Murphy needs to stop punting on property taxes | Editorial

Faced with the country's highest property taxes, New Jersey imposed a 2 percent cap on salary hikes for police and firefighters back in 2010, and it's worked as planned, keeping unusually high salaries from going too much higher.
 
But it expires in December, setting up a test for the two candidates running for governor. The Republican, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, wants to renew it. The Democrat, Phil Murphy, wants to evade the issue until after the election, as if voters might not notice.
 
Sorry, this is New Jersey, and we notice everything related to property taxes, our number one issue since the dawn of time. Murphy is punting, folks. And that's a bad sign, one that shows how his romance with the public worker unions could prove costly to the rest of us.

Last week, a commission charged with studying the issue hit a stalemate, split down the middle between four union representatives and four others chosen by Gov. Chris Christie. They couldn't agree when to release their latest findings -- before the election, or after.
 
That's a ridiculous question, given that we live in a democracy. The union representatives opposed the release of the report to give Murphy political cover. They wanted to help him dodge the question by saying he was waiting for the report. But the governor's appointees released it anyway, and it showed what everyone knew it would - the cap keeps down costs. They put the savings at $530 million between 2010 and 2015.
 
Murphy's campaign called the release of the report a "political stunt." Please. He has it backwards. He and the unions are playing the games this time.
 
Recall why we needed this reform in the first place: Our police and firefighters are already among the best-paid in the nation. The median police salary was $105,106 at last count, which doesn't include overtime and bonuses.
 
Keeping reasonable limits on raises helps towns function under the 2 percent property tax cap Christie pushed and the Democratic Legislature approved; a signature achievement of his administration.  
 
This latest task force report - like several previous ones - found that the cap is yielding solid savings; not life-changing, but it helps. So where's the big debate?
 
Murphy hopes to reduce pressure on property taxes by increasing aid to schools, a move that would have a much larger impact, given that schools account for more than half of the typical property tax bill. But he should push to renew this cap, too.

Do you like this post?

Be the first to comment