Backed by Dems, Christie Pushes For Property Tax Relief

Matt Katz | April 14, 2014 | Katz on Christie

Gov. Chris Christie pushed Monday for renewal of one of his signature property tax relief measures, which has stalled in the Democratic-controlled Assembly.

The measure has a clunky name: Interest Arbitration Cap. But it’s essentially a 2 percent cap on pay increases that arbitrators can award to cops and firefighters. And since property taxes pay for these salaries, about 100 local officials and legislators of both parties stood behind Christie at a windy rally across from the Statehouse to support his push for the cap’s renewal.

“If we don’t, we’ll go back to the bad old days of 70 percent tax increases in 10 years or such cuts in services that the quality of life in our towns and counties will be unrecognizable,” Christie warned. 

The governor signed a cap in his first term, but it has expired. The N.J. Senate, which is also Democratic-controlled, passed a renewal, but it hasn’t moved in the Assembly, where Democratic Speaker Vincent Prieto wants to negotiate a compromise.

Prieto released a statement Monday, saying it is “disappointing that the governor and local officials have chosen to hold rallies rather than sit down and negotiate with the Assembly to resolve this matter.”

The fact that Christie can’t push through a bill that he signed in his first term indicates his new reality: He is beginning his final term under the shadow of scandal, and forced to deal with a brand-new Assembly speaker, with whom he seems to have less pull than he does with Democratic Senate President Stephen Sweeney.

Perth Amboy Mayor Wilda Diaz said if the cap isn’t renewed, services will have to be cut in order to stay under another Christie-imposed cap — a 2 percent limit on overall property taxes. Diaz said street cleaning, recreational programs and trash collection all could be cut if the arbitration measure isn’t renewed. 

Police and firefighter unions say Christie is disrespecting first responders, and not recognizing that public safety workers have jobs unlike any other.