TRENTON – Gov. Chris Christie signed legislation today that caps local property tax growth at two percent per year. The bill is a compromise between Christie’s original desire for a constitutional 2.5 percent cap and a proposal by Democratic lawmakers to cap increases at 2.9 percent.
Voters would be able to authorize a higher rate of spending with a simple majority vote, and there are several exemptions for costs such as debt payments, pension contributions and health care costs.
While the law is intended to slow the growth of property taxes, it is not clear how much effect it will have because of the exemptions.
Reaction to the cap plan has been mixed.
“New Jersey families can finally look forward to the kind of real, long-term property tax relief that Trenton has failed to deliver for decades,” Christie said. “A hard cap of two percent with limited exceptions that puts final authority to exceed the cap in the hands of the people is the substantial and sustainable reform New Jersey needs.”
Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) hailed the cap as the first step in the effort to provide comprehensive property tax reform. “Merely slowing the growth of property taxes is not victory,” he said. “Now we need to put the reforms in place that can actually make them go down.”
Assemblywoman Nancy F. Muñoz, (R-Union) agreed that more work remains. “This stringent cap marks a vital first step in helping to rein in New Jersey’s obscene property tax rates,” she said. “We must now turn our attention to providing local governments with the necessary tools they will need to work effectively within the cap.”
NJEA President Barbara Keshishian said the cap would have a “devastating” effect on New Jersey school children and added, “Our children will pay the price for the shortsighted decision that our elected leaders have made.”
New Jersey Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel feared that the cap would ultimately have a negative effect on the quality of life in the Garden State. “We’re concerned that this is going to lead to overdevelopment as towns try to grow their revenues through the ratables chase that in the long term will mean higher taxes and more sprawl,” he said.
New Jersey has the highest property taxes in the country, averaging nearly $7,300 per household.
Connect with NJTODAY.NET
Join NJTODAY.NET's free Email List to receive occasional updates delivered right to your email address!