Property Taxes On Our Mind

“The single most salient fact of New Jersey politics is the state’s high property taxes … and a populace forever perched on the edge of tax revolt – 3.9 million filers, wedgie’d and wet-willied by the state, screaming for relief.” – Jason Fagone: Is Chris Christie A Mad Man?

Unlike with Alka-Seltzer, relief is not “just a swallow away.” A Monmouth University poll confirms that people “feel wedgie’d and wet-willied by the State,” and are pessimistic about property tax relief. Negotiations between Senate President Sweeney, Assembly Speaker Oliver, and Governor Christie are ongoing but will not produce a panacea. Governor Christie’s approach rather than solving the problem has simply postponed it. As the NY Times pointed out on Saturday, “It is the long-term problems of a handful of states, including California, Illinois, New Jersey and New York, that financial analysts worry about most.”

The Monmouth September poll indicates 66% of respondents find it difficult to pay their property taxes, and 62% say these taxes are the least fair. When asked “How likely is it that the state will enact reforms in the next few years to significantly lower property taxes,” 22% say “likely” and 75% say “unlikely.”

Few people view the “tool kit” as a real solution. Sen. President Sweeney has said, “The point is (the tool kit) is not going to be the end-all.” Local officials say they “are angry the state’s most powerful elected officials rushed into a 2 percent property tax cap without giving them the tools to curtail taxes first.” As the Asbury Park Press, which supports the Tool Kit, says, “Christie never claimed his tool kit would usher in a low-tax utopia. He is simply trying to make the state more bearable for taxpayers.” More bearable is nice but not a soluton.

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Never one afraid of confrontation, Governor Christie in the budget reduced School Aid by $829 million, municipal aid by $446 million and Property Tax Relief by $806 million, driving local taxes higher, and then agreed to a 2% cap with only a hodge-podge “tool kit” proposal to insulate against chaos. He then proceeded on series of long and short-term borrowing plans including an additional $1.5 billion to prop up the Transportation Trust Fund without increasing the 14.5 cent gas tax. Along with other borrowings and not paying into the Pension Fund, he made the State’s overall finances more precarious.

Over many years and to no avail there have been numerous proposals including those of of the 1986 State Study Commission, 2006 NJ Association of Realtors, and NJ Policy Perspectives. Nonetheless, Christie who embraced this issue has yet to produce a coherent property tax plan. Possible solutions have been masked by his whirl of actions and demands which only postpone real relief and increase unfair valuations. What was needed was a careful, comprehensive approach in collaboration with the legislature. He failed to make “shared services” easier to implement and to establish up-front criteria to guide a cap. He put the cart before the horse, raised his voice loudly, and now complains that the cart is not moving. Pass the Alka-Seltzer but don’t expect relief.

Comment (1)

  1. cwood123

    But many aspects of the tool kit will really help homeowners and municipalities.

    I applaud Christie’s ideas and think they are a good start.  If only the legislature would view this as a priority which clearly it isn’t.


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