|11-19-06 Sunday Press Articles & Commentaries|
NEWS ARTICLES Posted on Sunday, Nov. 19, 2006 PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER 'Trenton funding proposal riles Abbott districts' A study calls for education money to follow students' needs, not geography.
"...Lynne Strickland of the Garden State Coalition of Schools, which represents middle-class suburban districts, said that though she was frustrated at the proposal's vagueness: "It does make sense that we have one formula for all. The downside of the Abbotts is that it has created division.
"I don't think our government wants to see Abbotts slide," she said. "I think they want to put us together so we can move ahead in a betterway."
'Answers about property tax relief proposals' GANNETT BUREAU - Posted by Asbury Park Press
'Taking an ax to property tax problem' Sunday, November 19, 2006 By JON CORZINE, OP-ED
COURIER POST EDITORIAL- Real tax relief will depend on how relentlessly and thoughtfully lawmakers fill in the details.
NEWS ARTICLES Posted on Sunday, Nov. 19, 2006
Answers about property tax relief proposals
Posted by the Asbury Park Press on 11/19/06
BY JONATHAN TAMARI
The most far-reaching elements of the plan would offer 20 percent property tax credits to some homeowners, overhaul the way the state pays for schools and cap annual property tax increases. Other pieces of the plan could lead to town and school mergers.
Here are some answers about the proposals and what happens next.
Q: Who would get the 20 percent tax credits?
A: It's still up for debate and negotiation. There will almost certainly be a sliding scale based on income — 20 percent would be the maximum credit, though some homeowners would get less. People with higher incomes would see less relief, but the thresholds are still being worked out. The level of credits depends mostly on much money can be freed up for the credits now and into future years.
Republicans argue that the 20 percent credits should go to everyone, regardless of income.
Q: Would property taxes go down?
A: It appears unlikely, although many of the plans are aimed at streamlining government. The credits would help you pay the bill, but the levy would probably still grow. Lawmakers want to impose a cap that would limit how fast taxes rise each year. Gov. Jon S. Corzine has called for a 4 percent cap. Property taxes currently are rising by around 6 to 7 percent each year, as a statewide average.
Q: Doesn't the state have budget problems? How would they pay for those tax credits?
A: When officials raised the sales tax earlier this year, they set aside half of the increase — about $700 million — for property tax relief.
Officials are also considering selling or leasing a major state asset, such as the New Jersey Turnpike,
Q: Why does it matter what money they use?
A: If funding decreases, so could the credits.
Q: This sounds vaguely familiar ...
A: Past property tax relief plans were large at first but got trimmed as the state ran into financial trouble.
Q: How would this affect the rebate checks we already get?
A: The rebate program would be scrapped, with the money put back into the credits. Senior citizens would have the option of still getting the checks instead of the rebate.
A: What if my senior rebate is larger than 20 percent of my tax bill?
Q: Seniors will not see a decrease in property tax relief and could see an increase, if 20 percent is larger than the rebate they already get.
A: What about renters?
Q: Lawmakers called for leaving the tenant rebates flat. Corzine said tenants should share in the increased relief.
Q: A whole special committee for the property tax session was focused on schools. What does that have to do with property taxes?
A: School costs make up the bulk of property tax bills. Out of the $20 billion in property taxes collected in 2005, 55 percent went to schools. School officials say that's because the state doesn't pay its fair share of education costs, leaving the burden on local districts, which raise money through the property tax.
Q: So what would change?
A: Officials hope to put $700 million to $1 billion more in state money — raised through other taxes and fees — toward education aid. If spending doesn't increase, that money would offset some property taxes.
Lawmakers also hope a new method will dole out state aid more fairly to more schools. The aid would be based on a community's wealth. Extra support would be given based on districts' count of low-income children or pupils with extra needs, such as disabilities or limited English skills. All districts would receive a minimum amount of aid. It's unclear still what areas would benefit the most.
Q: What about districts that depend on the state for support?
A: No schools would lose money in the first year of reforms, although they could see decreases over time.
Q: How do we know schools would spend all this extra money wisely?
A: Under the plan any school budget that hikes taxes 4 percent or less would not require a public vote. If the school board wants to raise taxes above the cap, however, they would need support from 60 percent of the public. The vote would also have to have 20 percent voter participation, which may be a tall task since most school board votes generate minimal interest.
The school budget votes would stay in April. Elections for school board members would be moved to November, when voter interest is generally higher.
Q: What happens next in
A: The most sticky issues still need to be hammered out by Corzine, his administration and the Legislature.
And each aspect of the plan faces opposition. Labor unions are promising to fight benefit cuts, and education groups are anxiously awaiting the school funding formula. Towns are gearing up to fight forced mergers.
Despite the likely opposition, however, many pieces could move quickly through the Legislature and may be approved by the end of the year.
Jonathan Tamari: firstname.lastname@example.org
Taking an ax to property tax problem
When I think about how to tackle the monumental issue of property taxes, I'm reminded of something
Throughout the course of the special session on property taxes, those of us in
The reports issued by the joint committees this week outline nearly 100 ambitious steps the state can take to ease the property tax burden. These steps do not represent the completion of our task; rather, they mark the beginning of the next phase of our efforts.
Those recommendations must be analyzed by the administration, the Legislature and the public. We must fill in the blanks, debate the details, consider other ideas and arrive at a package of legislation that provides real and sustainable relief and reform of the property tax system.
To do that, we will have to overcome the inertia of the status quo. Bold new ideas will always meet resistance.It will take continued strong leadership to persuade everyone to put our individual interests aside in pursuit of a greater good.
We must also act in a holistic manner.
I am pleased with the work done by the joint committees. Senate President Richard Codey, Speaker Joseph Roberts and the Legislature have demonstrated a willingness to address many of the topics that demand reform, and I am agreement with them in many areas.
I support the goal of reducing up to 20 percent of the property tax bill for a substantial number of primary homeowners because I recognize that New Jerseyans need relief now.
It should come as no surprise that our ability to provide that relief depends upon our ability to pay for it. Immediate relief must be accompanied by a comprehensive reform package and a plan to match that relief to recurring revenues.
What I said about our state's budget holds true for property taxes: I cannot support a short-term, one-shot fix, and we must match recurring revenues to recurring expenditures.
Fairer school funding formula
Our obligations in this area are substantial. In addition to the funding for immediate relief, we must provide additional funding for a fairer school-funding formula, for a fund to incentivize consolidation at all levels of government, and for a sustainable funding solution for pension and benefits packages.
The pool of funds to draw from is limited. We know we have dedicated sales tax revenue, funds from existing rebate programs and expected economic growth available. In addition, we could increase available funds for property tax relief by reducing state expenses through entering into public/private partnerships, implementation of structural reforms to government operations, collective bargaining and better management and oversight.
To ensure that any relief we provide is meaningful and sustainable, we must consider bold, broad-based reforms to the way our state does business. While I support the work of the joint committees, I believe more reforms are needed to tackle this problem.
First, any commission set up to study school or government consolidation must be held accountable for achieving results in a timely manner. Funding must be provided to incentivize consolidation and to cover the upfront costs towns face in taking steps to consolidate, which will yield savings in the long run.
Second, I believe that we must cap property tax growth at 4 percent per year. I have proposed that this 4 percent cap, which could be phased in over time, would apply to any entity that raises property tax revenue and would sunset after five years.
Third, I firmly believe that we need an independent, fully staffed statewide comptroller to provide additional oversight to governmental operations. No $31 billion company in the world would operate without a consistent, independent auditing presence, and
My time in politics and the business world has taught me the value of taking calculated risks in the service of bold ideas, and bold action is what the public demands and deserves.
We have worked together, all branches of government, both parties, to get to the point where we are now, and we agree on much. But if we stop here, if we heed the voices of the status quo, we will have missed a truly historic opportunity.
All of us must act boldly and courageously with the public interest at the center of our efforts. You, the public, must hold us accountable for delivering real reform to an antiquated system.
- Jon Corzine is governor of
Legislators offer promising framework for reform
Sunday, November 19, 2006
Real tax relief will depend on how relentlessly and thoughtfully lawmakers fill in the details.
The four legislative committees charged with tackling tax reform made their widely anticipated recommendations on Wednesday. Yet, the suggestions were so broadly drawn, it will require months more of legislative deliberation to fill in the details. Then, long overburdened state taxpayers might finally learn how the reforms will affect their wallets.
Amid promising efforts to reduce property-tax bills, there are three things that stick out as obstacles to systemic reform.
The first and most critical is the estimated $1 billion to $3 billion needed to deliver on proposed property-tax cuts, which will largely come in the form of tax credits and additional state aid for public education, particularly help for middle-class schools. Where will legislators get the money?
Where's the money
Democratic state leaders said they expect to receive $700 million for tax reform from the 1 percent increase in the state sales tax. Another $330 million now spent to provide property-tax rebates will be used to help pay for the proposed tax-relief credit that would be applied directly to tax bills.
It still is unclear how the Legislature will increase school aid by $1 billion.
Senate President Richard Codey, D-West Orange, has proposed selling state assets, such as the New Jersey Turnpike. Such one-shot revenue methods do not usually result in a renewable funding source. But if sale proceeds are used to pay down state debt, as Assembly Speaker Joe Roberts, D-Camden, proposes, it could provide new money for other spending priorities.
But Gov. Jon Corzine should be discouraged from turning some state highways into toll roads. Even if the roads selected would be heavily used by out-of-staters, it would still mean another hand in New Jerseyans' pockets. Lawmakers should not support any plan that gives with one hand and takes with the other.
On that thought, we acknowledge what some Courier-Post readers have recently pointed out, that a 20 percent property-tax credit for most homeowners would amount to about $1,200 a year. The average
Legislators can and often do promise the sky. But it is what they can actually deliver, year in and year out, that matters. On Thursday, Corzine questioned how the state could even afford to sustain a 20 percent property-tax credit, given available funds. We encourage Roberts, Codey and other lawmakers to make it happen.
No privileged grandfathers
Legislators who studied public employee benefits also took aim at some of the generous benefit rules, pension tacking and dual-office holding that roils many taxpayers. While the legislators have made tough decisions to cut back benefits for new state workers, committee members couldn't bring themselves to stop their colleagues and friends from double-dipping.
A ban on holding two elective offices would shamefully allow current practitioners of this greedy tradition to continue. No dual-office holder should receive grandfather status. Instead, when the office holder comes up for re-election, he or she should be required to seek only one office.
Dual-office holding can lead to countless conflicts of interests as well as put a strain on local payrolls with unnecessary jobs or higher-than-warranted salaries.
Need workers' support
A third and significant obstacle will be getting state workers and their unions to go along with cutting benefits. State benefits should be reformed to something more affordable for taxpayers. But changes, such as employee contributions to health-care plans, should be graduated so lowly salaried career employees won't face significant cuts in pay. Fairness will help sell these proposals.
But lawmakers should brace for union opposition to changing these benefits, among the most generous for public employees in the nation. Unions also must recognize that
Most of what legislators have proposed is reasonable and long overdue: Increasing the retirement age from 55 to 62; eliminating pensions for part-time legislators and other government workers and barring pensions for convicted public officials.
With the 98 recommendations from the four legislative committees, state lawmakers have a framework for substantive reform. Whether they actually deliver relief to taxpayers will depend on how carefully they flush out the details. Taxpayers have been promised relief in the past by lawmakers. Legislators better deliver it this time.
Garden State Coalition of Schools