From the Star Ledger:
When you picked up your Star-Ledger on Monday, you no doubt noticed a front-page article by Jonathan Salant headlined “Jersey by the Numbers. ” It detailed how our state ranks nationally in various categories.
And you no doubt noticed that the very first category was property taxes.
We’re No. 1. Our average property-tax bill was 2.38 percent in 2016.
Now look at California. Their average property-tax rate is about a third of ours, a mere 0.81 percent.
Why is their rate so much lower? Because the voters there have the power of initiative and referendum. In 1978 they used that power to put on the ballot a measure called Proposition 13.
Proposition 13 set a 1 percent cap on property taxes. It also included a tax freeze for as long as a homeowner owns a home.
Let us compare that to the rate in West Orange. That’s where the co-framer of the proposition, Howard Jarvis, spoke in 1978 to a group of tax activists hoping to emulate his example.
There was a lot of energy and enthusiasm in the room that night. But it all came to naught. Without the power of initiative-and-referendum, taxpayers had to wait for the Legislature to put such a measure on the ballot.
They’ve been waiting 39 years now, particularly in West Orange.
The property-tax rate there is 3.64 percent. If you have a $500,000 house there, you will pay about $18,000 annually in property taxes. In California you’d pay about $5,000.
Like most Californians, the people of West Orange tend to be liberal Democrats. But imagine how they’d vote if there were a measure on the ballot asking them whether they’d like a $13,000 tax cut. I suspect they’d vote like most Californians did back in 1978.
So why don’t we give the voters a chance to put that and other questions on the ballot?