By Kim Guadagno
Without a doubt, the number one problem facing Garden State families today is the ever-increasing burden of high property taxes.
To begin to address the problem and assist local governments in keeping costs under control, a 2 percent cap on interest arbitration awards was unanimously approved by our state Legislature and enacted by the governor in December 2010.
With the cap in place, property taxes have gone up on average only 2.04 percent per year since 2010 compared to the 7 percent per year they went up the decade prior. However, despite being unanimously re-approved and re-enacted in June 2014, the arbitration cap is scheduled to automatically sunset on Dec. 31.
In August, I stood with Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr. and Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick in Robbinsville, and joined an already steady number of municipalities across our state in calling on our state Legislature to immediately extend the arbitration cap and keep the 2 percent cap on property tax increases in place. Why? Because I strongly believe that we need the cap to allow cities, towns and boroughs across New Jersey to control costs at the local level. Moreover, our state’s struggling taxpayers deserve a straight answer from their candidates for governor about their plan to address New Jersey’s high property taxes.
I am running for governor to provide real and meaningful property tax relief for the middle class, and if I don’t lower property taxes during my first term as governor, I won’t seek a second term. In addition to advocating for an extension of the arbitration cap and keeping in place local controls on property taxes, I have introduced a detailed plan that would cap school taxes at 5 percent of household income, saving middle class families up to $3,000 a year on their property tax bills.
In Ocean Township, for instance, where the median household income is approximately $79,000, it could mean savings of over $1,800 a year on a household’s property tax bill. In Long Branch, $975 in savings. In Red Bank, $1,400.
On the other hand, my opponent, Phil Murphy, has not yet decided his position on the arbitration cap, has no plan to reduce property taxes and is promising a $1.3 billion tax increase if elected. Murphy’s silence on property taxes speaks volumes — it’s a tacit endorsement of the runaway tax increases that led New Jersey off the fiscal cliff during the McGreevey-Corzine era.
So what would that mean for families? Higher and higher taxes — especially at a time when we’re already struggling to pay our highest-in-the-nation tax bills. Many of our closest friends, family and neighbors will be forced to pack their bags and move to another state where taxes are lower. Furthermore, our municipal governments will be forced to reduce or eliminate services in order to fund interest arbitration awards, as many contracts will come due for negotiation after the sunset deadline.
That may not mean a lot to a Goldman Sachs millionaire like Murphy, who paid over $200,000 in property taxes last year. But as a working mom who raised her three boys in New Jersey, it matters to real people like us, and it’s simply unacceptable.
The choice for New Jersey couldn’t be clearer.
Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno is the Republican candidate for New Jersey governor.