- Sixth District Legislators to host Mobile Office at the Katz Jewish Community Center
- Greenwald on NJ Transit Fare Hikes: This is a Serious Blow to Working Families
- Majority Leader Greenwald Bill to Restore Tax Credit for Working People Now Law
- Democracy Act makes necessary updates to N.J. election laws | Opinion
Greenwald organizing property tax summit
Burlington County Times
August 13, 2014
Link to original
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.
Under Greenwald’s projected timeline, the group will meet several times in the fall and winter in order to recommend reforms before state budget negotiations begin next spring. Its objective would be to devise a method for responsibly funding local schools and governments in a manner that also reduces the property tax burden and helps stimulate the state’s economy.
“This summit is being brought together to really tackle, first and foremost, New Jersey’s overall constraint on our budget — why we’re not growing, why we’re not meeting revenue estimates, and how I believe it’s all tied to the property tax crisis,” Greenwald said.
He said a key component of the talks would be to examine how other states fund schools and government services, and he stressed that no potential reform would be off limits, including changes to the property tax rebate programs and other taxes.
Although the group might recommend increases to some state taxes, Greenwald said its final proposal would be expected to be “revenue neutral,” meaning the total amount of money raised from taxpayers would remain the same despite the restructuring.
“This is not about trying to create new revenue,” he said. “The model of this will be under a guise of a revenue-neutral program but shifting off a regressive tax to other revenue sources.”
Greenwald acknowledged that previous attempts to tackle the property tax issue have met with mixed results. A special session of the Legislature in 2006 resulted in an increase in the sales tax to fund larger property tax rebates that later were cut due to various budget crises.
More recent proposals to provide an income tax credit based on residents’ property tax bills and to return more money collected by the state from utilities and energy companies to towns as property tax relief have failed to become law.
Greenwald predicted that whatever solutions the group proposes likely would be painful and difficult to implement.
“If I would go out (today) and ask people what are the 10 things that bother you the most about New Jersey, nobody mentions auto insurance. That’s how you know it worked,” he said. “If we can get 10 years down the line and ask people what’s bothering you about New Jersey, and nobody mentions property taxes, we’ll be in a really good spot.”