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
NJLM - Statement by the Honorable Martin Marks
STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE PETER A. CANTU,
MAYOR, PLAINSBORO AND FIRST VICE PRESIDENT,
NEW JERSEY STATE LEAGUE OF MUNICIPALITIES
PRESENTED TO
THE PROPERTY TAX REFORM CONVENTION TASK FORCE
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 29, 2004
WINANTS HALL
COLLEGE AVENUE CAMPUS
RUTGERS UNIVERSITY
NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ

GOOD MORNING, CHAIRMAN VAN HORN, VICE CHAIR COLE, AND MEMBERS OF THE PROPERTY TAX REFORM CONVENTION TASK FORCE. I AM PETER CANTU, THE MAYOR OF PLAINSBORO, HERE IN MIDDLESEX COUNTY, AND FIRST VICE PRESIDENT OF THE LEAGUE OF MUNICIPALITIES. THANK YOU FOR GIVING ME AND THE LEAGUE ANOTHER OPPORTUNITY TO TESTIFY ON THE IMPORTANT MATTERS YOU MUST DECIDE. AND THANK YOU, ON BEHALF OF ALL THE PEOPLE OF NEW JERSEY, FOR THE TIME YOU'VE GIVEN, FOR THE EXPERTISE YOU'VE BROUGHT, AND FOR THE ENERGY YOU'VE ALREADY EXPENDED ON THIS CRUCIAL ISSUE. I KNOW THAT YOU STILL HAVE A LOT OF WORK TO DO. AND I HOPE THAT MY TESTIMONY MIGHT MAKE IT ALL JUST A LITTLE BIT EASIER.

IT MIGHT HELP TO REMIND YOU THAT, AS YOU PROCEED TO CONSIDER THE SPECIFIC QUESTIONS RELATING TO A SPECIAL PROPERTY TAX CONVENTION, YOU DON'T HAVE TO START FROM SCRATCH. WE WOULD, RESPECTFULLY, SUGGEST THAT YOU CAN BEGIN YOUR DELIBERATIONS WITH LEGISLATION THAT HAS ALREADY PASSED THE ASSEMBLY AND CLEARED THE SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE. YOU ARE NOT, AND SHOULD NOT BE, BOUND TO THE PROVISIONS OF THOSE BILLS. BUT THEY WOULD, WE BELIEVE, BE USEFUL FOR FOCUSSING YOUR DELIBERATIONS.

BOTH BILLS ARE BASED ON A STUDY OF NEW JERSEY'S 1947 AND 1966 CONVENTIONS. AND BOTH HAVE ALREADY WITHSTOOD SOME INTENSE LEGISLATIVE SCRUTINY.

SENATOR ADLER'S BILL, IN SECTIONS 1 THROUGH 4, SETS FORTH A TIME AND PLACE FOR THE CONVENTION'S FIRST MEETING. IT IMPOSES LIMITS ON WHAT THE CONVENTION COULD DO. IT SETS A DATE FOR THE COMPLETION OF THE CONVENTION'S BUSINESS. AND IT PROVIDES FOR THE SUBMISSION OF THE CONVENTION QUESTION TO THE PEOPLE OF NEW JERSEY.

YOU WILL NEED TO CHANGE THE DATES IN THOSE SECTIONS TO REFLECT A 2005-2006 TIME FRAME. WITH THOSE CHANGES, WE SUPPORT THOSE PROVISIONS.

NEXT, SECTIONS 6 THROUGH 16 OF ASSEMBLYMAN ROBERTS' BILL PROVIDE FOR THE ELECTION OF DELEGATES. THEY ASSUME A SPECIAL ELECTION IN MARCH, WITH TWO WINNING CANDIDATES FROM EACH LEGISLATIVE DISTRICT. ASIDE FROM REMOVING THE AGE REQUIREMENT, THE QUALIFICATIONS FOR A CANDIDATE TO THE CONVENTION WOULD MIRROR THOSE FOR A MEMBER OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY. NOMINATION WOULD BE BY A PETITION OF 500 LEGAL SIGNATURES. THOSE PROVISIONS SPECIFY PETITION AND CAMPAIGN FINANCE REQUIREMENTS. THEY PROVIDE DIRECTION TO THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR CERTIFICATION OF CANDIDATES AND TO THE COUNTY CLERKS FOR PREPARATION OF BALLOTS. THE ORDER IN WHICH NAMES ARE PLACED ON THE BALLOT WOULD BE RANDOM AND ROTATED IN EACH ELECTION DISTRICT.

AGAIN, THE DATES IN THESE SECTIONS NEED TO BE CHANGED TO REFLECT 2005-2006 TIME FRAMES. AND, AGAIN, THESE PROVISIONS ASSUME A SPECIAL ELECTION IN MARCH OF 2006. IF YOU DECIDE TO PUT THE CANDIDATES ON THE BALLOT, ALONG WITH THE CONVENTION QUESTION, IN NOVEMBER 2005, THERE WILL NEED TO BE FURTHER REFINEMENTS. AND, WHILE ASSEMBLYMAN ROBERTS' BILL EXCLUDES A LISTING OF PARTY AFFILIATION, SENATOR ADLER'S VERSION REQUIRES POLITICALLY AFFILIATED CANDIDATES TO INCLUDE THAT INFORMATION.

ON THIS ISSUE, WE PREFER THE ASSEMBLY PROVISION OF EXPLICIT NON-PARTISANSHIP. BUT WE WILL SUPPORT THE TASK FORCE, WHICHEVER WAY YOU DECIDE.

WE WOULD, RESPECTFULLY, OPPOSE GOVERNOR FLORIO'S RECOMMENDATION THAT THE CANDIDATES BE NOMINATED BY THE UNANIMOUS CONSENT OF A COMMITTEE CONSISTING OF THE GOVERNOR AND THE LEGISLATIVE LEADERSHIP. THE PEOPLE OF NEW JERSEY HAVE TOO GREAT A STAKE IN THE OUTCOME OF THIS CONVENTION TO BE RELEGATED TO A 'DON'T ADVISE, JUST CONSENT' ROLE IN THE SELECTION OF DELEGATES. OUR CITIZENS NEED, AND DESERVE, TO HAVE AS ACTIVE A ROLE AS POSSIBLE IN THE SELECTION OF THEIR REPRESENTATIVES TO THEIR CONVENTION.

WE WOULD PREFER CANDIDATE ELECTION TO OCCUR AT THE SAME ELECTION AS THE CONVENTION QUESTION; THAT IS, NOVEMBER 8, 2005. THIS WOULD ENSURE THE MAXIMUM NUMBER OF VOTERS. AND IT IS AKIN TO THE METHOD OF SELECTION FOR A CHARTER STUDY COMMISSION, AT THE MUNICIPAL LEVEL. IT WOULD, FURTHER, PERMIT THE CONVENTION TO BEGIN WORK SOONER, IF THE TASK FORCE SEES FOUR MONTHS AS INSUFFICIENT.

THAT IS OUR POSITION, BUT WE ALSO REALIZE THAT A NOVEMBER ELECTION COULD DILUTE VOTER INTEREST IN AND ATTENTION TO THE SPECIAL CONVENTION DELEGATE CANDIDATES, WHILE ALSO POLITICIZING THE PROCESS. WE WILL SUPPORT THE TASK FORCE'S RECOMMENDATION ON THIS, EITHER WAY.

THIS BRINGS US TO A KEY SUBSTANTIVE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE ASSEMBLY AND SENATE BILLS. THE SENATE BILL HAS ONLY THE 80 DELEGATES, ELECTED BY LEGISLATIVE DISTRICT, SERVING AS VOTING MEMBERS OF THE CONVENTION. THE ASSEMBLY BILL SUPPLEMENTS THEM WITH TEN 'SUPER DELEGATES' SELECTED BY A COMMITTEE COMPOSED OF THE CHIEF JUSTICE AND FOUR MEMBERS OF THE NEW JERSEY PRESIDENTS' COUNCIL.

WE SUPPORT THE SENATE VERSION, WHICH STRICTLY HONORS THE PRINCIPLE OF 'ONE PERSON, ONE VOTE.' WE RECOGNIZE, HOWEVER, THAT THE TASK FORCE MIGHT SEE IN THE 'SUPER DELEGATE' PROCESS A MECHANISM TO ENSURE THAT THE DIVERSITY OF NEW JERSEY INTERESTS WITH A STAKE IN THE OUTCOME GET A SECOND CHANCE FOR A 'SEAT AT THE TABLE,' SHOULD THEY, FOR ANY REASON, MISS OUT ON ELECTION.

AGAIN, GIVEN OUR FAITH IN THE PEOPLE, WE PREFER THE SENATE OPTION. BUT, IF YOU DECIDE TO INCLUDE TEN OR FEWER 'SUPER DELEGATES,' GOVERNOR FLORIO'S PROPOSED SELECTION METHOD MIGHT BE WORTH CONSIDERING FOR THESE.

SENATOR ADLER'S BILL, AT SECTIONS 24 AND 25, PROVIDES FOR THE STAFFING OF THE CONVENTION, THE COMPENSATION OF DELEGATES AND FOR THE PREPARATION OF BACKGROUND MATERIALS.

WE SUPPORT ALMOST ALL OF THOSE PROVISIONS. HOWEVER, WE, RESPECTFULLY, FEAR THAT THE LACK OF ANY COMPENSATION, OTHER THAN EXPENSES, MAY LIMIT THE POOL OF PROSPECTIVE DELEGATES. WE HAVE SUGGESTED THAT THE DELEGATES BE COMPENSATED AT THE DAILY AVERAGE RATE RECEIVED BY STATE EMPLOYEES AND THAT THEY BE ENTITLED TO SIMILAR REIMBURSEMENT. WE'D LIKE TO QUALIFY THAT TO PRECLUDE THE POSSIBILITY OF ANY DOUBLE-DIPPING. IF A DELEGATE CONTINUES TO RECEIVE EITHER ANOTHER PUBLIC OR A PRIVATE SECTOR SALARY, WHILE SERVING AT THE CONVENTION, THAT DELEGATE SHOULD ONLY BE ENTITLED TO REIMBURSEMENT OF ACTUAL EXPENSES.

ASSEMBLYMAN ROBERTS' BILL, AT SECTION 18, PROVIDES FOR THE OPENING AND THE ORGANIZATION OF THE CONVENTION. AND WE SUPPORT THOSE PROVISIONS.

SENATOR ADLERS' BILL, AT SECTION 18, PROVIDES FOR THE FILING OF VACANCIES. AND WE SUPPORT THOSE PROVISIONS.

IN SECTIONS 20 THROUGH 24, ASSEMBLYMAN ROBERTS' BILL SPECIFIES THE METHOD OF CONVENTION ACTION. IT SPECIFIES THE FORM OF THE PRESENTATION OF THE CONVENTION'S RECOMMENDATIONS TO THE VOTERS. IT PROVIDES A SAFEGUARD AGAINST THE CONVENTION EXCEEDING ITS MANDATE. AND IT PROVIDES FOR THE EXPRESSION OF THE WILL OF THE VOTERS ON THE CONVENTION'S RECOMMENDATIONS.

WHILE WE GENERALLY SUPPORT ALL OF THIS, THE LANGUAGE COULD EASILY BE READ TO IMPLY A SINGLE QUESTION GOING TO THE VOTERS FOR THEIR APPROVAL. AS WE'VE SAID BEFORE, WITH A SINGLE CAVEAT, WE BELIEVE THAT THE CONVENTION DELEGATES SHOULD BE ABLE TO DECIDE WHETHER TO SUBMIT A SINGLE RECOMMENDATION, OR MULTIPLE RECOMMENDATIONS, TO THE VOTERS.

OUR ONE QUALIFICATION IS BASED ON OUR CORE COMMITMENT TO REFORM OF NEW JERSEY'S OVER-RELIANCE ON THE PROPERTY TAX. NO MATTER HOW MUCH YOU THINK GOVERNMENT SHOULD SPEND; NO MATTER WHERE YOU THINK MONEY IS NEEDED OR MONEY IS WASTED; NO MATTER WHAT THE APPROPRIATE LEVEL OF REVENUE WE NEED TO MEET OUR RESPONSIBILITIES TO THE PEOPLE WHO ELECTED US, THE SIMPLE FACT OF THE MATTER IS THAT THERE HAS TO BE A FAIRER WAY OF RAISING IT.

THAT NEEDS TO BE THE PRIMARY FOCUS OF A CONVENTION DEDICATED TO PROPERTY TAX REFORM. THAT IS MY MAIN GOAL, AND THE CENTRAL AIM OF THE LEAGUE OF MUNICIPALITIES AND ALL THE OTHER EARLY ADVOCATES OF THIS APPROACH. AND THAT IS THE CRYING NEED OF THE PROPERTY TAXPAYERS OF OUR STATE.

ACCORDINGLY, WE AGREE THAT THE CONVENTION CAN HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO LOOK AT CERTAIN SPENDING. BUT WHATEVER SPENDING RECOMMENDATIONS MAY EMERGE, THEY NEED TO GO TO THE VOTERS SEPARATE FROM THE REVENUE RECOMMENDATIONS. IF WE TIE THE TWO TOGETHER, WE INCREASE THE RISK THAT THIS HISTORIC OPPORTUNITY WILL BECOME AN EXERCISE IN FUTILITY. BUT IF WE KEEP THE QUESTIONS SEPARATE, WE INCREASE THE LIKELIHOOD THAT THE PROCESS WILL YIELD A FAIRER REVENUE RAISING SYSTEM FOR THE FUTURE OF THE FAMILIES OF THIS STATE.

BEYOND THE REQUIREMENT THAT REVENUE RECOMMENDATIONS BE PRESENTED TO THE VOTERS SEPARATE FROM SPENDING RECOMMENDATIONS, WE BELIEVE THAT THE CONVENTION SHOULD BE PERMITTED TO DECIDE FOR ITSELF WHETHER EACH SHOULD BE FRAMED AS ONE, OR MORE THAN ONE, QUESTION. NOT KNOWING WHAT THE RECOMMENDATIONS WILL BE, WE SHOULDN'T PREJUDGE HOW THEY SHOULD BE FRAMED FOR THE ELECTORATE.

THE ONLY REVENUE OPTION THAT WE'VE ASKED TO BE TAKEN OFF THE TABLE IS A STATEWIDE EQUALIZED PROPERTY TAX TO FUND EDUCATION. THE SOLUTION TO OUR OVER-DEPENDENCE ON THE PROPERTY TAX IS NOT ANOTHER PROPERTY TAX. ESPECIALLY ONE THAT COULD INCREASE THE PROPERTY TAX BURDEN ON A WIDOW LIVING ON A FIXED INCOME IN A RELATIVELY 'LOW PROPERTY TAX' JURISDICTION; WHILE POTENTIALLY DECREASING THE BURDEN BORNE BY A COUPLE WITH TWO GOOD AND GROWING INCOMES, WHO HAPPEN TO LIVE IN A RELATIVELY 'HIGH PROPERTY TAX' TOWN.

IN SECTIONS 28 AND 29, SENATOR ADLER'S BILL MAKES CERTAIN THAT ANY SPECIAL ELECTIONS COSTS WOULD NOT BE AN UNFUNDED MANDATE ON THE COUNTIES, AND IT PROVIDES FOR THE STATE HOUSE COMMISSION TO ANTICIPATE AND PREPARE FOR ANY CONVENTION NEEDS. WE SUPPORT THOSE PROVISIONS.

NEXT, YOU WILL NEED TO PROVIDE THE CONVENTION WITH THE CONSTITUTIONAL POWER TO PROPOSE, AND THE PEOPLE WITH THE CONSTITUTIONAL POWER TO APPROVE, NECESSARY STATUTORY CHANGES. AS A STARTING POINT, WE, RESPECTFULLY, SUGGEST YOU LOOK TO SENATOR ADLER'S SCR-19.

WITH THE NECESSARY DATE CHANGES, WE THINK THAT RESOLUTION IS READY FOR LEGISLATIVE CONSIDERATION. WE SUPPORT THE SEPARATION OF THE CONSTITUTIONAL ISSUE FROM THE CONVENTION QUESTION, ITSELF. A SIMPLE MAJORITY IN THE LEGISLATURE SHOULD BE SUFFICIENT TO GIVE THE PEOPLE A SAY IN PROPERTY TAX REFORM. WHILE A SUPER MAJORITY IN ONE YEAR, OR A SIMPLE MAJORITY IN TWO SUCCESSIVE YEARS, APPROPRIATELY GUARDS AGAINST FRIVOLOUS CONSTITUTIONAL MANIPULATION.

FINALLY, THERE ARE THOSE WHO BELIEVE THAT THE LEGISLATURE, AND THE LEGISLATURE ALONE, SHOULD HAVE THE RIGHT TO ACCOMPLISH SIGNIFICANT AND LASTING PROPERTY TAX REFORM, EVEN THOUGH THAT HASN'T HAPPENED YET. WE WOULD WELCOME THAT. AND THE INTRODUCTION AND LEGISLATIVE ACTION ON YOUR SPECIAL PROPERTY TAX CONVENTION BILL WILL DO NOTHING TO PRECLUDE THE POSSIBILITY. ALL THAT ACTION ON YOUR CONVENTION BILL WILL DO IS TO SET A TIME LIMIT.

THE LEGISLATURE NOW HAS UNTIL ELECTION DAY 2005 TO CONVINCE THE PEOPLE OF NEW JERSEY THAT THEY DO NOT NEED A SPECIAL CONVENTION TO GET TRUE PROPERTY TAX REFORM. IF THEY CAN DO THAT, THEN THERE WILL BE NO SPECIAL CONVENTION. BUT IF THEY CANNOT, THEN THERE HAS TO BE ONE.

AS MAYOR GARY PASSANANTE HAS SAID BEFORE, "THE PROPERTY TAX CRISIS IS A BURNING FIRE. THE LEGISLATURE IS THE FIRE DEPARTMENT. THEY'VE REPEATEDLY BEEN NOTIFIED OF THE SITUATION, BUT THEY HAVEN'T SHOWED UP YET. FINALLY, WE CAN WAIT NO LONGER. IF THEY ARE NOT GOING TO PUT THE FIRE OUT, THEN THEY SHOULD AT LEAST LET THE PEOPLE OF NEW JERSEY BORROW THE TRUCK."

THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME AND ATTENTION. I'D BE HAPPY TO ANSWER

ANY QUESTIONS.

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
STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE PETER A. CANTU,
MAYOR, PLAINSBORO AND FIRST VICE PRESIDENT,
NEW JERSEY STATE LEAGUE OF MUNICIPALITIES
PRESENTED TO
THE PROPERTY TAX REFORM CONVENTION TASK FORCE
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 29, 2004
WINANTS HALL
COLLEGE AVENUE CAMPUS
RUTGERS UNIVERSITY
NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ

GOOD MORNING, CHAIRMAN VAN HORN, VICE CHAIR COLE, AND MEMBERS OF THE PROPERTY TAX REFORM CONVENTION TASK FORCE. I AM PETER CANTU, THE MAYOR OF PLAINSBORO, HERE IN MIDDLESEX COUNTY, AND FIRST VICE PRESIDENT OF THE LEAGUE OF MUNICIPALITIES. THANK YOU FOR GIVING ME AND THE LEAGUE ANOTHER OPPORTUNITY TO TESTIFY ON THE IMPORTANT MATTERS YOU MUST DECIDE. AND THANK YOU, ON BEHALF OF ALL THE PEOPLE OF NEW JERSEY, FOR THE TIME YOU'VE GIVEN, FOR THE EXPERTISE YOU'VE BROUGHT, AND FOR THE ENERGY YOU'VE ALREADY EXPENDED ON THIS CRUCIAL ISSUE. I KNOW THAT YOU STILL HAVE A LOT OF WORK TO DO. AND I HOPE THAT MY TESTIMONY MIGHT MAKE IT ALL JUST A LITTLE BIT EASIER.

IT MIGHT HELP TO REMIND YOU THAT, AS YOU PROCEED TO CONSIDER THE SPECIFIC QUESTIONS RELATING TO A SPECIAL PROPERTY TAX CONVENTION, YOU DON'T HAVE TO START FROM SCRATCH. WE WOULD, RESPECTFULLY, SUGGEST THAT YOU CAN BEGIN YOUR DELIBERATIONS WITH LEGISLATION THAT HAS ALREADY PASSED THE ASSEMBLY AND CLEARED THE SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE. YOU ARE NOT, AND SHOULD NOT BE, BOUND TO THE PROVISIONS OF THOSE BILLS. BUT THEY WOULD, WE BELIEVE, BE USEFUL FOR FOCUSSING YOUR DELIBERATIONS.

BOTH BILLS ARE BASED ON A STUDY OF NEW JERSEY'S 1947 AND 1966 CONVENTIONS. AND BOTH HAVE ALREADY WITHSTOOD SOME INTENSE LEGISLATIVE SCRUTINY.

SENATOR ADLER'S BILL, IN SECTIONS 1 THROUGH 4, SETS FORTH A TIME AND PLACE FOR THE CONVENTION'S FIRST MEETING. IT IMPOSES LIMITS ON WHAT THE CONVENTION COULD DO. IT SETS A DATE FOR THE COMPLETION OF THE CONVENTION'S BUSINESS. AND IT PROVIDES FOR THE SUBMISSION OF THE CONVENTION QUESTION TO THE PEOPLE OF NEW JERSEY.

YOU WILL NEED TO CHANGE THE DATES IN THOSE SECTIONS TO REFLECT A 2005-2006 TIME FRAME. WITH THOSE CHANGES, WE SUPPORT THOSE PROVISIONS.

NEXT, SECTIONS 6 THROUGH 16 OF ASSEMBLYMAN ROBERTS' BILL PROVIDE FOR THE ELECTION OF DELEGATES. THEY ASSUME A SPECIAL ELECTION IN MARCH, WITH TWO WINNING CANDIDATES FROM EACH LEGISLATIVE DISTRICT. ASIDE FROM REMOVING THE AGE REQUIREMENT, THE QUALIFICATIONS FOR A CANDIDATE TO THE CONVENTION WOULD MIRROR THOSE FOR A MEMBER OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY. NOMINATION WOULD BE BY A PETITION OF 500 LEGAL SIGNATURES. THOSE PROVISIONS SPECIFY PETITION AND CAMPAIGN FINANCE REQUIREMENTS. THEY PROVIDE DIRECTION TO THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR CERTIFICATION OF CANDIDATES AND TO THE COUNTY CLERKS FOR PREPARATION OF BALLOTS. THE ORDER IN WHICH NAMES ARE PLACED ON THE BALLOT WOULD BE RANDOM AND ROTATED IN EACH ELECTION DISTRICT.

AGAIN, THE DATES IN THESE SECTIONS NEED TO BE CHANGED TO REFLECT 2005-2006 TIME FRAMES. AND, AGAIN, THESE PROVISIONS ASSUME A SPECIAL ELECTION IN MARCH OF 2006. IF YOU DECIDE TO PUT THE CANDIDATES ON THE BALLOT, ALONG WITH THE CONVENTION QUESTION, IN NOVEMBER 2005, THERE WILL NEED TO BE FURTHER REFINEMENTS. AND, WHILE ASSEMBLYMAN ROBERTS' BILL EXCLUDES A LISTING OF PARTY AFFILIATION, SENATOR ADLER'S VERSION REQUIRES POLITICALLY AFFILIATED CANDIDATES TO INCLUDE THAT INFORMATION.

ON THIS ISSUE, WE PREFER THE ASSEMBLY PROVISION OF EXPLICIT NON-PARTISANSHIP. BUT WE WILL SUPPORT THE TASK FORCE, WHICHEVER WAY YOU DECIDE.

WE WOULD, RESPECTFULLY, OPPOSE GOVERNOR FLORIO'S RECOMMENDATION THAT THE CANDIDATES BE NOMINATED BY THE UNANIMOUS CONSENT OF A COMMITTEE CONSISTING OF THE GOVERNOR AND THE LEGISLATIVE LEADERSHIP. THE PEOPLE OF NEW JERSEY HAVE TOO GREAT A STAKE IN THE OUTCOME OF THIS CONVENTION TO BE RELEGATED TO A 'DON'T ADVISE, JUST CONSENT' ROLE IN THE SELECTION OF DELEGATES. OUR CITIZENS NEED, AND DESERVE, TO HAVE AS ACTIVE A ROLE AS POSSIBLE IN THE SELECTION OF THEIR REPRESENTATIVES TO THEIR CONVENTION.

WE WOULD PREFER CANDIDATE ELECTION TO OCCUR AT THE SAME ELECTION AS THE CONVENTION QUESTION; THAT IS, NOVEMBER 8, 2005. THIS WOULD ENSURE THE MAXIMUM NUMBER OF VOTERS. AND IT IS AKIN TO THE METHOD OF SELECTION FOR A CHARTER STUDY COMMISSION, AT THE MUNICIPAL LEVEL. IT WOULD, FURTHER, PERMIT THE CONVENTION TO BEGIN WORK SOONER, IF THE TASK FORCE SEES FOUR MONTHS AS INSUFFICIENT.

THAT IS OUR POSITION, BUT WE ALSO REALIZE THAT A NOVEMBER ELECTION COULD DILUTE VOTER INTEREST IN AND ATTENTION TO THE SPECIAL CONVENTION DELEGATE CANDIDATES, WHILE ALSO POLITICIZING THE PROCESS. WE WILL SUPPORT THE TASK FORCE'S RECOMMENDATION ON THIS, EITHER WAY.

THIS BRINGS US TO A KEY SUBSTANTIVE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE ASSEMBLY AND SENATE BILLS. THE SENATE BILL HAS ONLY THE 80 DELEGATES, ELECTED BY LEGISLATIVE DISTRICT, SERVING AS VOTING MEMBERS OF THE CONVENTION. THE ASSEMBLY BILL SUPPLEMENTS THEM WITH TEN 'SUPER DELEGATES' SELECTED BY A COMMITTEE COMPOSED OF THE CHIEF JUSTICE AND FOUR MEMBERS OF THE NEW JERSEY PRESIDENTS' COUNCIL.

WE SUPPORT THE SENATE VERSION, WHICH STRICTLY HONORS THE PRINCIPLE OF 'ONE PERSON, ONE VOTE.' WE RECOGNIZE, HOWEVER, THAT THE TASK FORCE MIGHT SEE IN THE 'SUPER DELEGATE' PROCESS A MECHANISM TO ENSURE THAT THE DIVERSITY OF NEW JERSEY INTERESTS WITH A STAKE IN THE OUTCOME GET A SECOND CHANCE FOR A 'SEAT AT THE TABLE,' SHOULD THEY, FOR ANY REASON, MISS OUT ON ELECTION.

AGAIN, GIVEN OUR FAITH IN THE PEOPLE, WE PREFER THE SENATE OPTION. BUT, IF YOU DECIDE TO INCLUDE TEN OR FEWER 'SUPER DELEGATES,' GOVERNOR FLORIO'S PROPOSED SELECTION METHOD MIGHT BE WORTH CONSIDERING FOR THESE.

SENATOR ADLER'S BILL, AT SECTIONS 24 AND 25, PROVIDES FOR THE STAFFING OF THE CONVENTION, THE COMPENSATION OF DELEGATES AND FOR THE PREPARATION OF BACKGROUND MATERIALS.

WE SUPPORT ALMOST ALL OF THOSE PROVISIONS. HOWEVER, WE, RESPECTFULLY, FEAR THAT THE LACK OF ANY COMPENSATION, OTHER THAN EXPENSES, MAY LIMIT THE POOL OF PROSPECTIVE DELEGATES. WE HAVE SUGGESTED THAT THE DELEGATES BE COMPENSATED AT THE DAILY AVERAGE RATE RECEIVED BY STATE EMPLOYEES AND THAT THEY BE ENTITLED TO SIMILAR REIMBURSEMENT. WE'D LIKE TO QUALIFY THAT TO PRECLUDE THE POSSIBILITY OF ANY DOUBLE-DIPPING. IF A DELEGATE CONTINUES TO RECEIVE EITHER ANOTHER PUBLIC OR A PRIVATE SECTOR SALARY, WHILE SERVING AT THE CONVENTION, THAT DELEGATE SHOULD ONLY BE ENTITLED TO REIMBURSEMENT OF ACTUAL EXPENSES.

ASSEMBLYMAN ROBERTS' BILL, AT SECTION 18, PROVIDES FOR THE OPENING AND THE ORGANIZATION OF THE CONVENTION. AND WE SUPPORT THOSE PROVISIONS.

SENATOR ADLERS' BILL, AT SECTION 18, PROVIDES FOR THE FILING OF VACANCIES. AND WE SUPPORT THOSE PROVISIONS.

IN SECTIONS 20 THROUGH 24, ASSEMBLYMAN ROBERTS' BILL SPECIFIES THE METHOD OF CONVENTION ACTION. IT SPECIFIES THE FORM OF THE PRESENTATION OF THE CONVENTION'S RECOMMENDATIONS TO THE VOTERS. IT PROVIDES A SAFEGUARD AGAINST THE CONVENTION EXCEEDING ITS MANDATE. AND IT PROVIDES FOR THE EXPRESSION OF THE WILL OF THE VOTERS ON THE CONVENTION'S RECOMMENDATIONS.

WHILE WE GENERALLY SUPPORT ALL OF THIS, THE LANGUAGE COULD EASILY BE READ TO IMPLY A SINGLE QUESTION GOING TO THE VOTERS FOR THEIR APPROVAL. AS WE'VE SAID BEFORE, WITH A SINGLE CAVEAT, WE BELIEVE THAT THE CONVENTION DELEGATES SHOULD BE ABLE TO DECIDE WHETHER TO SUBMIT A SINGLE RECOMMENDATION, OR MULTIPLE RECOMMENDATIONS, TO THE VOTERS.

OUR ONE QUALIFICATION IS BASED ON OUR CORE COMMITMENT TO REFORM OF NEW JERSEY'S OVER-RELIANCE ON THE PROPERTY TAX. NO MATTER HOW MUCH YOU THINK GOVERNMENT SHOULD SPEND; NO MATTER WHERE YOU THINK MONEY IS NEEDED OR MONEY IS WASTED; NO MATTER WHAT THE APPROPRIATE LEVEL OF REVENUE WE NEED TO MEET OUR RESPONSIBILITIES TO THE PEOPLE WHO ELECTED US, THE SIMPLE FACT OF THE MATTER IS THAT THERE HAS TO BE A FAIRER WAY OF RAISING IT.

THAT NEEDS TO BE THE PRIMARY FOCUS OF A CONVENTION DEDICATED TO PROPERTY TAX REFORM. THAT IS MY MAIN GOAL, AND THE CENTRAL AIM OF THE LEAGUE OF MUNICIPALITIES AND ALL THE OTHER EARLY ADVOCATES OF THIS APPROACH. AND THAT IS THE CRYING NEED OF THE PROPERTY TAXPAYERS OF OUR STATE.

ACCORDINGLY, WE AGREE THAT THE CONVENTION CAN HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO LOOK AT CERTAIN SPENDING. BUT WHATEVER SPENDING RECOMMENDATIONS MAY EMERGE, THEY NEED TO GO TO THE VOTERS SEPARATE FROM THE REVENUE RECOMMENDATIONS. IF WE TIE THE TWO TOGETHER, WE INCREASE THE RISK THAT THIS HISTORIC OPPORTUNITY WILL BECOME AN EXERCISE IN FUTILITY. BUT IF WE KEEP THE QUESTIONS SEPARATE, WE INCREASE THE LIKELIHOOD THAT THE PROCESS WILL YIELD A FAIRER REVENUE RAISING SYSTEM FOR THE FUTURE OF THE FAMILIES OF THIS STATE.

BEYOND THE REQUIREMENT THAT REVENUE RECOMMENDATIONS BE PRESENTED TO THE VOTERS SEPARATE FROM SPENDING RECOMMENDATIONS, WE BELIEVE THAT THE CONVENTION SHOULD BE PERMITTED TO DECIDE FOR ITSELF WHETHER EACH SHOULD BE FRAMED AS ONE, OR MORE THAN ONE, QUESTION. NOT KNOWING WHAT THE RECOMMENDATIONS WILL BE, WE SHOULDN'T PREJUDGE HOW THEY SHOULD BE FRAMED FOR THE ELECTORATE.

THE ONLY REVENUE OPTION THAT WE'VE ASKED TO BE TAKEN OFF THE TABLE IS A STATEWIDE EQUALIZED PROPERTY TAX TO FUND EDUCATION. THE SOLUTION TO OUR OVER-DEPENDENCE ON THE PROPERTY TAX IS NOT ANOTHER PROPERTY TAX. ESPECIALLY ONE THAT COULD INCREASE THE PROPERTY TAX BURDEN ON A WIDOW LIVING ON A FIXED INCOME IN A RELATIVELY 'LOW PROPERTY TAX' JURISDICTION; WHILE POTENTIALLY DECREASING THE BURDEN BORNE BY A COUPLE WITH TWO GOOD AND GROWING INCOMES, WHO HAPPEN TO LIVE IN A RELATIVELY 'HIGH PROPERTY TAX' TOWN.

IN SECTIONS 28 AND 29, SENATOR ADLER'S BILL MAKES CERTAIN THAT ANY SPECIAL ELECTIONS COSTS WOULD NOT BE AN UNFUNDED MANDATE ON THE COUNTIES, AND IT PROVIDES FOR THE STATE HOUSE COMMISSION TO ANTICIPATE AND PREPARE FOR ANY CONVENTION NEEDS. WE SUPPORT THOSE PROVISIONS.

NEXT, YOU WILL NEED TO PROVIDE THE CONVENTION WITH THE CONSTITUTIONAL POWER TO PROPOSE, AND THE PEOPLE WITH THE CONSTITUTIONAL POWER TO APPROVE, NECESSARY STATUTORY CHANGES. AS A STARTING POINT, WE, RESPECTFULLY, SUGGEST YOU LOOK TO SENATOR ADLER'S SCR-19.

WITH THE NECESSARY DATE CHANGES, WE THINK THAT RESOLUTION IS READY FOR LEGISLATIVE CONSIDERATION. WE SUPPORT THE SEPARATION OF THE CONSTITUTIONAL ISSUE FROM THE CONVENTION QUESTION, ITSELF. A SIMPLE MAJORITY IN THE LEGISLATURE SHOULD BE SUFFICIENT TO GIVE THE PEOPLE A SAY IN PROPERTY TAX REFORM. WHILE A SUPER MAJORITY IN ONE YEAR, OR A SIMPLE MAJORITY IN TWO SUCCESSIVE YEARS, APPROPRIATELY GUARDS AGAINST FRIVOLOUS CONSTITUTIONAL MANIPULATION.

FINALLY, THERE ARE THOSE WHO BELIEVE THAT THE LEGISLATURE, AND THE LEGISLATURE ALONE, SHOULD HAVE THE RIGHT TO ACCOMPLISH SIGNIFICANT AND LASTING PROPERTY TAX REFORM, EVEN THOUGH THAT HASN'T HAPPENED YET. WE WOULD WELCOME THAT. AND THE INTRODUCTION AND LEGISLATIVE ACTION ON YOUR SPECIAL PROPERTY TAX CONVENTION BILL WILL DO NOTHING TO PRECLUDE THE POSSIBILITY. ALL THAT ACTION ON YOUR CONVENTION BILL WILL DO IS TO SET A TIME LIMIT.

THE LEGISLATURE NOW HAS UNTIL ELECTION DAY 2005 TO CONVINCE THE PEOPLE OF NEW JERSEY THAT THEY DO NOT NEED A SPECIAL CONVENTION TO GET TRUE PROPERTY TAX REFORM. IF THEY CAN DO THAT, THEN THERE WILL BE NO SPECIAL CONVENTION. BUT IF THEY CANNOT, THEN THERE HAS TO BE ONE.

AS MAYOR GARY PASSANANTE HAS SAID BEFORE, "THE PROPERTY TAX CRISIS IS A BURNING FIRE. THE LEGISLATURE IS THE FIRE DEPARTMENT. THEY'VE REPEATEDLY BEEN NOTIFIED OF THE SITUATION, BUT THEY HAVEN'T SHOWED UP YET. FINALLY, WE CAN WAIT NO LONGER. IF THEY ARE NOT GOING TO PUT THE FIRE OUT, THEN THEY SHOULD AT LEAST LET THE PEOPLE OF NEW JERSEY BORROW THE TRUCK."

THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME AND ATTENTION. I'D BE HAPPY TO ANSWER

ANY QUESTIONS.

 

 

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