A handful of changes in state law take effect as 2018 begins, including the second phase of tax cuts done in conjunction with last year’s hike of the gas tax.

New Jersey’s sales tax drops by a quarter-percent, to 6.625 percent, making it lower than 30 other states. More people will be excluded from paying taxes on their retirement income, those with incomes below $60,000 for joint filers and $45,000 for individuals. And a $3,000 income-tax exclusion is available for veterans when they file their tax returns in the coming months.

But most consequentially, in the estimation of Gov. Chris Christie, is the abolishment of New Jersey’s estate tax. That tax used to have a $675,000 threshold, which was changed to a $2 million exclusion for 2017 and will be entirely eliminated starting in 2018.

Christie contends that will have a substantial benefit as wealthy residents decide whether to relocate after federal tax changes that limit the deductibility of state and local taxes to $10,000.

“If you also had a $675,000 estate tax here, added to what’s happened at the federal level and if we don’t get any relief at the state level, people are incentivized to go,” Christie said. “And the older they get the more incentivized they are to go.”

“In a high-tax state, taxing people when they die, too, can make people want to die someplace else,” Christie said.

In addition to the second phase of the tax cuts, five other laws are timed to take effect on the first day of January. Those laws:

  • Require the development of a carbon monoxide poisoning educational program for drivers
  • Provide an income-tax credit to mental-health professionals who donate hours of counseling to members of Gold Star families
  • Provide people with driver’s licenses or state ID cards identifying them as Gold Star family members with free or reduced-price admission to state beaches, parks, forests and the State Museum, waive license fees charged by the state’s professional and occupational licensing boards; and make them eligible for admission to Department of Military and Veterans Affairs homes, institutions and hospitals.
  • Require the state Department of Health to ensure state rules related to fetal death certification, evaluation and reporting comport with federal guidelines that require more data than the state had required.
  • Make driver’s licenses and identification cards expire every four years on the licensee or cardholder’s birthday, rather than on the last day of the month. The same rule will apply to vehicle registrations starting in March.

Another 24 laws already signed by Christie take effect over the year that follows, including ones requiring health insurers to cover contraceptive prescriptions for six months, adding protections for people with developmental disabilities, creating new EMS data reporting requirements, establishing sexual assault training requirements for police officers and requiring security features on Internet-connected baby monitors.

Most of the new state laws taking effect in 2018 aren’t enacted yet – sitting among the 43 bills on Gov. Chris Christie’s desk, the scores more to come in the final two lame-duck sessions of the Senate and Assembly on Jan. 4 and 8, and the potential deluge if Democrats move quickly on the priorities of new governor Phil Murphy after he takes office Jan. 16.

New Jersey: Decoded cuts through the cruft and gets to what matters in New Jersey news and politics. Follow on Facebook and Twitter.

Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5 and the editor of New Jersey: Decoded. Follow @NJDecoded on Twitter and Facebook. Contact him at michael.symons@townsquaremedia.com

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