NJ Governor Phil Murphy wants to ease property tax bills for 1.8 million homeowners and renters – NBC New York

The number of New Jersey residents receiving property tax relief would nearly quadruple to nearly 2 million people under a plan by Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy unveiled Thursday.

The governor’s proposal will be part of the new fiscal year budget he will unveil next week in the Democratic-led Legislature. He presented the new plan at an event in Fair Lawn, part of an effort to focus on affordability since a narrow election victory in November.

“We believe we need to take steps to offset the costs and make living in New Jersey more affordable,” he said.

The proposal adds support for tenants, who were previously excluded from the current state benefit.

Under the new plan, homeowners earning up to $250,000 will be able to get a credit on their property taxes of up to $700 in the fiscal year beginning July 1.

Renters earning up to $100,000 would receive rebate checks — since they don’t pay property taxes directly — up to $250.

Overall, the governor’s proposal could benefit 1.8 million residents, compared to 470,000 who currently receive property tax assistance.

The program carries a price tag of $900 million, which would increase to $1.5 billion by 2025, with the aim of increasing the average profit to $1,150 per year.

It’s a fraction of the state’s more than $46 billion budget, and the governor aims to make it an annual program.

But that forces lawmakers to renew it every year in the budget. This means, for example, that if state revenues fall or a recession hits, the program could be on the chopping block.

Republicans are in the minority in the Legislature and have long pushed back against Murphy’s agenda, particularly raising taxes on the wealthy and corporations. They see increased state spending to alleviate property taxes, which are levied locally, as a failure to reduce city and county spending.

“Governor Murphy is using overtaxation as an excuse to cover up overtaxation. Municipal spending can be cut by billions of dollars instead of spending billions at the state level,” Republican Assembly Leader John DiMaio said in a statement.

Senate Republicans want to pass a $3 billion package they say would return excess tax collection to residents in the form of $500 to $1,000 refundable tax credits on their income taxes .

“We want to give back this unexpected and unnecessary windfall to New Jersey families struggling to get by with runaway inflation,” said Senator Steve Oroho, leader of the Senate GOP.

Messages seeking comment were also left for Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin and Senate Speaker Nicholas Scutari.

Currently, the average tax benefit is $626, with eligibility limited to homeowners earning $75,000 or less if they are under age 65 and not blind or disabled. People over the age of 65 or who are blind or disabled currently face an income cap of $150,000.

New Jersey’s average annual property tax rate is nearly $9,300 and is among the highest in the country. Taxes are collected by school districts and local governments and pay for educational and other services. They are still a political issue in New Jersey, which decided to cap annual property tax increases at 2% in 2010 under former Republican Gov. Chris Christie.

Murphy has leaned more toward affordability since his narrow win over Republican Jack Ciattarelli in November after campaigning on the progressive policies he implemented in his first term. Murphy has long argued that increasing aid to schools in his budgets amounted to property tax relief. More state support for schools reduces the burden on districts and reduces the need to raise taxes, but that’s not guaranteed.

His stance has exposed him to repeated attacks for failing to unveil a more comprehensive property tax relief plan. Thursday’s proposal amounts to him directly embracing property tax concerns.

Penny D. Jackson