From the Record:
Senior citizens, disabled residents and other homeowners who are among the more than a million people enrolled in New Jersey’s Homestead program will not get their property tax relief this year.
That relief — in the form of a credit on annual property tax bills — is again being delayed by Governor Christie and his administration, who blame another bad budget year.
The latest delay means people won’t see this benefit until May 2015 — nearly two years since the last time the tax-relief credit was available.
“When you’re running out of money, you’ve got to manage your cash carefully,” Christie said on Wednesday, defending the decision to delay the credit as part of a plan to reduce his proposed budget by $1.7 billion. “You’ve got to prioritize your bills and decide which ones you absolutely must pay.”
Christie has now postponed the Homestead program three times since taking office in early 2010. Property taxes in New Jersey are still rising, but not by as much as they had when Christie took office and before he pushed for a 2 percent cap on increases. But they are still growing, to a record high statewide average of $7,988 last year.
What people get as a tax relief credit, however, has not changed much since 2010.
Seniors and disabled residents see an average of $516, for those earning under $150,000. Homeowners earning less than $75,000 see a benefit of $402.
The Homestead credit costs the state roughly $375 million. An estimated 1.6 million New Jersey homeowners qualify for the current version of the program. Christie converted the Homestead program from a direct rebate check to a credit on property tax bills after he took office in 2010.
State Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff disclosed the latest plan to delay the property tax relief on Wednesday during an Assembly Budget Committee meeting. He said it gives the Christie administration “flexibility to handle any adverse cash results” as the state deals with its latest budget woes.
“It’s, I think, appropriate from a cash-management standpoint,” Sidamon-Eristoff said.