Just hours ago, Assembly Republican Leader Alex DeCroce sent a letter to Governor Corzine warning that the tax cut legislation passed in the Assembly yesterday may be unconstitutional. The reason cited is that it supposedly violates the “uniformity clause” because it is a multi-tiered system that provides varying levels of tax credits based on income (emphasis mine):
Today, I have received a legal analysis that the property tax relief bill (A-1) approved by the General Assembly on January 29, 2006 with bipartisan support is subject to challenge by taxpayers because it runs afoul of the State Constitution’s “uniformity clause” (Article VIII, Section I, Paragraph 1).
A-1 proposes a multi-tiered system of property tax credits for homeowners based on their personal income. Middle income families earning more than $100,000 would be ineligible for maximum credits because they are deemed too wealthy and not deserving of maximum credits. A family earning more than $250,000 a year would not be eligible for any property tax credit at all.
The “uniformity clause,” as interpreted by two state Attorneys General in written legal opinions, requires that all homeowners be treated equally under the property tax laws. Since A-1 would treat homeowners falling within different income classifications differently – and provide reduced credits to middle class families and exclude many homeowners entirely – I believe the bill is constitutionally defective.
Astonishingly, in the paragraphs that follow, DeCroce proposes to fix the current 20%-15%-10% system with his own multi-tiered 30%-20% system!
…they must amend A-1 to provide the same tax credit to every homeowner regardless of income.
[…] We urge you to seriously consider our proposal to provide a 30 percent property tax credit for all households making $200,000 or less a year, 20 percent tax credit for everyone else…
And the contradictions continue! Though the letter stressed there is no lawsuit planned, that sounds very different from what he said (mp3) during a presser earlier in the day:
“Let me say that if they stand by this, someone’s going to be in court on this and we’ll find out what the answer truly is.”
This has become a giant PR disaster for the GOP. Even as they try to backtrack and recover from their tactical mistakes, the blatant hypocrisy exposes their real motivation. If they were really concerned about the constitutionality they wouldn’t have offered an alternative directly contradicting their objection to the original legislation.