Lou in the News

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.

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.

Bill to allow direct Tesla sales in NJ makes progress

Star Ledger
June 16, 2014
Matt Friedman
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The state Assembly today easily passed a bill that would allow electric car manufacturer Tesla to once again sell its cars at its New Jersey showrooms, and even open two more.

But the bill’s fate in the state Senate is unknown.

Without any debate, the Assembly approved the measure (A3216) by a vote of 77-0 with 1 abstention. It would allow Tesla, or any company that sells zero-emission vehicles directly to consumers, to open up to four stores in the Garden State — up from Tesla's current two showrooms. The company would also be required to have at least one facility that services the vehicles.

Although the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission had previously allowed Tesla to sell cars at its showrooms in Paramus and Short Hills, it halted the sales in April. The commission justified the decision on a state law from the 1970s that requires cars to be sold through dealerships.

The New Jersey Coalition of Automotive Retailers supported the MVC's rule change.

Tesla officials said the old sales model does not work for their product because dealerships make much of their money from maintenance, and Teslas — which currently start at around $70,000 — require far less maintenance than traditional cars.

Lawmakers Unveil Plan To Save Tesla In New Jersey

Business Insider
May 1, 2014
Hunter Walker
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New Jersey Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald and Assemblyman Timothy Eustace debuted a proposal Thursday that would reverse a ban on auto manufacturers selling cars directly to consumers in the Garden State. The proposal would allow Tesla Motors to sell its luxury electric cars at up to four locations in New Jersey.
"As an electric car driver, I'm honored to be part of this effort to find solutions to keep a state-of-the-art product and the future of the auto manufacturing industry right here in New Jersey," Eustace said in a statement announcing the proposal. "This legislation will incentivize entrepreneurship, create jobs, promote environmental protection and address the important concerns of consumers in our state."

Last month, the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission approved an amendment to its regulations for licensed car dealers that prevented auto manufacturers like Tesla from selling cars without using franchise dealerships. Tesla, which uses a direct sales model and has two stores in the state subsequently issued a series of statements blaming the ban on bad faith negotiating by the administration of Gov. Chris Christie and "attacks" from the car dealers' lobby. Christie later insisted he had "no problem" with the company and would be "happy" to allow them in New Jersey if the Legislature passed a new law.