Lou's Latest Op-Eds

Starting Over

Opinion: Recalibrating New Jersey’s pension system
Wednesday, April 6, 2011

BY LOUIS D. GREENWALD
The Record
Louis D. Greenwald, D-Voorhees, represents Legislative District

LIKE MANY other states, New Jersey faces an unprecedented fiscal challenge that calls for bold, creative solutions. A prolonged national recession, deep losses in tax revenues and ever-escalating public employee salary, pension and health care costs have produced steep budget deficits that threaten the fiscal stability of the state. For years, our taxpayers have been crushed under the weight of the nation’s highest property taxes — and there’s no relief in sight.

That’s why we must act now to adopt real reform that meets this crisis head on.

New Jersey’s citizens are demanding change. They know that maintaining the status quo will sink the state even deeper into debt, making it more unaffordable than ever to live here and leaving a legacy of economic pain for generations to come.

Our citizens deserve better.

And they are watching closely for signs of leadership in Trenton — leadership that rejects politically expedient short-term fixes and embraces meaningful, long-term solutions that include major structural change.

The facts are indisputable. For decades, both Democrats and Republicans have allowed the cost of government to spiral out of control, with upwards of 75 percent to 80 percent of government budgets consumed by the costs of public employee salaries, health benefits, pensions and other expenses.

New Jersey Needs Property Tax Solutions, Not Sound Bytes

By Assemblyman Louis D. Greenwald
March 18, 2011
PolitickerNJ

With property tax bills rising every day, one thing is crystal clear: New Jersey families need real property tax solutions, not sound bytes or slogans.

No one can deny property taxes are an unbearable and unacceptable problem for New Jersey's homeowners. New Jersey's property tax system is regressive, ineffective and noncompetitive with other states, hurting our seniors and middle class families.

As any objective view of New Jersey makes absolutely clear—our property tax system is broken. To fix this system, the Governor has offered a toolkit. Unfortunately, the Governor's toolkit does nothing to address our state's fundamental overreliance on property taxes.

A toolkit is something you use for minor home repairs when you buy a home.

But New Jersey's property tax problem isn't just a fixer-upper. We need to tear the house down and rebuild a tax system that gives New Jerseyans real property tax relief, not just tinker around the edges.

The average property tax bill is now a whopping $7,576 per household, up over 4 percent from last year. Until we dramatically change this broken system, property tax bills will be directly tied to aid the state provides to schools and municipalities.

With the Governor slashing school aid by $1 billion and municipal aid by $446 million last year, it’s no wonder New Jersey families saw their property tax bills grow over 4 percent in 2010.

Op-ed: Districts Must Reflect State's Diversity

Louis Greenwald
Op-ed for the Courier Post
February 27, 2011

New Jersey's next legislative map must truly reflect the people of New Jersey -- in all their rich diversity.

Having served as a commissioner on the Legislative Apportionment Commission 10 years ago, I understand firsthand the gravity and the complexity of drawing a new map that fairly represents all the people of New Jersey.

I want to focus on both the legal and historical criteria that -- in their entirety -- are unique to New Jersey's process.

In addition to the legal criteria of compactness and contiguity, the Legislative Apportionment Commission must strive for minimal but reasonable deviations in population. They are also obligated to abide by the federal Voting Rights Act, mindful of all the case law that has emanated from it.

Thirty years ago, Dean Donald Stokes of Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School introduced a set of criteria by which we could assess the statistical fairness of proposed maps. These criteria were embraced and improved upon by Professor Larry Bartels 10 years ago. The commission must consider each of these criteria in its deliberations. And it must strike a reasonable and proper balance in the application of all of them as a whole.

I have read in several press reports remarks by Republican legislators asserting that the reason the Democratic map was adopted 10 years ago was because Republicans were divided and unprepared.

Op-ed: Christie No Friend of Homebuilders

Daily Record
By Louis D. Greenwald
Jul 27, 2010

The facts are simple.

Home sales in New Jersey fell 23 percent in May and 27 percent in June. Those numbers are even scarier considering those are typically busy times for the real estate market.

Home construction has plummeted.

Our unemployment rate stands at 9.6 percent.

As we saw painfully across our country, our economy relies heavily on the real estate industry. When it's strong, our economy is strong. When it's weak, our economy is weak. It's that simple. New Jersey's economy is no different.

That's why, as New Jersey struggles to emerge from the worst economy since the Great Depression, I introduced legislation to create a New Jersey Homebuyer Tax Credit program. It was a sensible way to revive our economy and put people back to work. It was widely praised and backed by both Democrats and Republicans. It passed the Senate 38-0 and the Assembly 67-8. Everyone agreed it was the shot in the arm New Jersey's economy needed.

Well, almost everyone.

Only one person failed to understand the value of this program, and unfortunately that person was Gov. Chris Christie, who vetoed the bill last week.

This veto showed an alarming lack of understanding of how the tax credit works, and I fear that lack of understanding will put New Jersey's struggling economy in a tailspin.

Consider:

Op-ed: Cure NJ's Addiction to Property Taxes

Cure N.J.'s addiction to property taxes
By Star-Ledger Guest Columnist, Assemblyman Louis Greenwald
April 12, 2010

Much has changed since 1670.

We don’t rely on candlelight, write with quills or ride horses for primary transportation. And, thankfully, powdered wigs are out of style.

Yet our state has clung to one relic from the past — the property tax.

New Jersey imposed its first property tax in 1670, taxing one penny per acre to fund government. Now, New Jerseyans struggle under the nation’s highest property taxes: $7,281 per homeowner. Gov. Chris Christie’s budget proposal exacerbates that struggle by eliminating $2.8 billion in property tax relief, and his plan does nothing to cure New Jersey’s addiction to property taxes.

If we don’t cure this addiction, New Jersey will lose its middle class. But what if we could cut state taxes, slash property taxes while preserving valuable local services, educational programs and property values?

With more than half of the state budget dedicated toward property tax relief — in the form of school aid, municipal aid, homestead rebates, and the senior freeze program — we can’t solve our budget problems without real property tax reform.

It’s time to attack our property tax addiction, and I have a plan to do it.

First, we will cut sales and other state taxes to provide relief for residents. Second, we will allow municipalities to seek voter approval to implement local taxes that would reduce property taxes.