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Greenwald organizing property tax summit

Burlington County Times
August 13, 2014
David Levinsky
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Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald believes New Jersey’s slow economic recovery and budget woes can be traced to a single source: the state’s high property taxes.

If lawmakers can solve the property tax dilemma, Greenwald predicts other pressing issues such as the state’s underfunded pension system and replenishing transportation project funding will become substantially more manageable by extension.

“Property tax is the tumor to the cancer. The others are the symptoms to the disease,” Greenwald, D-6th of Voorhees, said Wednesday. “We need to cut out the cancer.”

With that in mind, he is assembling a bipartisan group of current and past lawmakers as well as civic and business leaders to meet this fall to devise a long-sought-after solution to reducing New Jersey’s property tax burden.

“Our goal is to bring together these business leaders, civic leaders, political leaders, and bring together their resources,” said Greenwald, who announced the endeavor this week in an opinion piece published by the Newark Star-Ledger.

Greenwald said he’s been recruiting possible participants for several months. He did not release any names, but said he hoped the final group would be assembled soon and begin meeting next month.

Greenwald: A roadmap for property tax reform

Star Ledger
August 12, 2014
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For too long, the promise of property tax reform has been stymied by political calculation and partisan gridlock, which is why it’s time for an innovative approach — one that applies lessons from elsewhere and prioritizes fairness to middle-class families and seniors.

I propose convening a series of bipartisan high-level meetings to find a way to finally tame property taxes.

We can have no sacred cows in our discussions, with no topic off-limits. We should consider all ideas to reduce the property tax burden, regardless of the political affiliation of whoever proposed it. Throughout it all, our priority would be cuts in property taxes, but nothing would be off-limits. If needed, this can become all-encompassing, as long as it involves fixing New Jersey’s economic problems.

The bipartisan talks I’m proposing would be composed of respected business, civic and community leaders, and would tackle needed reforms in a way that promotes responsible funding for our communities and fairness to our residents. Freed from political pressures, this group should be able to design a comprehensive and fundamental restructuring of the way we fund local services, providing the legislative and executive branches a roadmap for reform.

We know this won’t be easy.

Greenwald Op-Ed: Gov. Christie hits 'new low' in 'cold-hearted' veto of gun magazine limit bill

Times of Trenton
July 9, 2014
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Leadership includes effectiveness, honesty and the ability to do the right thing, no matter the consequences.

It does not include pandering to far-off voters instead of those you are sworn to protect, nor does it include putting rabid personal ambition above public safety.

In other words, leadership is not Chris Christie.

Gov. Christie’s recent veto of legislation I sponsored to reduce the maximum capacity of ammunition magazines to 10 rounds was among the more faint-hearted acts one will ever see from an elected official. It was also among the most cold-hearted.

Soon after the parents of children murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., dropped off petitions asking Christie to sign the bill, the governor rejected it and released a statement that stated supporting the bill amounted to “grandstanding” and employing “empty rhetoric.”

Only someone with craven cowardice could make such a statement.

This legislation to reduce magazine capacity was in response to the horrific tragedy in Arizona, where an assailant used a large-capacity ammunition magazine to kill six people and injure 13 others, including Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Among those murdered was 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green, who was shot that day by the 13th bullet.

Assembly OKs direct Tesla sales in N.J.

Inquirer
June 18, 2014
Andrew Seidman
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The Assembly passed a bill Monday that would let manufacturers of zero-emissions vehicles such as Tesla Motors bypass auto dealerships and sell cars directly to consumers.
Lawmakers introduced the bill after the state Motor Vehicle Commission ruled in March against Tesla's direct-sales model and the company's chief executive, Elon Musk, accused Gov. Christie of cutting a "backroom deal" with the auto-dealer lobby.

Following the ruling, Tesla converted its two New Jersey stores to galleries, where the company cannot discuss price, take orders, or offer test drives.

Diarmuid O'Connell, Tesla's vice president for business development, praised Monday's 77-0 vote, with one abstention, as "an overwhelming message of support for consumer freedom of choice."

The bill has made for strange bedfellows: Before the vote, environmentalists, consumer advocates, and business groups held a news conference outside the Statehouse to support the measure.

"We're truly at a crossroads in history here when we have commerce and industry lining up with the environmentalists," said Assemblyman Tim Eustace (D., Bergen), a bill sponsor who owns an electric car.

NJ bill to renew key property tax law is on fast track to Christie's desk

Star Ledger
June 16, 2014
Matt Friedman
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An expired law that was credited with helping stem the growth of property taxes is on the fast track back into the books.

Over the objections of police and firefighter unions, the state Assembly today voted 78-0 to approve a measure that restores a 2 percent annual limit on the amount third-party arbitrators can award police and firefighters in raises and other forms of compensation.

“This is a bill that was deeply necessary in order to move forward with controlling the ever-increasing burden of property taxes in the State of New Jersey, and make sure we treat with respect the people who put themselves in harm's way,” said Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald (D-Camden), a sponsor.

The state Senate plans to vote on the measure on Thursday.

Arbitrators step in to make decisions when police and firefighter unions are deadlocked with municipalities or counties on their contracts. Beginning in 2011, the arbitrators were limited to awarding 2 percent annual raises.

But the law expired on April 1 after Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson) and Gov. Chris Christie failed to reach an agreement on extending it.

Mayors said the law was an important tool to help them meet the state’s 2 percent cap on local spending. Police and firefighter unions said it unfairly hobbled them in negotiations.