NJ Lawmakers Promise Reform to Nation's Highest Property Taxes

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    That property tax rebate check won't be in the mail for most of you who live in New Jersey. Under Governor Corzine's new budget, only senior citizens and people who earn less than $50,000 a year will be eligible.

    There have been plenty of theatrics, but Democrats who control both houses of the New Jersey state legislature say they are on track for reforms that just might ease the state's highest-in-the-nation property taxes.

    "I'm so angry," said Joel Barasky, 63, a homeowner in North Brunswick who said he supports the strict cap on annual increases being pushed by Republican Governor Chris Christie.

    "Who would be against that? You'd have to be a nut to be against that," said Barasky.

    But while calling several days of special legislative sessions on the eve of the July 4th holiday weekend, the Governor compromised.

    He backed down from insisting on a constitutional amendment that would cap annual increases at no more than 2.5 percent and in the face of near unanimous opposition from Democrats, agreed to ask for a simple law that would do the same thing(but could be changed by future legislatures).

    But when Governor Christie insisted on several days of special sessions to get his way, Democrats balked and that set up the theatrics.

    For example, all 17 Republican State Senators marched into an empty state senate chamber on Friday to be greeted only by Senate President(and Democrat) Steve Sweeney.

    He called for a quorum vote, but with 22 Democratic Senators not showing up there could be no official business.

    Over the phone, Senator Ray Lesniak (D-Union), who was one of the 22 who declined to show up, called Governor Christie "a bully."

    But Sweeney stepped down from the podium to shake hands with GOP Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr. (R-Union) and others.

    Senator Kean said "It's very important people have control of their own futures."

    "We agree and we're gonna work together," responded the Senate President.

    There may not be that much difference between Democratic legislators and the Governor.

    Just last week they passed a 2.9 percent cap (it would affect municipalities and local school districts).

    But the big argument appears to be over the exceptions that would be allowed to go over the cap.

    Examples might include health insurance increases, or special education costs--both of which have soared in recent years.

    "You're not gonna solve the problem that is decades in the making over a three day holiday weekend," said Assembly Budget Committee Chairman Louis Greenwald (D-Camden).

    But Greenwald, and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-Essex) are promising public hearings and specific solutions within the next 60 days.

    Every indication is that Governor Christie will continue to hold their feet to the fire from his 'bully pulpit' to make sure that happens.

    Follow Brian Thompson on Twitter @brian4NY