Greenwald Bill to Triple Property Tax Relief Benefit Funding Released by Assembly Panel

(TRENTON) – Legislation Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald sponsored to significantly boost property tax relief to beleaguered middle-class and senior homeowners and tenants by tripling the help available under the property tax credit program was released Friday by an Assembly panel.

The legislation would provide a major enhancement to the program that pays credits against local property taxes, helping lower a homeowner’s property tax bill. The program has been slashed by Gov. Chris Christie since he took office in 2010, helping spark a net 20 percent property tax increase during his stint as governor.

“Gov. Christie once said cutting property tax rebates was akin to declaring war on the middle class, but upon taking office he callously threw gasoline on the property tax crisis fire by slashing property tax relief,” said Greenwald (D-Camden/Burlington). “The governor’s failure to fulfill his promise was to the detriment of New Jerseyans who have been hit with a net 20 percent property tax hike under his watch. This bill gives the governor the chance to begin living up to his promise and provide substantial and real property tax relief to the middle-class and seniors.”

The bill (A-3202) would:

  • Deliver a $789 million boost to the Homestead Benefit Program, which pays credits against local property taxes, helping lower a homeowner’s property tax bill.
  • Triple the amount available under the program, providing for significantly enhanced property tax relief payments to the state’s beleaguered homeowners and tenants ($398.5 million had already been budgeted).
  • Senior and disabled homeowners would receive homestead benefits according to existing law. This would equal 20 percent of the first $10,000 in property taxes paid in 2011 if an applicant’s income does not exceed $100,000, 15 percent if the applicant’s income is more than $100,000 but not more than $150,000 and 10 percent if an applicant’s income is more than $150,000 but not more than $250,000;
  • Other homeowners would receive the same homestead benefits to which they are entitled under last year’s budget, but eligibility would be extended to homeowners with incomes between $75,000 and $100,000.
  • Additionally homeowners would have their rebate calculated based on their 2011 property taxes paid rather than on their 2006 property taxes, as proposed in the governor’s budget proposal, making the relief more updated and meaningful.
  • Senior and disabled tenants would receive benefits according to existing statute. Homestead benefits for these residents with incomes up to $70,000 would receive between $150 and $850. Those with incomes of $70,000 to $100,000 would receive $150.
  • Other tenants would receive 50 percent of the statutory rebates, which would amount to $75.

The governor had promised to fully fund this program, but in his first budget the governor cut it by 75 percent. Last year, the relief was remained just 50 percent of the fiscal year 2010 levels. For next fiscal year, the governor has proposed the same level as last year.

A second bill (A-3201) changes the rate of the New Jersey gross income tax for 16,000 taxpayers with taxable incomes exceeding $1 million from 8.97 percent to 10.75 percent, restoring it to its 2009 level and raising the $789 million for the property tax relief program.

“This is the governor’s time to finally do the right thing,” Greenwald said. “The governor has to decide if he’s going to keep his manic approach to protecting the mega-rich or is he going to side with taxpayers around the state and give real relief? We’re giving him an opportunity to put his money where his mouth is and put the money into a program that gives immediate relief to real families throughout the state of New Jersey.”

Both bills were released 8-4 by the Assembly Budget Committee.