[OPINION] Consolidation Won’t Cure High Property Taxes

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by Ronald A. Sobieraj

Is there a magic cure for high property taxes”? No, “consolidation” won’t work. Those who claim that it will can’t provide evidence for it. Will they ask for the 21 counties to be consolidated into fourteen counties? Last week’s news reported the bankruptcy of Detroit. After World War II this city expanded by consolidating with adjacent towns. Did that lower property taxes?

The causes of New Jersey’s high property taxes is the 1947 state constitution. It created the most powerful governor in the nation by taking away powers from the citizens and the legislature. Generally speaking, a powerful ruler is associated with an oppressed people. Specifically, it based property taxes on assessed value rather than true value (the selling price). Post-war inflation led to escalating property taxes, and migration to the suburbs.

Under the 1844 state constitution there were no high property taxes, or a sales and income tax. The Assembly was elected yearly (to keep them in touch with the voters). The Senate and Governor had a three-year term. The Governor could not succeed himself. New Jersey bans its citizens from electing county District Attorneys and the Judiciary, unlike Pennsylvania and New York. It does not have “Initiative and Referendum” to expand people’s First Amendment rights.

What is needed to cure high property taxes? I think we need a political party that will represent the citizens of NJ, not one that represents the big landowners and corporations.

The increase in counties and municipalities since the 18th century occurred for the best reasons: the people voted for it. That is why a large township was divided into seven municipalities, and 13 counties were split into the present 21. The working definition of democracy is local control. The voters in a local area should know what is best for them, not the special interests who seek to tax and oppress the people. Just this year we’ve seen a governor try to sell off state assets to a private firm (owned by foreign interests).

If “consolidation” works, why not consolidate with Pennsylvania? (Consolidating with New York could recreate the Dutch colony of Nieuw Amsterdam.)

Ronald A. Sobieraj is a resident of Perth Amboy

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