measure on tax reform convention
By Tom Hester
A week after
signing a bill to beef up property tax rebates by raising
taxes on rich residents, Gov. James E. McGreevey enacted
legislation yesterday to move ahead with a special constitutional
convention that he said could bring a long-term solution
to high property taxes.
establishes a 15-member task force that will recommend to
the governor and Legislature if a convention should be held
and how delegates would be selected, and identify the issues.
The task force would report its recommendation to state
officials by Dec. 31.
asking voters if they want a convention could appear on
the ballot in November 2005 and delegates could be elected
in a special election in April 2006. A convention would
follow, and voters would be asked to vote on any recommendations
in the November 2006 election. The task force will have
a budget of $250,000.
"We have an
historic, once-in-a-generation opportunity to solve this problem"
of property taxes, Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Roberts
(D-Camden) told an audience of more that 135 public officials
and citizens who gathered under a tent in Somerdale, Camden
County, to watch McGreevey sign the measure.
initially cool to the idea of a convention but eventually
endorsed it as the idea became a major issue in the Legislature.
"It is clear to me that while the convention may not
be the only way to bring about fundamental (property tax)
reform, it is the best way," the governor said.
repair and reconstruct the faulty foundation on which New
Jersey's property tax system rests," McGreevey added.
"By holding a convention, we will take the property
tax debate out of Trenton and put it in the hands of the
voters, where it belongs."
also gives the task force the ability to recommend against
a convention, but Roberts said that would not happen. "I've
invested five years of my life in this," he said. "If
this doesn't happen, it will be over my dead body. Not that
I would want it to come to that."
William G. Dressel,
director of the New Jersey State of Municipalities, said
a tax convention has been talked about for at least three
"This is the first positive, concrete action by any
governor and the Legislature to seriously consider a constitutional
convention as a vehicle for achieving true property tax
reform," he said. "We wholeheartedly embrace it.
We accept this as an indication of support for the convention."
will have the power to appoint nine members to the task
force and the Legislature six members. The appointees will
include members of the public.