Tag Archive: property tax cap

Our Budget Crater: PLAN C

The two-year shortfall of $ 2 to 3 billion that our government is facing represents a significant gash in our budgets and not something that can be repaired by moving expenses from one year to the next nor other forms of short-term gimmicks. Christie has presented his Plan A, he claims to have no other plan, and he is no rush to suggest alternatives. The burden is on the Legislature to do so. Others have proposed Plan B which often consists of a millionaire’s tax, or a gas tax, or cutting state subsidies, etc. Any one one or two of these plans, however, is insufficient to meet the challenge.  We need a Plan C.  

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.

{more below the fold}

Property Tax Cap Passes Assembly

The 2% property tax cap passed the Assembly by an overwhelming vote of 73-4.  Republican legislators in their press release statements are ecstatic (though the constitutional amendment is forgotten) and push for the “governor’s tool kit” to be passed next. In brief, they do not acknowledge any compromise and continue to push for their agenda.

Democrats — and this is a rare occasion where Blue Jersey is getting more press releases from Republicans —  mainly voted for the cap but call for it be improved. No explanation is given why a majority party didn’t get the changes they want in the actual bill. They don’t talk about the “tool kit” either. In brief, they support the very popular cause of controlling property taxes, yet they sound weak or foolish, as these selected phrases show:

…McKeon (D-Essex). “But that doesn’t mean it’s a perfect plan. Without an exemption for special education costs, for instance, this plan will be hurtful and destructive to all the good things we’ve done to help children with special needs.”…

…this is a far different plan than the governor first demanded, “said Burzichelli (D-Gloucester/Salem/Cumberland). “The people we represent desperately need real tax relief, so we will continue working to refine this plan and push forward other concepts in the months ahead.”

Jasey and Watson Coleman vowed to look into what legislative action could be undertaken to address the issue of special education costs.

I for one look forward to seeing them “refine” the “hurtful and destructive” parts once they “look into” them. (In fairness, Watson-Coleman voted no.)  

Of course, I too look forward to not having such large property tax increases.

Under the Dome: Senate voting session

Updated by Jason Springer: In just 48 minutes, 3 seconds, the Senate passed the amended cap bill by a vote of 36-3. You can see the archive video of the session here.

State_house_trentonIt’s not a very large agenda, but the Senate will convene today to consider the new and supposedly improved bill that would cap yearly property tax increases at 2%, with a few exceptions. The Governor conditionally vetoed this bill on Tuesday and they are making changes according to the agreement between Christie and Senate President Sweeney. That bill will be up for discussion and a full vote in the Senate.

Here is a segment on NJN with their new South Jersey Correspondent Joe Bisicchia looking at the cap concept:

In addition to the Senate voting session, Sen. Loretta Weinberg and other senators will hold their fourth Statehouse news conference to urge Christie to act on legislation on his desk providing $7.5 million to restore funding for family planning centers. Yesterday, the Assemblywomen couldn’t even schedule and appointment with the Governor.

Things are scheduled to start in the Senate at 10am. If you can’t make it to Trenton, you can follow along live here.  

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.

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.