The StayNJ property tax relief plan for seniors, unveiled on Wednesday by Gov. Phil Murphy and legislative leaders, is getting a big thumbs up from an organization representing older Garden State residents.

Evelyn Liebman, the director of advocacy for AARP New Jersey said it’s a very positive development a compromised deal was reached to bring property tax relief to the state’s older residents, “many of whom are struggling to pay their property taxes or afford rents that are very high, living on low fixed and modest incomes.”

StayNJ will cut property taxes in half for those 65 and older who earn less than $500,000 a year, with a savings cap of up to $6,500, but the program won’t begin until 2026.

Not everybody is happy

But some New Jersey lawmakers aren’t thrilled with the governor’s announcement.

According to state Sen. Joe Pennacchio, R-Morris, the plan defies logic because the state has the funds to launch StayNJ immediately.

He said announcing it now but delaying it for years is a ploy the Democrats will use when the fall campaign begins but voters will see through it.

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“If you’re giving me a tax break why do I have to wait three years for it? It doesn’t make any sense. It’s the Wimpy budget, you give me that hamburger today and I’ll gladly pay you on Tuesday.”

Canva/Townsquare Media illustration
Canva/Townsquare Media illustration

Liebman said without this proposed relief plan, “we could see a huge exodus of older residents leaving New Jersey because they report the toughest bill to pay is their property taxes, the highest property taxes in the country.”

She noted many seniors are on low and moderate fixed incomes and struggle with “the state’s high cost of living, principally our highest in the nation property taxes, so this will go a long way in helping people.”

Questions about the future

Pennacchio agreed many seniors are having a hard time but said by the time we get to 2026 it’s entirely possible a new governor and Legislature will decide the state cannot afford to allocate an estimated $1.2 billion to cover the program and StayNJ will be scrapped.

“If they want a good public policy this should have been in discussion for the last number of years, when we’ve had this surplus, by their own admission the numbers are starting to dry up.”

He said to ensure seniors get the relief that’s being talked about in StayNJ, “put it on the ballot, make it a constitutional amendment, that way we are forced to give back to taxpayers what rightfully is theirs.”

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