State may yet restore tax rebates

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:48

    SUSSEX COUNTY-New Jersey homeowners may get property tax rebates after all. With the state facing a massive deficit, Acting Gov. Richard Codey originally proposed eliminating for one year the New Jersey Saver Rebate program that delivers an average rebate check of $800 to the state's homeowners. But recent published reports, citing an "unexpected windfall" of a billion dollars, say that some relief may be included in the budget that the state must enact by July 1. In addition to the billion dollars, Assembly Democrats may agree to $450 million in spending cuts and a $25-million increase in the realty transfer tax to increase revenues and allow for a partial restoration of the popular rebate program. better revenue base, one that would pave the way for at But some, including local assembly members, express hope that the reports are true while also voicing skepticism. "Well, you get a tenor of the debate already when the Governor said he would discuss it with the Democratic leadership," commented Assemblyman Guy Gregg (R-24), whose district covers three counties, including all of Sussex. "We need to see where this revenue is coming from. If you're from St. Louis, it's, ‘Show me.' If you're from the 21st century, it's, ‘Show me the money.' Yes, I am saying that budgets can be done with smoke and mirrors, but I'm also asking, is it real? "From the spending side, I would hope and will certainly demand that any extra revenues for next year go back to the taxpayers, not to spend more on new programs," Gregg added. With the July 1 budget deadline looming closer, many assembly Democrats, fearful of political repercussions in an election year, have indicated they would work at restoring some of the tax rebates. The state said in early March that it was near bankruptcy, and Codey said that cutting the rebates was necessary to shave about $1.1 billion off the projected $4-billion deficit. More recently, Codey has said some of the rebates would be restored, but he was doubtful as to whether they would be reinstated in full. Along with a 47-33 advantage in the assembly, Democrats hold a 22-18 edge in the N.J. Senate, but members of both parties, including Gregg, have already stated that at least part of the problem is from added spending on "new programs" each year. Gregg, who views rebates "not as spending, but as bringing it back" to taxpayers rightfully, predicted some of the rebates will be reinstated but that the state will remain looking to create additional programs he feels are unnecessary. "I get concerned when I hear rhetoric like, ‘I'll go talk to my party leaders,'" Gregg charged. "I think he's (Codey) just giving himself room for flexibility. We're all politicians, and I rarely see that many inconsistencies. What I see is a continuing line of revenue for West State Street. They (Democrats) will probably attempt to run on, ‘We restored half of what we promised to you.' "I hope that our members of both parties will be specific on the treasurer (John McCormac) as to the revenue," added Gregg, who called McCormac "talented and honorable" but having "arguing (assembly) leaders to preside" over.