NJ’s Budget And The Property Tax Problem [AUDIO]
One of the major complaints New Jersey Democrats have about the nearly $33 billion State budget that passed the Senate and Assembly yesterday is that it does not do enough to help property taxpayers.
Republicans are quick with their counter-argument.
They say while the property tax problem wouldn't be solved, it could be a little less of an issue if the Democrat-controlled legislature didn't leave so much undone as lawmakers head into their summer break.
"When you continue to allow municipalities to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for sick days, it's time to change that," explains Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick. "There's been a tax cut on the table for years now and the Democratic legislature won't entertain it (and) if you're going to transfer property taxes to a separate bill, that doesn't reduce property taxes so you can't allow the loopholes."
For years Gov. Chris Christie has been demanding that the legislature eliminate huge end-of-career payouts to public employees for their unused sick days. He's also been calling on lawmakers to bar towns from charging user fees for things like garbage pick-up as a way to get around the 2-percent cap on property tax increases, and while Christie originally wanted a 10-percent income tax cut, he's since reached a compromise with Democratic Senate President Steve Sweeney to tie the cut to property taxes.
Legislators are still working on a compromise with regard to the user fees and sick time payouts, according to Assembly Democratic Leader Lou Greenwald, but he's not convinced how much those issues would do to curb property tax hikes.
"What you see coming from the Republican Party is this concept of, 'Here look at the shiny object so I take your attention away from what is fundamentally broken,'" says Greenwald. "The tax structure is broken because it relies on property taxes to pay for local governments unlike any other state in the nation."
It would be very helpful if somebody could put a realistic price tag on how much ending user fees and sick leave payouts would save taxpayers says Greenwald, but Republicans definitely won't do that.
"No one is putting a dollar amount on what property taxes will come down by moving those initiatives," explains Greenwald. "No one will give you a direct correlation of what property taxes will go down because they can't."
As for the Governor's tax cut, Greenwald says the state simply doesn't have the money to support it. He also find it hypocritical that Republicans are complaining about sick leave payouts and user fees, but they didn't balk at all when the state paid millions just to make those involved in the recent Rutgers basketball program scandal go away.