Codey, Roberts: Property Tax Session Reports Offer Immediate Relief, Long-Term Reforms

Senate President, Speaker Set Monday Joint Committee Votes; Reforms Still on Path for Enactment Before Year’s End

TRENTON– Senate President Richard J. Codey and Assembly Speaker Joseph J. Roberts, Jr., welcomed the receipt of voluminous, detailed reports that were provided to them today by the co-chairs of the four Joint Legislative Committees charged with recommending ways to rein in New Jersey’s highest-in-the-nation property taxes.

Codey (D-Essex) and Roberts (D-Camden) heralded the release of the co-chairs’ reports as the start of a new phase of the property tax reform process rather than the end of the special session effort. Codey and Roberts said the reports will be available on the Legislature’s Web site at noon (www.njleg.state.nj.us).

The co-chairs’ reports total 400 pages and contain 98 specific recommendations or courses of action to provide overburdened middle-income homeowners with new levels of immediate property tax relief and long-term structural reforms that will strengthen accountability, improve public schools, pare governmental redundancies, and curb wasteful and abusive spending practices.

“If the Rutgers’ football team can erase the memory of decades of defeat in just a single season, we can do the same with property tax relief,” said Codey. “The reports we received today will be our playbook for implementing legislation that will make these reforms real and sustainable.

“These reports are a blueprint for reform and relief,” said Roberts. “It is now the Legislature’s responsibility to take these findings and recommendations and turn them into action that will make a difference for New Jersey’s long-beleaguered property taxpayers.”

Three-month effort

Roberts and Codey said the reports are the product of a roughly three-month effort to examine the state’s property tax problem and the structure of government and public schools in New Jersey. They noted that the joint committees held 41 hearings in just over 100 days, took testimony from 440 individuals, reviewed more than 8,000 pages of documentation, and received nearly 4,000 e-mails from the public.

“This process has been open, inclusive and innovative,” said Roberts. “It’s a structure for action that could be employed again in the future to address major problems confronting the state.”

“This process was successful in achieving many of the goals we laid out at the onset – public input, bipartisan cooperation, and a mutual understanding that we would leave no stone unturned,” said Codey.

Chief among the reports’ recommendations is a plan to provide a direct 20 percent property tax credit for the majority of New Jersey homeowners, the largest property tax reduction for working families in state history; and a framework for a fairer education formula that could be completed next month.

(CLICK HERE FOR AN OUTLINE OF MAJOR RECOMMENDATIONS CONTAINED IN THE REPORTS)

Timeline for action

Codey and Roberts said copies of the reports will be distributed to the press and will be made available this afternoon for public examination at the Legislature’s Web site created for the Special Session on Property Tax Reform, which may be accessed at www.njleg.state.nj.us.

The legislative presiding officers said plans call for the respective joint committees to vote on the contents of the co-chairs’ reports next week. Upon approval, the various recommendations will be crafted into specific legislative measures that will be in a position to be voted upon before the Legislature takes its annual winter holiday break later next month.

Praise for participants

Codey and Roberts applauded the co-chairs and members of the four joint committees that spent the past three months examining the state’s property tax problem and taking testimony from academics, government experts, advocacy organizations, and taxpayers.

“This was truly a team effort to benefit New Jersey,” said Roberts. “The level of cooperation and participation from the entire Legislature ensured from the outset that the products we received today would be comprehensive, far-reaching, and successful in delivering real, sustainable, and substantive property tax relief and reform for New Jersey taxpayers.”

“The enthusiastic response from the public, from our committees, and from the Governor, has put us on the right track to produce honest and lasting reforms,” said Codey. “Now it’s time for the full Legislature to take these recommendations and transform them into legislation that will provide hardworking families with short-term relief and long-term confidence that they can afford to live and raise their children in New Jersey for years to come.”

CLICK HERE TO VIEW NEWS RELEASES FROM THE COMMITTEE CO-CHAIRS ANNOUNCING THEIR RECOMMENDATIONS

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MAJOR RECOMMENDATIONS

Constitutional Reform & Citizens Convention:

20% direct relief for most New Jersey homeowners

Tax caps to control property tax increases

Lays groundwork for State Comptroller

Constitutional Convention unnecessary at this time if reforms are enacted

Government Consolidation & Shared Services:

BRAC-type commission to consolidate government services subject to voter approval

Streamlined shared services law

“Super” County Supers & pilot county school districts

Election reform for school boards & fire districts

Lead by example: abolish defunct state boards & commissions & state departments like Commerce

Public Employee Benefits Reform:

401K-type defined contribution plans for all new part-time employees & elected officials

Raise retirement age & shift to cost-saving pension calculations

End padding, boosting, & tacking (“one job for one pension”)

No pensions for convicted public officials

Public School Funding Reform:

New school formula based on needs of students, not geographic location

State assumes greater responsibility for funding public education

School formula weighted to benefiting senior citizens — new formula calculates district’s ability to pay factoring in town’s percentage of seniors

New accountability measures and spending controls, including spending caps and travel & perk restrictions for school superintendents

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