We were in Trenton today with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie as he signed the Renewed Arbitration Cap agreement which continues interest arbitration reform that provides municipalities with the help they need in negotiations with public employees and public employees unions to keep property taxes down. It matches the cap on local tax increases with a cap on salary increase.
It was a bright, sunny day in Trenton -- a day not without a bit of pomp and pageantry.
And it was great to see Democrat and Republican leaders come together to continue these important reforms.
This is a testament to Governor Christie's fine leadership which puts agreement and cooperation first.
Governor Christie has proven time and time again that he know how to bring people -- and parties -- together to get things done.
The Governor looked great and was delighted to see us today. His message to us (and to the blog) was conveyed in three words: "You're the best!"
Thanks, Governor. We're proud of you. Keep putting the taxpayers of New Jersey first!
All photos copyright 2014 by Dan Cirucci.
Bipartisan Action To Rein In Property Taxes
Today’s Signing Of The Renewed Arbitration Cap Is The Latest Example Of Governor Christie Working With Bipartisan Leaders To Address Property Taxes
WORKING TOGETHER TO REIN IN PROPERTY TAXES
Two Percent Property Tax Cap: In July 2010, Governor Christie signed a two percent hard cap on property taxes, cutting out loopholes and putting control back in the hands of property taxpayers.
· THE RESULT: Property Taxes Are Rising At Their Slowest Pace “In More Than Two Decades” In A “Hard-Fought Milestone For One Of The Highest-Taxed States In America.” In 2013, “the average property tax increase in New Jersey last year was a relatively modest 1.7 percent … In 2011, the average bill went up 2.4 percent, and in 2012, the increase was 1.6 percent — a contrast with a 2004 through 2006, when the bills went up at least 7 percent each year.” (Salvador Rizzo and Eric Sagara , “N.J. property taxes rise slightly in 2012; Christie pushing for lower bills,” The Star-Ledger, 1/13/13; “NJ property taxes climbed an average of 1.7 percent last year,” The Associated Press, 3/13/14)
First Passage Of The Interest Arbitration Cap: Working together with Senate and Assembly Leadership, Governor Christie signed into law transformational, long-overdue interest arbitration reform that provides municipalities with the help they need to keep property taxes down for New Jerseyans.
· THE RESULT: “It Has Worked Exactly As Planned.” “Enter Gov. Chris Christie. In collaboration with Democratic leaders, he changed those rules to give taxpayers a fighting chance. A key provision imposed a 2 percent cap on salary increases, intended to match the 2 percent cap on property tax increases. It has worked exactly as planned.” (Editorial, “NJ Assembly Speaker Prieto Should Back Salary Cap On Police, Firefighters,” The Star-Ledger, 3/17/14)
o “In the roughly three years after the reform took effect, the average increase in police salaries was just 1.86 percent, the smallest bump in two decades.”
Sweeping, Bipartisan Pension And Benefits Reform: Governor Chris Christie signed into law landmark pension and health benefit reform in June 2011, marking months of hard work, negotiation, compromise and ultimately bipartisan support.
· THE RESULT: Governor Christie’s sweeping bipartisan pension and benefits reform will save New Jersey taxpayers $120 billion over the next 30 years. (Governor Chris Christie, “Governor Christie Signs Into Law Bold, Bipartisan Pension and Health Benefits Reform,” Press Release, 6/28/11)
o For fiscal year 2014 alone, taxpayers and local governments are projected to save $540 million. (New Jersey Department of the Treasury, “Christie Administration Announces New Jersey Property Taxpayers See Projected Savings of $540 Million,” Press Release, 4/15/13)
THERE WAS BROAD AGREEMENT THE ARBITRATION CAP IS WORKING “EXACTLY AS PLANNED”
Nearly 120 Mayors and Officials from across New Jersey Joined Governor Christie to call for renewal.
The New Jersey League Of Municipalities Is Urging All Mayors To Push The Assembly To Renew The Bill. “Dear Mayor: Today marks two weeks since the Governor and the State Senate acted to extend the 2% cap on interest arbitration awards. (See our April 3 Dear Mayor Letter). The League supports the Governor’s recommendations to the Interest Arbitration bill, S-1869. Please contact your Assembly representatives as soon as possible to urge them to concur with the Governor’s amendments as time is of the essence.” (New Jersey League Of Municipalities, “Status Quo on Interest Arbitration Cap Extension,” Letter To Mayors, 4/10/14)
Every Major Newspaper In The State Has Called For The Cap’s Renewal:
· The Star-Ledger: The Arbitration Cap “Has Worked Exactly As Planned.” (Editorial, “NJ Assembly Speaker Prieto Should Back Salary Cap On Police, Firefighters,” The Star-Ledger, 3/17/14)
· The Record: “If the arbitration cap expires, police and firefighter salaries could increase by more than 2 percent a year. That likely would force municipalities to make cuts elsewhere. That would be counterproductive.” (Editorial, “Keeping The Cap,” The Record, 3/29/14)
· Press of Atlantic City: “But there is no doubt that it works, and lawmakers must not go wobbly - the cap must be renewed.” (Editorial, “Police, Fire Salaries / Keep Arbitration Cap,” Press of Atlantic City, 3/24/14)
· Times of Trenton: “[U]nless lawmakers act to renew it. Not to do so will upset the balance of an effective approach to reining New Jersey’s property taxes.” (Editorial, “N.J. Should Extend Interest Arbitration Cap For Police, Fire Contracts,” Times of Trenton, 3/24/14)
· Asbury Park Press: “[Renewing the cap] is a major test of the sincerity of any public official who talks about the need to keep property taxes under control.” (Editorial, “Don't Relax Cap On Police, Fire Arbitration Awards,” Asbury Park Press, 3/26/14)
GOVERNOR CHRISTIE CONTINUES TO FIGHT FOR PROPERTY TAXPAYERS
Governor Christie has called on the legislature to pass common-sense reforms that will help municipalities lower the cost of government and provide New Jerseyans with real relief from the crushing burden of high property taxes.
Shared Services And Civil Service Reform:
Governor Christie conditionally vetoed Democrats’ empty ‘reform’ bill and called on the Legislature to give municipalities greater flexibility in order to remove barriers to sharing services:
· Local governments should not be stuck in a system that they adopted decades ago, especially if they find their continued participation in civil service to be unnecessarily burdensome and costly.
· The Local Unit Alignment, Reorganization and Consolidation Commission determined that civil service seniority-protection rules are among the most significant barriers to shared services between municipalities.
· The Civil Service Opt Out would be the most comprehensive way to address the barriers to shared services posed by civil service seniority rules.
Governor Chris Christie has taken steps to promote sensible, locally-driven municipal consolidation efforts.
· To assist municipalities moving towards consolidation, Governor Christie announced that the Department of Community Affairs will provide grants to cover 20 percent of the cost of consolidation.
· Governor Christie also proposed legislation to allow municipalities engaging in complete consolidation to spread one-time costs over a five year period.
An End To Sick Leave Payouts:
Governor Christie urged the Legislature to end the practice of distributing cash payouts for sick days for government employees:
· Governor Christie conditionally vetoed legislation that would cap sick leave payouts at $15,000.
· Democrats second proposal to cap payouts at $7,500 would cost to New Jersey taxpayers a minimum of $3.25 billion.
· Accumulated sick and vacation payout liability for municipalities statewide is currently $880 million.
Ending Accidental Disability Abuse:
New Jersey’s pension system is burdened by individuals who collect permanent accidental disability benefits while continuing to work full-time.
· Governor Christie has proposed better defining the standards for qualification in order to combat these abuses.
· Building on his commitment to ensure the long-term recovery and solvency of New Jersey’s public employee pension system, Governor Chris Christie issued an Executive Order creating the Pension Fraud and Abuse Unit.
o As part of the state Treasury Department, the Unit will detect pension and disability fraud and ineligibility, as well as facilitate civil and criminal prosecutions where appropriate.
Closing Loopholes In The Property Tax Cap:
Governor Christie has called on the legislature to prevent municipalities from increasing user fees as a way of circumventing the 2% property tax cap:
· This legislation will apply to funding for traditional services that were previously included the local budget.