When Gov. Christie came to office in 2010, he took action to address the biggest problem New Jerseyans have faced for decades – property taxes. Working with the Legislature, historic tax reforms were signed into law. These included a two percent limit on property tax levies, increased health and pension contributions by public employees and a two percent cap on awards arbitrators can grant when towns and their unions can't agree on a contract.
These cost control tools are working. Recent property tax data shows the average property tax bill grew by 1.7 percent in 2013 and by the lowest consistent rate in decades since the reforms were passed. While our ultimate goal is to actually cut property taxes, slowing their growth is an essential first step.
Following up on his comments last week that allowing the interest arbitration law to expire on April 1st would have disastrous consequences on towns and property taxpayers, Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon will introduce legislation on Thursday that would make the law permanent.
From January 2011, when the law took effect, to September 2013, average raises in contracts, whether through arbitration or negotiations, were 1.86 percent — the lowest in at least 20 years. O’Scanlon was a member of the task force charged with studying the effects of the law since its inception and said there is no doubt the cap has been the single most significant tool responsible for the stabilization of municipal budgets.
The debate over the capping of salaries of public workers is one of the most important debates we will have in Trenton this legislative session - perhaps of the decade. Property taxes are the most burdensome and regressive of taxes we pay.
Since on average 60 percent to 70 percent of our property tax dollars go to pay for salaries, it isn't hard to understand that controlling those costs is at the core of the solutions to controlling our taxes. These simple facts make the ongoing debate over capping salary increases of public workers so significant.
In July, in an all too rare show of bipartisan cooperation in Trenton, the Legislature voted with a significant majority to pass S-29, imposing a limit of 2% on annual tax levy increases for municipalities and school districts in a move to protect New Jersey taxpayers from a tax burden that is becoming ever more unwieldy. This law will take effect January 1, 2011.
In order for this cap to work, however, without significant hardship placed on our citizens, the remaining Tool Kit measures that have been proposed by Governor Christie must be enacted.
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