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Speaker Coughlin Proposes StayNJ Property Tax Relief Program, Additional Benefits for Seniors

(TRENTON) – In an effort to address the rising costs facing senior citizens across New Jersey, Assembly Speaker Craig J. Coughlin unveiled a proposal to cut property taxes in half for most seniors and significantly expand assistance for medical benefits. This week, Speaker Coughlin introduced legislation (A1) that would create a new property tax credit program called StayNJ, which will make it more affordable for residents to stay in their homes. Additional legislation was introduced that will significantly expand medical assistance for health insurance and prescription drugs.

Under StayNJ, the state would provide a 50% credit on seniors’ property tax bills, capped at $10,000. Homeowners who are 65 years or older would be eligible for the tax credit on their principal residence, and there is no income limit for eligibility.  Payments would be applied directly to tax bills, with benefits starting on January 1, 2025.

“I’ve heard from people who have to sell the home they raised their children in, and leave the neighborhood they’ve lived in for thirty years, because they can’t afford to stay,” said Speaker Coughlin (D-Middlesex). “My plan, StayNJ, will mean that seniors have the freedom to plan a future in New Jersey with friends and loved ones they’ve spent a lifetime making memories with.”

The plan builds on efforts to make New Jersey more affordable. Governor Murphy and Democrats in the legislature have enacted 18 tax cuts over the past five years. Last year’s budget included the largest tax relief program in state history, which included the ANCHOR property tax rebate program. Assembly Democrats are committed to continuing the ANCHOR program in the next fiscal year.

The legislation would establish a common application for seniors to apply for StayNJ, ANCHOR or the Senior Freeze program. The state will determine which property tax program provides the greatest benefit for the applicant.

“StayNJ is a game changer for our seniors and their families,” said Assembly Majority Leader and co-sponsor Lou Greenwald (D-Camden, Burlington). “Too many seniors struggle to keep pace with rising costs while on fixed incomes. Seniors shouldn’t have to choose between staying close to their grandchildren and affording groceries or a night out. StayNJ will give our seniors the much needed relief they deserve.”

The legislation outlines a gradual funding schedule that will make paying for the benefit affordable and sustainable.

“We have spent five years getting our fiscal house in order,” said Assemblywoman Lisa Swain, (D-Bergen, Passaic), Chair of the Assembly Appropriations Committee. “We have carefully managed our expenses, and now we can make smart investments to move our state forward and think about making things more affordable. I know StayNJ will make a big difference in the lives of seniors in my district and across the state.”

Speaker Coughlin also introduced two other bills that will help thousands of seniors with their prescription drug and health insurance costs by expanding eligibility to existing programs.

One bill (A2) increases the income eligibility threshold and eliminates the asset test for Medicare Savings Programs. Income limits would increase to $29,160 for single residents and $39,440 for married couples, up from the current range of up to $20,000 for a single resident and $26,622 for married couples. Seniors who participate in Medicare Savings Programs would receive an average benefit of more than $2,200 on their premiums alone.

Another bill (A3) raises income eligibility for the PAAD (Pharmaceutical Assistance to the Aged and Disabled Program) and Senior Gold Prescription Discount Program. Under the legislation, an applicant with an income equal to or less than 400 percent of the federal poverty line is eligible for PAAD. In 2023, 400 percent of the federal poverty line is $58,320 for an individual and $78,880 if married. The bill also eliminates the Senior Gold income threshold to capture all seniors and individuals with disabilities.

Additionally, the bill requires the state to set up an automatic enrollment system for Senior Gold. These programs cover prescriptions excluded by primary insurance, eliminating the risk of extremely expensive uncovered medicine. Newly eligible seniors below 400 percent of the federal poverty level would see a benefit of more than $700 annually and seniors above that threshold would see an average benefit of more than $400.

“With StayNJ and the expansions of these healthcare programs, seniors will be able to envision retirement in their communities with their friends and loved ones,” said Speaker Coughlin. “I look forward to working with Senate President Nicholas Scutari, our colleagues in the Senate, and Governor Phil Murphy to ensure that making New Jersey more affordable is a focus as we look towards enacting a state budget this year.”