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Keep Momentum for Reform Going; Pass the Governor’s Tool Kit for Local Government!
An Open Letter to the New Jersey Legislature
July 21, 2010
On behalf of the National Taxpayers Union's more than 10,000 members in New Jersey, I urge you to continue your recent efforts to reform the state's budget by enacting the Governor's "tool kit" for local government.
Last Tuesday, July 13, Governor Christie signed into law a cap on property tax increases. The measure, which received substantial bipartisan support in the General Assembly and State Senate, restricts property tax increases to 2 percent annually, but allows exceptions to pay for costs related to pensions, health care, emergencies, and increased school enrollment. Although not as comprehensive as some would wish, this sensible cap is welcome news for New Jerseyans who have been burdened with the nation's highest property taxes.
However, addressing property taxes is only the beginning of the effort to resolve New Jersey's oppressive tax burden and chronic budget problems. Already, there are reports projecting massive state deficits and a 12 percent increase in local government health-care costs next year. The fact of the matter is the cap will not work unless the State Legislature makes a serious effort to reduce the cost of government, which is driving the increases in tax rates.
To help the state recover from these maladies, the Legislature must enact the Governor's "tool kit" for local government. This package contains 33 bills that will help local governments reduce their costs by reforming public employees' salaries, benefits, and pensions. Among the reforms are a 2.5 percent cap on salaries and benefit arbitration awards, revisions to layoff rules that restrict dismissal of highly-paid employees, more furlough authority for local governments, and limits on paid vacation and sick leave. In a state with 1,600 government entities, these improvements to fiscal policy will go a long way toward bringing the cost of government down to a more manageable level and reducing the impulse to raise taxes.
We applaud the State Legislature's bipartisan effort to pass a balanced budget and cap property taxes for the benefit of New Jersey. Our members hope you will continue your commendable journey on the path of reform, by enacting the Governor's 33-bill tool kit to reduce government costs that push tax rates higher. We stand ready and willing to assist you in this vital task.