As the New York legislature went home for the 4th of July holiday, Governor Chris Christie and the New Jersey legislature came close to a compromise on a proposal that will slow rising property taxes and reform what New Jersey residents have identified as their number one issue – property taxes.
Like New York, the Garden State also suffers from extremely high property taxes. Governor Christie noted that since 2001, spending at the local levels in New Jersey rose 69 percent (hmm, sounds familiar). Had a hard property tax cap been in place since that time, the average New Jersey family’s property tax bill would be more than $2,000 lower than the current average of approximately $7,200.
Christie has been advocating for a property tax cap at 2.5 percent with very little exemptions. Earlier this year, Unshackle Upstate put forth a plan that would do the same for New York. Both plans model Massachusetts Prop 2.5, which has the distinction of bringing Massachusetts as the state with the 3rd highest property taxes nationally – to the 33rd.
The New Jersey legislature offered a plan that would cap property taxes at 2.9 percent and included a list of exemptions. Last week, Christie said he would not sign a 2.9 percent “Swiss cheese” cap bill the Legislature sent him last week because it had “too many holes in it” (referring to the fourteen exemptions the bill included). However, given the importance of the issue, Christie offered a compromise, bringing New Jersey one step closer to real property tax relief.
Christie offered a conditional veto modifying the Senate bill to include a cap on future property taxes at 2 percent while including four exemptions for debt service, pension and health care costs and states of emergency. A key element of this plan, like Unshackle Upstate’s, relies on participation of the taxpayer in the process. Voters will have to approve an override of the cap with a majority vote.
Should both houses approve the governor’s modifications, New Jersey will have accomplished what will New York seemingly refuses to do – offer real reform to its taxpayers. Christie lauded the bipartisan effort to take “decisive action on a decades long problem that has become a full blown crisis to the people of our state.”
Meanwhile, in New York, the Senate and Assembly budget plan rejected the inclusion of a property tax cap – Governor Paterson’s proposal included a cap on local governments and school districts at 4 percent. Instead, they have put forth a plan to offer property tax “relief” in the form of rebate checks. Bear in mind – they will be increasing taxes and fees by about $1 billion (on top of $8 billion last year) to pay for the checks to go back to the taxpayer – doesn’t make much sense, does it? But this is what we have grown accustomed to, and this is what we need to change this year.
So while New Jersey moves forward in a bi-partisan effort to offer much needed tax relief to their residents, New York continues politics as usual. The opportunity for real relief for New Yorkers is there, but the political will is still missing. There is a saying, “to get something done right, do it yourself.” The Unshackle Army will send a message this year – we will change Albany ourselves. The tool that we will use to do this is our vote in November.
Send a message that New Yorkers deserve real property tax relief – now.