Tag Archive: cap 2.5

Deal Or No Deal

This Saturday, Governor Christie and Senate President Steve Sweeney held a press conference to announce a deal on a property tax cap.  The agreement is a 2% cap on property tax increases with only four exceptions: (i) rising pension and health care costs, (ii) debt payments, (iii) rising school enrollment and (iv) states of emergency.

Two facts quickly emerged from this press conference.  First, Assembly President Sheila Oliver is not on board yet. This is a deal between the Governor and the Senate President only.

Second, this compromise allows municipalities to increase property taxes for pension and health care costs.  Which is a big win for public employee unions, who are now free to negotiate contractual increases without the limitation imposed by a hard cap.  Which is why everyone’s attention now turns to the “tool kit,” which will strengthen the hand of municipalities in negotiating with unions.

So it seems that Chris Christie may have fallen into exactly the trap forseen by the Wall Street Journal on its editorial page this weekend:

“One temptation for Mr. Christie would be to settle for too little reform when his political capital is at its highest, which was Arnold Schwarzenegger’s original mistake in California.  When Arnold proposed more far-reaching reforms later, the public mood had changed and he was routed.  Mr. Christie’s best reform opportunity is now, and taxpayers everywhere should hope he succeeds.”

So what we have is an odd form of political theatre.  The Governor wanted to announce a deal before people started showing up for 4th of July fireworks that had been cancelled.  So we have a cap that has a hole big enough to drive a union contract through and a deal with half of the legislature.

What this means for the Governor who was building a national reputation as a union buster, or for the taxpayers, remains to be seen.  But, from my viewpoint, it is a shocking reversal of position for the Governor, who has been making teachers the scapegoat for the State’s fiscal problems for some time now.  Without a hard cap, the “tool kit” better include a sledgehammer.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Governor was once again faced with a revolt from within his own party.  And if I were Sheila Oliver I would hold out for $7.5 million for women’s health before agreeing to anything.

Under the Dome: Special Session Budget hearings

State_house_trentonThey will continue their busy to start July in Trenton today. As Day 2 of the special session begins, both the Assembly and Senate Budget Committees will get started. Over in the Senate, it will be an early wake up call at 8am:

The Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee will meet Friday to set a schedule for its work on property tax reform. The committee expects to meet through the summer to evaluate various proposals to control property taxes.

And in the Assembly, they will get started a little later at 10am with a hearing on the property tax increase caps. Various state officials have been invited to testify and the committee also will entertain testimony from members of the general public.

In addition, lawmakers will hold a news conference continue to urge Gov. Chris Christie to act on legislation to restore the $7.5 million in cuts for women’s health programs. You can hear the audio streamed live of the hearings here and NJN will be carrying it all live. I’ve embeded their feed:


Special Session Day 1

There was a good deal of activity in Trenton today as the Governor called the Legislature in for a special session. At the beginning of the day, Governor Christie was demanding a 2.5% constitutional cap and the Senate wanted him to address them separately. By the end of the day, the Senate showed up for the Governor’s speech and Christie was ready to go along with a statutory cap with less exemptions than Democrats proposed, rather than the constitutional cap. You can see 6 ABC’s report on the day:

So as the day ended, the question was what’s next? Sweeney said that the Senate and Assembly will hold budget hearings tomorrow, but he would not call the full body into session:

“We’re going to work very hard through the summer – through the summer, all through the summer. We’re looking at every Thursday being in, bringing experts in, talking about real policy issues and how we can make New Jersey better,” Sweeney said.

“We fulfilled our requirement constitutionally by being here, and he addressed us. The budget committee will be here tomorrow. If he wants, I’ll be here Saturday, Sunday. I don’t have a life. Honestly, I’ll hang out with him in Trenton if he wants. But we’re not calling our full Senate in over the weekend,” Sweeney said.

In fact, Sweeney tried to one up the Governor saying they could have a cap even lower than 2.5%. But that wasn’t near enough and left the Governor threatening to sue:

“We believe the governor’s constitutional authority means when he calls a session of the Legislature, that means the full Legislature. And he can do that as many days as he sees fit,” Drewniak said.

“We would hate at this stage, given that we recognize the importance of the spirit of cooperation, to have to bring this to the attention of the attorney general and sue the Legislature to get them to meet their obligation,” Drewniak said.

You can read the full text of the Governor’s address here and see the speech here. I still don’t think the cap is the answer. It’s like putting a band aid on top of an infection, you still need to treat the cause of the problem in the first place. They are just passing responsibility for the tough decisions onto local officials and providing themselves cover so they don’t get the blame.

Christie calls special session, to which Democrats say he can call all he wants

Now that they have passed the budget, things are heating up over Governor Christie’s 2.5% cap on year over year property tax increases:

“New Jersey residents have waited far too long for property tax relief.  New Jersey families pay an average $7,281 in property taxes, up 70 percent in just 10 years,” said Governor Christie.  “The time to act is now.  We can no longer afford to wait for real, sustainable property tax relief.  That is why I have determined that the public interest requires this special session.”

Acting under his authority in Article V, Section 1, Paragraph 12 and Article IV, Section 1, Paragraph 4 of the New Jersey Constitution, Governor Christie notified the leadership of the Senate and Assembly tonight in a letter that a Special Joint Session of the Legislature should be convened this Thursday, July 1, 2010 at 10:00 a.m.

Christie also wants them the legislature to consider his proposals for the 33 bills in his toolkit. Senator Sweeney thinks he may call them in every day leading up until July 7, but he says it won’t change anything.

Sweeney said lawmakers are willing to have a hearing on Christie’s proposal, but “it’s not going to be on the ballot this year, because it’s not realistic, nor reasonable, nor does it do anything for this year’s budget.”

And then we got this reaction from Joe Cryan:

“He can’t force us and won’t force us because we won’t be voting on anything,” Cryan said.  “I can assure you of that.”

The Legislature passed their own version of a 2.9% cap yesterday. On the toolkit, Democrats announced their own schedule for things saying yesterday that they’ve assigned 34 property tax reform-related bills to 12 Democrats who will review the concepts over the summer in preparation for legislative action in the fall. If Christie’s version isn’t passed by July 7, it can’t go on the ballot for 2011. Cryan says there is no chance of that happening. Anyone who thought the summer would cool down after the budget passed seems to have been mistaken. I’ll put the letters the Governor sent to the Legislature below the fold.

Deborah Howlett talks about the implications of Christie’s budget and tax policy

Deborah Howlett, President of New Jersey Policy Perspective, appeared on News 12 to talk about the missed opportunities and implications of the choices made in Governor Christie’s budget. Here is the segment:

I thought Deborah had a really good frame at the end talking about how an employee at a company with two children will pay more in her taxes this year while the person who owns the company making more than a million will pay less. It’s important that people give real world frames for the implications of these policies while getting talking points across.  

Sunday NJ Talk Shows 6/27

otrscreenshotOn the Record has Michael Aron talking about property tax caps with Senate President Sweeney and Senator Kyrillos

reportersroundtableOver on Reporter’s Roundtable we have Michael Aron and the panel the Legislature state budget votes, the battle over property tax caps and family planning funding cuts.

This weeks panel included Lisa Fleisher of the Star-Ledger, Josh McMahon for NJNewsroom.com, John Mooney from NJSpotlight.com and John Reitmeyer with The Record of Bergen County

You can click on the images to watch the stream of each show. Below the fold I’ll put another recent interview between Senator Sweeney and Assemblyman DiCicco over the tax cap issue.

Christie gives away free sausage, but leaves local governments the job of making it

Governor Christie is betting that people don’t agree with the governments they elected and therefore will go along with his proposal to cap property tax increases at 2.5% each year. He may be right, but what he’s really doing is passing the buck and offloading responsibility. Christie is cynically taking praise for lowering taxes while forcing local governments to make the tough choices on spending.

He’s basically saying, “I’m cutting your taxes but I will provide NO leadership on where you can and should cut spending. I want you to like me for saving you money and for you to hate your local officials for denying you services.” Christie is taking an easy victory lap while passing the responsibility and blame associated with leadership on to local governments.

It’s just like he’s doing with the budget. He says he won’t sign a budget that raises taxes, even though his budget has tax, fee and surcharge increases contained in it. But in addition to what is in the budget, he cuts funding at all levels forcing local governments to either make drastic cuts or take the hit which he’s unwilling to take himself.

Now as the truth comes out, Christie is starting to say  that the cap will force consolidation. Of course it will, because he’s starving the beast without taking responsibility for the fact that Grandma Bess will be upset when the trash isn’t picked up by the local garbage truck. But you notice he isn’t pushing legislation to do that directly, because then he would have to take some blame when people are upset.

For all the talk of less government regulation and mandates, here you have the Governor dictating what local boroughs and townships can tax – isn’t this just another unfunded Trenton mandate? Christie is hiding all the downside to his cap plan, setting up local government to eat all the consequences. That’s Christie leadership.