Tag Archives: debate

League Cosponsors Important Property Tax Cap Forum

On June 15, The League of Women Voters of New Jersey proudly co-sponsored a public forum on capping property taxes with Bergen Community College’s Institute of Public Policy and The Record. The following entry is a brief summary of the forum discussion and is written by LWVNJ Vice President, Michelle Bobrow, who was in attendance.

Property Tax Caps: The Massachusetts Experience Informing the New Jersey Discussion” was the first in a series of public programs on the newly-formed Bergen Community College Institute for Public Policy.  Moderator Richard Keevey, director of the Policy Research Institute for the Region, Princeton University, opened with the observation that Governor Christie had no choices about the budget, with no projection for any rosier outlook; he and we are captive to past bad decisions, with school and municipal funding.

Jon Shure, former director of the New Jersey Policy Perspective, discussed the need to reapportion state revenues among sales, income and property taxes. The 1988 proposal to rely on a more broad-based tax was rejected.  Caps force wholesale changes without targeting priorities. The difference in the Massachusetts tax cap, enacted 30 years ago, is that the state increased state aid to municipalities at the beginning, which New Jersey does not plan to do.  Also, Massachusetts was experiencing declining school enrollment, as opposed to New Jersey’s projected continuing increase in school population.

Josh Barro of the Manhattan Institute, felt that fees could be substituted for taxes, with lower fees receiving differential treatments.

Jay Ash, City Manager of the town of Chelsea for ten years, felt that lower property tax revenue makes local government more efficient.  The 2.5% limit can be shifted between commercial and residential areas.  With an average inflation rate of 3.9% and an average increase in health insurance of 10%, maintenance of infrastructure has been deferred.  Capital investment and healthy reserves are sacrificed.  The ability to override the cap by voter approval has led to disparity between small towns and cities, between rich and poor.

Charles Lyons, superintendent of a school district for 23 years, feels that the cap law is very popular.  An additional levy on new growth has led to a rate of 4-4.5%.  The law includes elimination of binding arbitration, unfunded mandates.  It has encouraged local collaboration for revenue and fiscal planning, and a focus on long range planning.  Also, the state is mandated to remit to municipalities 22-24%, on which municipalities can rely.

One of the interesting observations is that Massachusetts eliminated county government, but kept those geographic areas for court systems. Also, in Massachusetts the cap is mandated legislatively, while the proposal for New Jersey is by Constitutional amendment. Constitutional amendments are exceedingly difficult to change, while a law can be amended, rescinded, etc., if in the future it is deemed to be unworkable or unnecessary.

Two states, two similar approaches to a major problem, with differing means for achieving the goals.

Read press coverage of this event

Recent coverage of the property tax cap debate in NJ

“Gov. Christie calls special legislative session on N.J. property tax overhaul” – 6/29/2010

N.J. Assembly passes alternative property tax cap bill” – 6/29/2010

N.J. Senate approves 2.9 percent property tax cap bill” – 6/28/2010

Christie and Democrats Reach Budget Accord; Tax Caps Next” – 6/22/2010

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League of Women Voters Convention

The following entry is written by LWVNJ Board Member, Ed Gracely.

I just returned from an exhilarating experience at the League of Women Voters of the US Convention in Atlanta. I am always impressed by the breadth of interests League members have! For example, during this convention members proposed, discussed, and adopted statements on marriage equality for same sex couples (we support it!), the travel ban to Cuba (we oppose it), the Senate filibuster (we’d like a lot less of it), and “improved Medicare for all” (we support it). In addition, we will be busy over the next two years working on the studies adopted (one on privatization, the other on the federal role in education).

Some of the New Jersey delegates with past LWVUS President, Susan Lederman (from NJ), seen here in the red jacket in the center of the photo.

These activities illustrate the processes by which the League of Women Voters reaches decisions. Our members choose the issues that we will study and our members decide the positions that we will take –  a very grassroots process! Potential issues to study are proposed at convention and debated, often with informative caucuses, and speakers. After debating, members vote on whether or not to undertake the study. Now that we have two new studies, committees will be formed, materials distributed, and local Leagues will hold meetings to provide their input to the national League. The conclusions reached from local League members will determine our future position on the issues studied. This process of proposal, debate, study, and consensus is at the heart of the League’s approach to public policy issues, and represents a significant part of why the League’s views are respected on so many topics. Every member of the League of Women Voters has a voice within our respected organization, which translates to a powerful voice in government on important legislation — a great reason to be a member of the League!

We didn’t spend quite all of our time debating positions and adopting studies (see more pictures from Convention)! Among other things, there were numerous interesting workshops and caucuses to attend. For example, proponents of marriage equality, Medicare for all, and the education study all held caucus meetings to promote their views.  Workshops offered training on how to advocate at the federal level, issues in redistricting, creating a League web site, and many other topics. League of Women Voters of New Jersey members participated in panels on using online tools in the community, encouraging women to run for office, and election integrity.  We also heard from notables like Kathleen Sebelius (Health and Human Services Secretary) and John Lewis (civil rights leader and inspiring congressman from the Atlanta area). We had a speaker on women’s suffrage at the banquet, and we got to watch a movie all about gerrymandering (creating election districts to achieve political goals).

I love conventions. I always learn a lot, plus I enjoy the give and take of the debates on the floor, and even the nit picky challenges to procedures (which I’ve been known to make!) The best part about conventions is the same thing I love about the League of Women Voters — both provide an opportunity to be personally, hands-on,  involved in a wide variety of decisions and activities that are part of the League’s mission of making democracy work.