From the Star Ledger:
The net household property tax burden in New Jersey rose 13 percent during Gov. Chris Christie’s first three years in office — a number that reflects both his success in reining in local government spending and his inability to restore a relief program that was gutted by his predecessor during the Great Recession, an Associated Press analysis of tax data has found.
The growth is only slightly lower than it was in the last three years of Democrat Jon Corzine’s time as governor, when the net tax bill went up 15 percent.
But it reflects a different approach: Christie, a Republican, has gone further to force local governments to keep costs down — and give them help doing it. Corzine also tried to control local government costs but did much of his work on trying to control taxes by expanding a rebate program, which he then cut.
The AP’s analysis found that the average net property tax obligation in 2012 was 31 percent higher than in 2007. For those cut from the program altogether, the increase has been even greater.
The Christie administration says focusing on those numbers minimize the governor’s property tax relief accomplishments.
The governor signed a law capping property tax growth at 2 percent per year — and with fewer exceptions than Corzine’s 4 percent cap.
To ease spending pressures on towns, he also achieved a major breakthrough when he got a Democrat-run Legislature to go along with an overhaul of pension and health insurance for one of the party’s main constituencies, public-sector employees.
His administration says that action will save local governments $900 million over its first three years and will save increasing amounts each year.
The governor did agree last year to plan for an income tax reduction based on the amount of residents’ property taxes, a variation on the rebate and credit programs. But the Legislature balked, saying the state couldn’t afford it. Christie, meanwhile, has rejected Democrats’ calls to increase income taxes on high-wage earners to pay for property tax relief for people who make less.
Christie is continuing to push for a version of the tax cut and for more controls on local spending, including not letting government employees get paid for unused sick time when they leave and offering incentives for communities to share more services.