Gov.-elect Christie Says He Will Lower Property Taxes Via Spending Checks, Shared Services

chris christie newark-mayor-coryGov.-elect Chris Christie said today he will lower New Jersey’s notoriously high property taxes, not with a “silver bullet,” but by following the deliberate approach voters approved — a mix of spending checks and more shared services. “I’ve told everybody right from the beginning that this is not a silver bullet issue,” Christie told reporters after a public event today in Newark, his first as governor-elect. “I refused during the campaign to come up with some type of slick, packaged proposal that people were going to say, ‘Oh, wow, that’s a miracle, there’s going to be no pain involved.’”

Instead, Christie’s plan for reducing property taxes targets government spending in general. The hundreds of town councils and schools districts in New Jersey where most of the money generated by local property taxes is spent are going to be held more accountable, he said.

The former U.S. Attorney said he will enforce hard spending caps at the local level, while also freeing up municipalities from having to pay for expensive policies mandated by lawmakers in Trenton.

He said he’ll create a new grant program to encourage shared services and, ultimately, move toward consolidation where it makes sense to do so.

“These are going to be things that are going to lead to less spending in municipalities,” Christie said.

The state will also perform audits on the costliest school districts to ensure the money is being spent efficiently, he said.

“We have to figure out ways to make some priority judgments either to have more of that money find its way into the classroom and or some of that money to find its way back to the taxpayers,” he said.

He acknowledged today that voters now expect changes when it comes to property taxes, but said it’s going to take time to fix a problem politicians in Trenton have been struggling with since the 1970s. “We didn’t get to this problem overnight,” he said. “I’ve said to people right all along, this is a tough problem that has to take long-term, systemic change.”

But Christie said his realistic approach toward lowering property taxes will work.

“There’s no magic here,” he said. “We’ve tried the magic wand theory, it doesn’t work.”

“So we’re going to do it the right way,” he said.

Most polls leading up to Election Day identified property taxes as the top concern among likely voters and exit polls conducted on Tuesday indicated Christie had the edge on the property tax issue.

In an interview, Codey (D-Essex) detailed a series of summer phone calls, meetings and the results of a confidential poll that nearly threw New Jersey’s governor’s race into the type of turmoil last seen when then-Sen. Robert Torricelli dropped his re-election bid in final weeks of the 2002 campaign.

Yet Corzine, a Democrat, and others had criticized the plan Christie put forward during the campaign to address property taxes, saying it wasn’t detailed enough and wouldn’t work.

Corzine, as a candidate in 2005, pledged to increase property tax rebates by 40 percent, but was unable to do so.

But Corzine this time around didn’t offer much that was different from Christie’s proposals. Corzine promised to keep working a plan that featured shared services — something Trenton has been pushing with little success for years — and pressing local spending caps already enacted.

And while the governor’s approach had slowed the growth of the statewide property tax burden since 2005, his spending caps included many exceptions.

In all, the average New Jersey property tax bill in 2008 rose to $7,045, a record high.

Independent Chris Daggett, meanwhile, put forward a proposal that would have cut property taxes by 25 percent across the board by shifting more of the burden to the state sales tax.

Voters, according to exit polls, said they cared more about bringing change to the State House over any other quality, including experience or shared values.

And in a contest that was perceived nationally as a referendum on President Obama, most voters said he wasn’t a factor. Property taxes and the economy were instead the biggest issues. Star Ledger

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4 COMMENTS

  1. why did’nt you put the article about the public schools in.He’s going to investigate were B.O.E money going He’s fighting for public school children.I told you guys to watch out.Now here he comes.

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