVENTION FOR PROPERTY TAX REFORM

The proposal to call for a Citizens' Convention to address the issues of property tax relief in New Jersey might not be the last, but for now it is most certainly the best hope for meaningful and consistent property tax relief.

The call for a Citizens' Convention is focused exclusively on the need to relieve the people of our State from our well-documented over-reliance on property taxes to fund local governments and schools. The property tax is universally regarded as the most regressive source of revenue.

In this Legislative Session, that call has found expression in companion bills, A-5269 and S-2585, along with SCR-132 and ACR-25.

For too long, the people of New Jersey have suffered from our over-reliance on property taxes. For too long, they have seen the problem studied by special commissions denied the power to effect the changes they came to advocate. And for too long, has blame for the burden been laid on the brows of municipal officials, struggling to fund essential services in a system that they did not create and that they cannot change.

The heavy property tax burden in New Jersey makes businesses hesitate about locating in New Jersey. The heavy property tax burden in Nnew Jersey forces senior citizens, who have spent their adult lives building a home in New Jersey and contributing to their communities, to leave their families and friends behind and to start a new life elsewhere. The heavy property tax burden in New Jersey hurts our State and impairs the ability of our local officials to govern effectively and to provide necessary governmental services.

The New Jersey State League of Municipalities convened a Special Committee to study various reform proposals. After thoughtful consideration and considerable discussion, the Committee, then Chaired by Haddonfield Commissioner Jack Tarditi, unanimously agreed on the need for a Citizens' Convention to address this chronic problem. Only a Convention, such as that envisioned in A-5269 and S-2585 along with SCR-132 and ACR-25, could move reform beyond the political logjam that inevitably blocks property tax reform in the Legislature. It is impractical to consider the value of a specific reform plan if that proposal is doomed to inaction. The Citizens' Convention process provides a vehicle that can actually deliver the promise of relief to the people of our State.

That conclusion was endorsed, by acclamation, by the League's Legislative Committee. We are committed to this course, which was originally conceived by Former State Senator Bill Schluter and Senator John Adler. The new effort is now championed in legislation sponsored by Senator Shirley Turner and by Assembly Majority Leader Joe Roberts and Assemblywoman Linda Greenstein.

The sponsors have given convention delegates a specific mandate. Their recommendations will have to meet the following criteria. They must:

  • Be revenue neutral;
  • Eliminate the inequities in the current system and ensure greater uniformity;
  • Reduce the property tax portion of the overall revenue mix;
  • Provide alternatives, which lessen the local government dependence on property taxes; and
  • Provide alternative means, "including possible increases in other taxes," for funding local service
The citizens of this State, if they approve the call for a Convention, are looking for real reform, not just more cosmetic tinkering with the property tax. It should be clear to all that the League will advocate real reform, both during the Convention and afterwards, when the recommendations go to the voters.

Under current law, both Houses of the Legislature must pass A-5269/S-2585, by majority of full membership. Then, Governor must sign the Bill. ("You need 41, 21 and 1.") This must be done by August 30, 2005, so that the Attorney General can arrange to have the ballot question published by September 9, 2005. Meanwhile, SCR-132/ACR-25, which would ask the people to amend the Constitution to allow the Convention to propose, for popular approval, statutory, as well as Constitutional, changes, would need to pass both Houses with three-fifths majorities (48 in the Assembly and 24 in the State Senate) by early August, so that the Secretary of State could arrange for publication of the proposals in our State's newspapers by August 10, 2005. The SCR/ACR would not be subject to gubernatorial consideration, but would go directly to the people.

The question (in A-5269/S-2585) will ask the voters this. "Do you favor the holding of a Constitutional Convention solely for the purpose of preparing for submission to the voters of the State ... amendments to the New Jersey Constitution and revisions to existing law … which, while revenue neutral in their overall impact, eliminate inequities in the current system of property taxation, ensure greater uniformity in the application of property taxes, reduce property taxes as a share of overall public revenue, provide alternatives which lessen the dependence of local government on property taxes, and provide alternative means, other than a Statewide equalized school property tax, including possible increases in other taxes, of funding local government services …?"

If approved by a majority of votes cast on the question, election of delegates would take place on April 18, 2006 . Each Legislative District would elect two delegates. Candidates would be bound by State Campaign Finance laws.

The two candidates receiving the most votes would be the District's delegates.
In addition to the 80 elected delegates, 10 addittional delegates would be selected, two each by the Governor, the Senate President, the Senate Minority Leaader, the Assembly Speaker and the Assembly Minority Leader.

The Convention would convene on May 10, 2006 . The Convention would need to approve, by majority of its members, any recommendations by August 29, 2006. Recommendations would be referred to the Chief Justice, who will appoint a three member committee, composed of retired judges, to ensure conformity of the recommendations with the provisions of the question that brought the Convention into being. Those are the criteria we've already mentioned, twice.

Recommendations accepted by the committee of three would appear on the ballot on November 7, 2006. A proposal receiving a majority of votes cast for and against that proposal would become a part of the Constitution or a statute, as applicable. Any amendments of the statutes approved by the voters would be subject to amendment or repeal by the Legislature and the Governor, in the same manner as any other statute.

It is our frustration, and the frustration of the citizens of New Jersey , with the inability of the Legislature to enact real tax reform that bas forced us to embrace this proposal. 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 have been ignored.

We see no other avenue that will take us to long lasting property tax relief, at long last. We support A-5269 and S-2585, along with SCR-132 and ACR-25. We welcome your consideration.

 

 

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