It's YOUR Money After All!

tt103.jpgCan you think of any subject where there is unanimous agreement that results in constant grousing other than on the subject of property taxes? Everyone complains, and I’m sure that you’ve never heard your neighbor say, “My property taxes are too low.”

But New Jersey residents, in particular, have solid footing for their complaints. We have the highest average property taxes in the nation, according to the Tax Foundation and the Fiscal Times. And, our residents have faced the gradual and tenacious rise of taxes for years. The average statewide property tax rose from $8,161 in 2014 to its highest level in New Jersey history at $8,353 in 2015.

Yet our citizens continue to pay these crippling increases despite the constant pledges from all of us in elected office who promise, “I’m going to lower your taxes” without actually delivering.

Hopefully, until now.

I re-tooled and re-introduced my bipartisan proposal (A302) that will restore $331 million in cuts to energy tax receipts and those emanating from the Consolidated Municipal Property Tax Relief Act back to property tax payers over the next five years.

The proposal targets the "Trenton Shell Game" of siphoning off resources to support local property taxpayers without adequately reducing their property taxes. Furthermore, the bill was modified to ensure that those returned resources go directly to reduce the municipal tax levy, which will lower all of our property taxes.

It is our property tax-paying citizen who paid the money in the first place. They are in need of a “break” because they’ve earned it. And the constant rise of taxes continues to batter their personal finances.

At a time when the public’s opinion of public servants has slipped, I understand why some New Jersey residents are tired of the unfulfilled rhetoric of politicians from both parties promising property tax relief and not delivering. We have to stop talking and start doing. My colleague and fellow co-prime sponsor, Assemblyman Jay Weber (R-Morris), described the continued tax burden as a “crisis.” What I fear is reaching that dangerous boiling point where people will stop paying or continue to vote on this issue with their feet by leaving the state.

The reason for the “return” of this money rests on past taxes. The state collected money from municipal governments from taxes levied on utility company equipment within their jurisdiction. Several years ago, the state changed its practice and began to divert the money to help cover holes in the state budget. With a slightly improving budget picture, the state should return some of these diverted funds directly back to the taxpayers.

While introducing legislation can sometimes result in complex language, the purpose of this proposal is clear. The idea, in essence, is to ensure that the money which is generated in our local communities should go directly back to local property tax payers without going through the Trenton funnel.

Gov. Chris Christie has rejected such requests in the past. I am hopeful that he finally appreciates that residents, who pay the highest property taxes in the United States, have earned a break and they deserve it now. That’s my take. What’s yours? 

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