New Jersey Governor hits the road to sell property tax cap amendment

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May 18, 2010

Governor Chris Christie speaking in Hobken, NJ

By Kyle Maichle

HOBOKEN, New Jersey: Governor Chris Christie began a series of town hall meetings in the New York City suburb of Hoboken to sell a package of property tax reforms including a constitutional amendment to cap increases at 2.5 percent[1].

During the town hall meeting, Governor Christie cited data from the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs that if the cap was placed in 2000, property taxes would be lower by $1,600 on average. The Governor also emphasized that the average savings from the 2.5 percent cap would replace the average homestead rebate that homeowners are used to. As part of budget cuts the Governor is making, Christie froze the popular program in order to stem the state's $11 billion dollar budget deficit[2]

The amendment that was presented in the New Jersey Legislature on May 13, 2010, by State Senator Joseph Kyrillos (R-Monomoth) would cap all property tax increases to 2.5 percent for school districts and local governments[2]. There is a current property tax cap of 4 percent that was signed into law by former Governor Jon Corzine in 2007[2]. However, Christie said that the new cap is necessary to close loopholes that exist in the 2007 law that were lobbied heavily by local governments and public sector unions. The only exemption without a vote in the proposed cap is for debt service payments while all other requests to go over the proposed cap would require voter approval[2].

However, there has been very sharp criticism over the proposed amendment. Barbara Keshishan, the President of the New Jersey Education Association said that the amendment is: "an official attack on the very future of public education.”[2] Keshishan also stated if the proposed cap was in place, school districts would be forced to cut teaching positions and after school programs according to the leader of the state's largest teacher's union[2]. Charles Wowkanech, the President of AFL-CIO New Jersey said that the amendment is: “a jackhammer, destroying the delivery of essential services and workers rights.”[2]

The property tax cap amendment along with the other property tax reform measures that are proposed by the Governor, must be considered by the legislature before the June 30th deadline to pass a budget[2].

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