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 BY THE HONORABLE JO-ANNE B. SCHUBERT,
MAYOR OF SOUTH BOUND BROOK,
IMMEDIATE PAST PRESIDENT,
NJ LEAGUE OF MUNICIPALITIES' EXECUTIVE BOARD,
CONCERNING A-5269 AND ACR-25,
REGADING A CITIZENS' SPECIAL CONVENTION FOR
PROPERTY TAX REFORM,
BEFORE THE ASSEMBLY STATE GOVERNMENT COMMITTEE,
THURSDAY, JANUARY 13, TRENTON, NJ

Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee. I am Jo-Anne Schubert, Mayor of South Bound Brook. I am the Immediate Past President of the League of Municipalities. I also served on the Property Tax Convention Task Force.

As any resident of New Jersey will tell you, New Jersey needs property tax reform now. In fact, it is long past due. We have needed it for decades. The Legislature has had more than ample time to address the property tax crisis. It has not. So, those of us who truly support reform have come to embrace the call for a special property tax reform convention. A convention composed of delegates elected by the people who pay the taxes, and focused solely on proposing meaningful reforms. Those same property tax burdened citizens would then have to ratify those proposals by allowing all New Jersey voters the ability to have a voice on those reforms.

The opponents of such a convention and the defenders of the status quo base their arguments on a misguided faith in the Legislature. With all due respect, the Legislature has carefully avoided any substantive discussion of reform for decades; why does anyone think they will do it now? The opponents of the convention also seem to have a misplaced fear that the convention might actually recommend, and the people of New Jersey might actually ratify, measures that could hurt the very people most in need of property tax reform. I think we should give the people of this state more credit than that. We should allow them to do the job that has yet to be done.

Despite decades of inaction, incredibly, there are those who still believe that the Legislature, and the Legislature alone, should have the right to accomplish significant and lasting property tax reform. Quite honestly, I have said it over and over again. We would welcome that. But don't let anybody tell you that that is the surest route to true reform. And don't let anybody tell you that movement towards a property tax convention precludes the possibility of Legislative progress.
The introduction and legislative action on a special property tax convention bill will do nothing to prevent the unanticipated, unprecedented and highly unlikely prospect that the Legislature just might decide, at long last, to lance this festering sore on the body politic. All action on a convention bill will do is set a time limit.

Once that time limit is set, the Legislature themselves can end the need for the convention. They can do what I asked them to do last year during the budget hearings. They can address this issue, once and for all. They can work together in a bi-partisan manner much the same way we on the Task Force did. They can do what is right for the people of New Jersey, those that elected them on faith and are looking to them to do the right thing. They can solve this crisis now, rather than passing it off for someone else to do later.

The Legislature will have 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 the Legislature solves the problem, there will be no need for a special convention. If they cannot, then there has to be one.

Public support for this initiative is evident. Late in 2002, Quinnipiac University asked New Jerseyans to name their most hated tax. A whopping 54 percent cited the property tax. Furthermore, although 61 percent would rather see services cut than see state taxes rise; 74 percent would rather see an increase in state sales or income taxes, than face another property tax hike. The Star Ledger of Newark developed a "tax trauma index" to measure the relative burden shouldered by property taxpayers throughout the state. Bottom line - property tax trauma is up in New Jersey. Then, a Star Ledger/Eagleton-Rutgers poll found that 8 out of 10 Garden Staters support a special property tax reform convention. Finally, just last month, 91% of the mayors who responded to the League's annual policy survey supported a special citizens' convention with the limited purpose of addressing the property tax crisis. As a Mayor, I can tell you the most common complaint I hear from my residents is Property Taxes. And I spend the majority of my time trying to find ways to save taxes and still provide the much needed services that my constituents expect. We, as Mayors are required to live within a CAP on our expenses. However, those at the state are not. It is simply unfair and MUST be addressed.

Like Mayor Passanante, I had the honor to serve on the Task Force. As I said then, and as I still believe now: 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. We can no longer continue to drive our residents out of the state. Eventually, New Jersey will become the land of the wealthy, because they are the only people who will be able to afford to live here. Is this what we want? I think not. We must make taxation fair in New Jersey. And we must do it now.

That needs to be the primary focus of a special 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.

As this Committee considers each issue that needs to be addressed, we urge you to ask yourselves this question. "Which approach will increase the likelihood that the process will yield a fairer revenue system for the future of the families of New Jersey? And which will increase the risk that we will let this historic opportunity slip away?"

The League has always supported a limited Convention. The convention bills that we have supported in the past would have taken "Abbott" off the table. They would have taken "Mount Laurel" off the table. And they would have taken a state-wide equalized property tax off the table. Those bills looked for 'revenue neutral' solutions to the property tax crisis. We supported those bills and we can support A-5269, if it is amended with regards to state-wide equalized property taxes to fund our public schools. That is the greatest portion of our property tax bill and that needs to be funded in a much fairer way.

Throughout this process, the bottom line is progress toward giving the people of New Jersey a chance to free themselves from unfair, inequitable and onerous property taxes.

As Mayor Passanante has put it, "The property tax crisis is a burning fire. The Legislature is the Fire Department. It has repeatedly been notified of the situation, but it hasn't shown up yet. Finally, we can wait no longer. If the Legislature is not going to put the fire out, then it should at least let the people of New Jersey borrow the truck."

Thank you for your time and considerate attention.

 

 

NJLM - Statement by the Honorable Jo-Anne B. Schubert
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 BY THE HONORABLE JO-ANNE B. SCHUBERT,
MAYOR OF SOUTH BOUND BROOK,
IMMEDIATE PAST PRESIDENT,
NJ LEAGUE OF MUNICIPALITIES' EXECUTIVE BOARD,
CONCERNING A-5269 AND ACR-25,
REGADING A CITIZENS' SPECIAL CONVENTION FOR
PROPERTY TAX REFORM,
BEFORE THE ASSEMBLY STATE GOVERNMENT COMMITTEE,
THURSDAY, JANUARY 13, TRENTON, NJ

Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee. I am Jo-Anne Schubert, Mayor of South Bound Brook. I am the Immediate Past President of the League of Municipalities. I also served on the Property Tax Convention Task Force.

As any resident of New Jersey will tell you, New Jersey needs property tax reform now. In fact, it is long past due. We have needed it for decades. The Legislature has had more than ample time to address the property tax crisis. It has not. So, those of us who truly support reform have come to embrace the call for a special property tax reform convention. A convention composed of delegates elected by the people who pay the taxes, and focused solely on proposing meaningful reforms. Those same property tax burdened citizens would then have to ratify those proposals by allowing all New Jersey voters the ability to have a voice on those reforms.

The opponents of such a convention and the defenders of the status quo base their arguments on a misguided faith in the Legislature. With all due respect, the Legislature has carefully avoided any substantive discussion of reform for decades; why does anyone think they will do it now? The opponents of the convention also seem to have a misplaced fear that the convention might actually recommend, and the people of New Jersey might actually ratify, measures that could hurt the very people most in need of property tax reform. I think we should give the people of this state more credit than that. We should allow them to do the job that has yet to be done.

Despite decades of inaction, incredibly, there are those who still believe that the Legislature, and the Legislature alone, should have the right to accomplish significant and lasting property tax reform. Quite honestly, I have said it over and over again. We would welcome that. But don't let anybody tell you that that is the surest route to true reform. And don't let anybody tell you that movement towards a property tax convention precludes the possibility of Legislative progress.
The introduction and legislative action on a special property tax convention bill will do nothing to prevent the unanticipated, unprecedented and highly unlikely prospect that the Legislature just might decide, at long last, to lance this festering sore on the body politic. All action on a convention bill will do is set a time limit.

Once that time limit is set, the Legislature themselves can end the need for the convention. They can do what I asked them to do last year during the budget hearings. They can address this issue, once and for all. They can work together in a bi-partisan manner much the same way we on the Task Force did. They can do what is right for the people of New Jersey, those that elected them on faith and are looking to them to do the right thing. They can solve this crisis now, rather than passing it off for someone else to do later.

The Legislature will have 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 the Legislature solves the problem, there will be no need for a special convention. If they cannot, then there has to be one.

Public support for this initiative is evident. Late in 2002, Quinnipiac University asked New Jerseyans to name their most hated tax. A whopping 54 percent cited the property tax. Furthermore, although 61 percent would rather see services cut than see state taxes rise; 74 percent would rather see an increase in state sales or income taxes, than face another property tax hike. The Star Ledger of Newark developed a "tax trauma index" to measure the relative burden shouldered by property taxpayers throughout the state. Bottom line - property tax trauma is up in New Jersey. Then, a Star Ledger/Eagleton-Rutgers poll found that 8 out of 10 Garden Staters support a special property tax reform convention. Finally, just last month, 91% of the mayors who responded to the League's annual policy survey supported a special citizens' convention with the limited purpose of addressing the property tax crisis. As a Mayor, I can tell you the most common complaint I hear from my residents is Property Taxes. And I spend the majority of my time trying to find ways to save taxes and still provide the much needed services that my constituents expect. We, as Mayors are required to live within a CAP on our expenses. However, those at the state are not. It is simply unfair and MUST be addressed.

Like Mayor Passanante, I had the honor to serve on the Task Force. As I said then, and as I still believe now: 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. We can no longer continue to drive our residents out of the state. Eventually, New Jersey will become the land of the wealthy, because they are the only people who will be able to afford to live here. Is this what we want? I think not. We must make taxation fair in New Jersey. And we must do it now.

That needs to be the primary focus of a special 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.

As this Committee considers each issue that needs to be addressed, we urge you to ask yourselves this question. "Which approach will increase the likelihood that the process will yield a fairer revenue system for the future of the families of New Jersey? And which will increase the risk that we will let this historic opportunity slip away?"

The League has always supported a limited Convention. The convention bills that we have supported in the past would have taken "Abbott" off the table. They would have taken "Mount Laurel" off the table. And they would have taken a state-wide equalized property tax off the table. Those bills looked for 'revenue neutral' solutions to the property tax crisis. We supported those bills and we can support A-5269, if it is amended with regards to state-wide equalized property taxes to fund our public schools. That is the greatest portion of our property tax bill and that needs to be funded in a much fairer way.

Throughout this process, the bottom line is progress toward giving the people of New Jersey a chance to free themselves from unfair, inequitable and onerous property taxes.

As Mayor Passanante has put it, "The property tax crisis is a burning fire. The Legislature is the Fire Department. It has repeatedly been notified of the situation, but it hasn't shown up yet. Finally, we can wait no longer. If the Legislature is not going to put the fire out, then it should at least let the people of New Jersey borrow the truck."

Thank you for your time and considerate attention.

 

 

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