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…
When Gov. Christie came to office in 2010, he took action to address the biggest problem New Jerseyans have faced for decades – property taxes. Working with the Legislature, historic tax reforms were signed into law. These included a two percent limit on property tax levies, increased health and pension contributions by public employees and a two percent cap on awards arbitrators can grant when towns and their unions can’t agree on a contract.
These cost control tools are working. Recent property tax data shows the average property tax bill grew by 1.7 percent in 2013 and by the lowest consistent rate in decades since the reforms were passed. While our ultimate goal is to actually cut property taxes, slowing their growth is an essential first step.
The clock is now counting down to the destruction of the delicate framework that has successfully controlled our property taxes. An essential component of that framework – the arbitration award cap which enables local officials to control their largest costs – expired on April 1 of this year. The first contracts exempt from the cap will expire in June. That will be a disaster for property taxpayers throughout New Jersey. Without an honest and effective arbitration award cap, the property tax cap will fail.
The state’s interest arbitration cap law is one of the primary reasons we have turned the tide on the escalation of property taxes. According to the Public Employment Relations Commission, from January 2011 (when the arbitration law took effect) to September 2013, average raises in local contracts, whether through arbitration or negotiations, were 1.86 percent — the lowest in at least 20 years.
TRENTON — After spending months combating scandal, Gov. Chris Christie today returned to a familiar setting and an old target: standing in front of dozens of supporters to pressure the state Assembly to pass a key bill. Backed by dozens of county…
TRENTON — Gov. Chris Christie plans to go after Assembly Democrats this morning for their refusal to renew a law that reduced compensation for many police and firefighters. Christie has an 11a.m. press conference scheduled at Trenton’s war memorial…
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…
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.