Should NJ Have Another Special Session on Property Taxes?
In the summer of 2006, former Gov. Jon Corzine convened a special legislative session to explore ways to lower New Jersey's highest-in-the-nation average property tax bill. Months of hearings followed, but in the end most, including many lawmakers involved viewed the session as a bust.
The top Republican in the Assembly said Monday that there should be another special session that would actually involve the very taxpayers it would seek to help.
"We should have an open session to hear from the public as well as legislators on how to reduce property taxes. We need a broad-based session on the (Senate and Assembly chamber's) floor where the public asks the questions and members of the legislature should respond to the public's questions," said Assembly GOP Leader Jon Bramnick (R-Westfield).
Legislation (ACR-18) co-sponsored by Bramnick would require the Senate president and Assembly speaker to convene a special session of each house, within seven days of final passage. The session would be devoted solely to considering property tax relief as well as devising and considering ways to implement that relief and reform.
While he would not comment specifically on Bramnick's measure, Assembly Speaker Vinnie Prieto (D-Secaucus) did say Monday that reducing property taxes was and is always a top priority.
"We're all trying to look at lowering property taxes," Prieto said.
Under Bramnick's legislation, the speaker, Senate president and the minority leader of each house would present bills to be considered by that house at the special session and each such bill would be voted on by the members of that house.
"I've heard over and over again that legislators want to reduce property taxes," Bramnick said. "I think the public has a right to have an open hearing on property taxes that lasts until we have input from people from all walks of life and all different types of opinions."
In 2006, Corzine convened his special session when he created four bi-partisan, bi-cameral committees to examine public school funding reform, government consolidation and shared services reform, constitutional reform and public employee benefits reform.
The night before members of the public employee benefits reform committee were to present their findings and recommendations, Corzine fired off a letter to then-Senate President Dick Codey and then-Assembly Speaker Joe Roberts notifying them that he would handle the upcoming contract negotiations with the unions. That infuriated Codey, Roberts and committee members who felt their months of hearings had been nullified.
At the time, then-State Senator Bill Gormley was a member of the Public Employee Benefits Reform Panel. After Corzine sent his letter, Gormley likened his committee's hearings to a Seinfeld episode when he said they were essentially, "a show about nothing."