Today, State Senate Budget Committee chairman Paul Sarlo and Assemblyman Troy Singleton unveiled a new bill to provide close to $440 million in additional property tax relief to residents by restoring hundreds of millions of dollars worth of cuts to the amount municipalities received in their share of state energy tax revenues.

“The days of Trenton taking property tax relief from municipalities to pad the state budget need to end, plain and simple,” says Sarlo. “It’s no coincidence that the state’s raids of energy tax revenues meant for municipalities have corresponded with a growing property tax crisis. Returning this money to municipalities, where it belongs, is not just good for towns struggling to meet the needs of residents, but for property taxpayers struggling to make ends meet.”

The legislation would restore $385 million cut from the program in fiscal years 2009, 2010 and 2011, while providing an additional $54 million to support aid increases required under existing law. The funds would be provided over a five-year span, with the first $87.8 million payment coming in the upcoming 2013 fiscal year. After the 5-year run-up, the state would be mandated to distribute the full amount of energy tax revenues to municipalities.

“This is right thing to do for our communities and our taxpayers,” says Singleton, a member of the Assembly Budget Committee. “In the past, every dollar taken from our towns was an additional dollar taken from property taxpayers, and now every dollar taken from our towns means decreased services and less value to taxpayers. With this innovative approach, we can not only provide municipalities with the revenues they deserve, but also further insulate taxpayers by requiring it to go for property tax relief.”

New Jersey mayors insist the funds are rightfully theirs. At a recent State House press conference Governor Chris Christie said the mayors are wrong.