We all know the story of New Jersey: It’s the best state in the country to spend your childhood, and it’s a great state to live, work and raise a family. We have the best public schools in the country, beautiful, tight-knit communities, and an unmatched quality of life. From the mountains to the beaches, from our cities to our farms, there is no state in America that can match our diversity. But we all also know the other side of that deal. Once you hit your retirement years, you have to look for alternatives.
So many friends, families, and neighbors save for a comfortable retirement for decades, yet when it finally comes time to enter what should be the best years of their life, their accountant urges them to move to a lower-cost state. They can’t afford, they’ll be told, to live a comfortable lifestyle in a state where costs for seniors are so high.
Maybe you’re nearing retirement age now. You’ve lived in your house for decades, been a part of your church or
synagogue for decades and supported your local community for decades. You love your hometown, and you don’t want to leave.
And then the pandemic hit. And inflation. All of a sudden, your retirement savings might not be enough. The day when you realize your retirement savings won’t cover even a prudent lifestyle for a senior in New Jersey will be one of the more difficult days in your life. You’ll be advised, as so many have in the past, to leave New Jersey, and spend your golden years somewhere else, away from the place and the people you love.
Unfortunately, you wouldn’t be alone in making that trip. It is unacceptable that New Jersey remains a difficult, if not impossible, state to spend your retirement.
These aren’t just empty stories. Families live them every day. I have recently become a grandfather to two beautiful grandchildren. As I hold them in my arms, I am lucky enough to imagine a future of watching soccer games, ice cream at the Shore, birthday candles, and holidays spent together making memories. I am now acutely aware of the pain thousands of others feel at the realization that they will miss those moments because they don’t think they can afford to retire here. Property taxes are the main driver of this burden.
It’s time to cut property taxes in half for seniors in New Jersey. We’ve made progress on making our state more affordable, but we all know that property taxes are still too high. And for seniors, that lack of affordability is frightening. The solution has to serve our seniors today, those in their 50s facing these choices in the near future, or those in their 30s and 40s watching their parents face these tough decisions.
It’s time to make New Jersey competitive for retirees looking to spend their golden years in their homes. It’s time to be there for our seniors, to make our state a better place to retire.
That is why I’m proposing StayNJ, a plan that will effectively cut most seniors’ property taxes in half. StayNJ will apply to all New Jersey owner-occupied homes owned by a senior citizen.
But that’s not enough — we need to also be there for seniors who rent as well. That’s why we’re also proposing to increase the ANCHOR benefit for senior renters.
I’m incredibly proud of the progress New Jersey has made under Gov. Phil Murphy and the Legislature. Together, we’ve brought fiscal prudence back to our budget process, allowing us to build a record surplus, increase our credit rating, and deliver historic property tax relief. But we must continue to move forward. StayNJ addresses a critical gap in our efforts to allow senior citizens the freedom to enjoy retirement.
I look forward to working with Governor Murphy and Senate President Nicholas Scutari on including StayNJ in this year’s budget.
This opinion piece was published on NJ.com on 5/22/2023
New Jersey General Assembly Speaker Craig J. Coughlin represents the 19th Legislative District, which includes Carteret, Perth Amboy, South Amboy, Sayreville, and Woodbridge in Middlesex County.