SPEAKER OLIVER STATEMENT ON PROPERTY TAX REFORM

(TRENTON) — Assembly Speaker Sheila Y. Oliver (D-Essex/Passaic) released the following statement after Gov. Chris Christie’s address to the General Assembly:

“We know that property taxes continue to be the top concern of New Jerseyans, and tackling property tax reform has been one of my top priorities.

“I know I do not singularly share that sentiment.

“It is, I can safely presume, a top priority of everyone in the Legislature.

“And it is, without question, a top priority of our governor, as we have just heard.

“We have various plans to combat this plague on our state, this tax without a conscience.

“They are different plans, but the intent is the same — tackle property taxes.

“In 2006 this Legislature convened a special session on property taxes and implemented a 4 percent cap on annual increases.

“Not everyone agreed it was the right thing to do.

“Not everyone was certain it would work.

“But the facts are the facts.

“In 2005, the average statewide property tax increase was a completely unacceptable 7.2 percent.

“Since the cap went into effect, we have seen increases of 3.7 percent and 3.3 percent.

“That is progress, but we know it is not enough.

“No one is satisfied with that amount.

“So we’ve seen competing proposals, all lower than 3 percent.

“The difference — one is constitutional, the other is statutory.

“I will be clear — a constitutional cap is the wrong direction for our state.

“A constitutional cap does not allow for flexibility.

“One of the reasons government is often stagnant is that processes take so much more time than they do in ‘real’ life.

“There is already enough inherent delay in the regulatory process.

“Adding the delaying of the constitutional process will only add to the stagnancy, not eliminate it.

“Laws often have unintended and unforeseen consequences, despite our best efforts.

“A cap law has such breadth and depth of impact on the lives of New Jersey residents that we must be able to act swiftly if unintended consequences should arise.

“Just two days ago the Governor signed S-3000 — the Annual Appropriations Act — a budget of which he is undeniably proud.

“That budget had a language provision that overrode a portion of the existing local cap.

“Even Governor Christie recognized the need for the flexibility to change that cap and we must maintain that flexibility in any new or revised cap.

“But most importantly, a statutory cap can be implemented now.

“The governor’s plan would have us wait essentially to next year.

“Who, if I may ask, wants to wait that long for property tax relief?

“I do not.

“I am confident the residents of New Jersey also do not.

“Meanwhile, I have instructed 12 members of this house to study nearly three dozen property tax reform ideas in preparation for legislative action in the fall.

“The governor has made clear he doesn’t like this approach.

“But this will be an extensive effort over the summer to properly analyze reforms put forth by Democrats and Republicans and develop a real plan of action to bring relief to taxpayers.

“This is going to be a thorough review that brings smart reform to New Jersey.

“It will be an in-depth review of bipartisan ideas, with the goal being to study, organize and approve an effective plan to control spending and property taxes without crippling crucial services and crushing worker rights.

“We’ve seen the pitfalls of rushing policy, so we will do this the right way.

“And I realize the governor does not support our 2.9 percent plan.

“That’s why I will announce right now that I expect the Assembly Budget Committee to meet tomorrow to continue considering cap plans.

“This is a compromise approach.

“We are willing to work with the governor.

“So before I finish, I will recall his words to us on Feb. 11.

“They were wise words, but words mean something only if they are followed.

“Here is what the governor said: ‘It is time to leave the corner, join the sacrifice, come to the center of the room and be part of the solution. I urge all of us to come to the center of the room voluntarily, to stand up to the special interests, to fix our broken state — together.’

“Well, we are waiting in the center of the room.

“We are part of the solution.

“We will soon find out whether the governor shares that willingness.”

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