TRENTON ‐ After a two-and-a-half-month stalemate, Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson) and Gov. Chris Christie have reached “common ground” on renewing a crucial law that mayors say has taken a significant bite out of property tax growth…
TRENTON — State Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto is negotiating with Gov. Chris Christie on renewing of a law that limits raises to some police and firefighters to help curtail property tax increases. “I am in conversations with the governor and…
With one business day to go prior to the expiration of the Interest Arbitration Award Cap that has saved New Jersey property tax payers millions of dollars over the last 3 years, and with no sign that Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto is going to call the General Assembly back into session to vote on concurring with Governor Chris Chrisite’s conditional veto of legislation to extend the cap, Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon, R-Monmouth, the Republican Assembly Budget Officer, is calling on every New Jersey municipality with an expired police or firefighters contract to file for arbitration on Monday so their new contract will fall within the 2% parameter of the existing cap.
“It is quite frankly heart breaking to me that the leadership of my house, all of who are my friends, are leading New Jersey property tax payers off a cliff,” O’Scanlon said, “I fully expected to hear by the end of the day today that we would be brought back to Trenton on Monday to vote to affirm the Governor’s conditional veto of the arbitration award cap legislation which was overwhelmingly passed on a bipartisan measure by the apparently much more responsible New Jersey State Senate.
“Since the clock is counting down to the expiration of the previous law and the Assembly leadership seems to care more about pandering to special interest than the property tax payers of New Jersey I now feel compelled to take action assuming we’ll face the worst case scenario. In order to most comprehensively guard themselves against potential frivolous, but costly none the less, litigation any municipality that has an expired contract, but that has not yet filed for arbitration, should do so immediately – before the April 1 expiration of the previous law.
“It is extremely unfortunate that the Assembly Democrat leadership would act to threaten the welfare of New Jersey property tax payers, but that is apparently the reality.”
TRENTON — A fight over renewing a law crucial to holding back an increase in property taxes is nowhere near resolved, a Republican lawmaker who has led the fight for retaining it said today. Although the Democrat-led Legislature last week began advancing…
It’s beginning to look like Governor Chris Christie’s Boulevard of Compromise is a dead end.
The 2% property tax cap is under attack, as the Trenton Democrats are on the verge of passing an “extension” of the Interest Arbitration Award Cap that eliminates the cap on most arbitration awards and increases the cap on the remainder of the potential awards by 50%.
In my piece last night about the Interest Arbitration Cap, I raised the hope that published reports that Assembly and Senate committees cleared an identical bill that guts the cap were inaccurate because Senator Mike Doherty was co-sponsor of the Senate bill and because of Senate President Steve Sweeney’s comments about the cap at his Town Hall Meeting in Keansburg last week. It turns out that was wishful thinking. MMM has learned the bills are identical and, inexplicably, Doherty is a primary sponsor of the Senate bill, giving Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto “bi-partisan” cover.
Doherty has yet to return our call for comment. We’ve been told his attitude about the bill he is sponsoring with Sweeney is “a bill that will pass is better than no bill.”
Doherty has a point, albeit a minor one. If no bill passes by April 1, there is no cap on Interest Arbitration awards at all. If the bill that cleared through committees yesterday passes the full legislature and is signed by Christie, there will be a 3% cap on a minority of municipal government labor contracts for the next few years. If Christie vetoes the bill, even conditionally, there is no arbitration cap. Either way the property tax blaze is about to be reignited and/or the pain inflicted upon municipalities will be so great that consolidations and mergers will be forced indelicately. The backdoor destruction of municipal governments appears to be Sweeney’s undeclared plan.
New Jersey property taxes will likely resume the double digit annual growth that occurred under the McGreevey, Codey and Corzine Administrations if Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto’s version of the of the Interest Arbitration extension becomes law. Either that, or municipal governments as we know them will cease to exist, succumbing to a long and painful death of higher crime and reduced services and capital improvements.
A 2% cap on interest arbitration awards in labor disputes was a key component of the 2% property tax cap negotiated between Governor Chris Christie, Senate President Steve Sweeney and Prieto’s predecessor, Sheila Oliver in 2010. It worked. Arbitrators made awards of less that 2% to police and fire fighters unions and property taxes rose less than 2% per year over the last four years.
The problem is Oliver insisted that the arbitration cap expire on April 1, 2014. Now, we’re a week before the arbitration cap expires and Prietro is gutting the cap by passing an extension of the law that exempts contracts that were awarded less than 2% during the last three years from any future caps and raises the cap to 3% on contracts that have not been negotiated since 2010.
The math will never work. If property taxes stay capped at 2% but the primary cost of property taxes, salaries, are not capped or are capped at 3%, municipal services will disappear. Police will be laid off, with the junior, lower paid officers being let go first, leaving the older and more highly paid officers to run drown the inevitable increase in crime. Towns will go bust. The state will take over municipal governments and force consolidations.