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(TRENTON) – Assembly Speaker Sheila Y. Oliver on Thursday announced that Assemblyman John F. McKeon will lead an effort to examine state mandates on local governments that are a major driving force behind property tax increases.

Oliver and McKeon said the effort will include public hearings and discussions with mayors, local officials and residents throughout the state. Further details will be announced shortly.

“When state government imposes a law or regulation upon a municipality, it’s the property taxpayers who end up paying the bill,” said Oliver (D-Essex/Passaic). “If we’re going to make a dramatic difference in finally combating property taxes, this is clearly an area that needs to be examined. I’m confident Assemblyman McKeon, with his experience as a legislator, mayor and local official, will take a complete look at this issue and provide the right advice on how to proceed.”

McKeon was mayor of West Orange from 1998 until July 1. He also served on the West Orange council from 1992 to 1998 and has been in the Assembly 2002.

“I know what it’s like to balance the needs of a local community with state mandates, but I also know that some mandates are developed with the best of intentions to protect the public safety, health and welfare,” said McKeon (D-Essex). “If done correctly, we can bring real savings to property taxpayers without spending a dime, simply by easing mandates that may no longer be serving their purpose or are simply too burdensome.”

McKeon said the effort to examine mandates is part of the Assembly’s drive to examine ways to control government spending and costs amid the new 2 percent cap on annual property tax increases.

“This is part of an overall effort to bring systemic change to a system that simply costs taxpayers too much money,” McKeon said. “We can do better, and our goal will be to hear from mayors and anyone else who has an idea on what mandates can be eased or eliminated to the benefit of property taxpayers.”