Corzine wants to limit property-tax hikes to 3%

Corzine wants to limit property-tax hikes to 3%
Oct. 17, 2006  AP

TRENTON - Gov. Corzine says he hopes to hold property-tax increases to no more than 3 percent annually and give local governments authority to implement their own taxes.

Speaking on WKXW-FM (101.5) yesterday, Corzine said that he would like to cut the state's highest-in-the-nation property taxes as part of a tax-reform effort, but that keeping annual increases in check seemed more realistic.

Property taxes have increased about 7 percent annually in recent years, helping boost average property taxes to $6,000, twice the national average.

"Hopefully, we'll get it down to 3 percent or less," Corzine said.

New Jersey relies on property taxes to pay for most county, municipal and school operations. Those local governments raise money only through property taxes.

But the governor said he supported giving local governments the authority to implement their own sales taxes, an idea recently discussed by lawmakers who have until Nov. 15 to devise tax-overhaul recommendations as part of a plan to change the state's tax system by year's end.

"I think we ought to give other means of raising revenue on a limited basis," Corzine said.

New Jersey state government imposes a 7 percent sales tax, and the governor said he would support giving local governments authority to impose an additional 1 percent sales tax.

"I don't think we would do income taxes," Corzine said.

Minority Republicans blasted the idea. Sen. Robert Littell said residents are expecting property-tax cuts.

"Now we see that all along the Democrats in charge of government were just planning on raising new taxes under the pretext of a reform effort," said Littell (R., Sussex). "A tax shift is absolutely the wrong approach in an effort to lower property taxes in this state."

The League of Municipalities, which represents local governments, has supported giving communities the authority to impose additional taxes.

Some legislators have been promoting ideas such as restricting property taxes to a percentage of income or restricting how much property value is taxed as ways to give taxpayers a quick, dramatic tax cut.

Corzine didn't mention such proposals. He said he sees immediate property-tax relief coming through ideas he introduced in July: changing the state's school funding formula to give more money to suburban schools, and turning the annual property-tax rebate checks into direct tax payments to municipalities, which would be boosted by using $350 million from the sales-tax increase approved this year.

Corzine said he would also demand changes to bar newly elected officials, political appointees, and contracted workers such as attorneys and tax assessors from receiving taxpayer-funded pensions.

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