Under a Democratic-sponsored bill approved by both the Senate and the Assembly Budget Committees, municipalities would receive $66 million in next year's budget and would ultimately get back all of the $331 million in energy taxes that were diverted from them to the state treasury. The $331 million would be restored to municipalities through a five-year, phase-in plan under the legislation.
Approval of the bill was somewhat unexpected, since despite winning a sympathetic ear from key lawmakers, this year's budget uncertainty made it unlikely that the legislature would find funds to restore diverted funds. Since 2008, local governments have lost more than $270 million in assessments on utility properties, a practice that has been used by the state for more than 25 years. The state's League of Municipalities has been lobbying hard to end the practice.
The question now is whether Gov. Chris Christie will agree to restore the $66 million when he is seeking a tax cut in the 2013 budget.