From the Daily Record:
State senators and assembly members won’t be the only ones interested in what Gov. Jon Corzine has to say about property taxes when he addresses them in Trenton tomorrow.
Local educators, new homeowners and senior citizens, especially, all want to know how the governor intends to lower the state’s property tax burden.
Corzine is expected to discuss specific ideas to cut property taxes by 20 percent, including, for example, using sales tax revenue.
The governor wants to use the $600 million from a sales tax increase to entice New Jersey’s 21 county and 566 municipal governments, 616 school districts and 186 fire districts to consolidate and share services. He has suggested using that $600 million in annual revenue to borrow as much as $7 billion to reward governments that merge and share services.
“I’d like him to discuss overall ‘real’ tax reform,” said Jerry Cantrell, president of the Silver Brigade, a tax-reform organization based in Denville.
“Not the ‘relief’ we’ve been getting inundated with,” he said.
Gov. Jon Corzine should say the following when he addresses the state Legislature tomorrow about property taxes.
“This has gone on long enough. We talk and talk about property tax reform and nothing happens. The public is totally fed up and we should be as well. That means the status quo cannot continue. Yes, that sounds like a cliché, but we as leaders of our state must show the public we are not merely mouthing clichés.
“To substantially cut property taxes, we must begin by looking at what property taxes support — local government and schools — and see if that money can be raised more equitably. It is beyond dispute that property taxes are inherently unfair in that they tax the ever-escalating value of property without any regard to income levels of property owners.
“We can begin doing that by adopting the premise that home rule, a relic of the 1800s, belongs in the history books. The only people who care about home rule are the ones doing the ruling.
“As a state, we cannot rely on local officials to voluntarily relinquish their fiefdoms. Towns and school districts are creations of the state. It is time for the state to un-create some of them, or actually, many of them. The state must order small towns and school districts to merge either services or entire governments, thereby eliminating overlap and countless jobs.
“And we must demand that local governments and school boards live in the real world. The days of awarding pay raises of 4 and 5 percent to union bargaining agents and creating high-paying public jobs to help a political buddy must end. If local government units persist in doing that, I will order the state Department of Community Affairs to reject their budgets.”
“In short, we must raise taxes for local government more fairly and sharply reduce the cost of that government by consolidating towns, merging services and demanding spending cuts. To do anything less would show us incapable of leading this state.”