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Burzichelli, Riley & Eustace Bill Package to Boost Property Tax Relief for Seniors & the Disabled Advanced by Assembly Panel

An Assembly panel on Monday advanced a two-bill package sponsored by Assembly Democrats John Burzichelli, Celeste Riley and Timothy Eustace to help boost property tax relief for seniors and the disabled.

“Let’s face it, the last time eligibility limits were set for property tax relief, Ronald Reagan was President and you could fill up your gas tank with loose change,” said Burzichelli (D-Cumberland/Gloucester/Salem). “The cost of living has increased dramatically since then and we owe it to our most vulnerable citizens to ensure that their property tax relief is actually substantive enough to make a difference.”

The sponsors noted that the last time this annual income limit was increased was in 1983, from $9,000 per year to the current $10,000 per year.

The two measures take into account the increase in the cost of living by increasing the annual income limit for seniors and disabled people to be eligible for an annual property tax deduction. Under the first bill (A-2542), sponsored by Burzichelli and Riley, the income limit would increase from $10,000 to $20,000, reflecting actual inflation from 1983 to 2006.

“Many seniors and disabled individuals rely on a fixed income to get by,” said Riley (D-Cumberland/Gloucester/Salem). “When property tax relief lags so far behind the realities of the cost of living, it becomes harder and harder to make ends meet. This is a long overdue update.”

The annual income limit change thereafter will reflect the actual cost of living change for the past year. The Consumer Price Index will be used to determine increases in years after 2006 in order to ensure that the income limits remain realistic.

Because the current annual income limit of $10,000 is set by the state constitution, any increase in that limit must be authorized through the approval of a constitutional amendment. The second measure (ACR-148), sponsored by Burzichelli and Eustace, would do just that by proposing a constitutional amendment to increase the annual income limit from $10,000 to $20,000 for seniors and disabled people to be eligible for an annual $250 property tax deduction. That increase would take effect in 2013, and the annual income limit would then be adjusted in each year after 2013 according to changes in the Consumer Price Index.

“This deduction has failed to keep pace with economic realities and has been jerked out of the hands of seniors and the disabled for the last few years by this Governor,” said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic). “It’s time to let voters weigh in on whether or not this crucial relief should be constitutionally dedicated for those who need it most.”

The measures were approved by the Assembly Appropriations Committee and now await consideration by the full Assembly.