NJ lawmakers advance bill to cut property taxes in half for seniors
💸 The StayNJ plan offers a 50% property tax credit, regardless of one's income
💸 The bill calls for a $1.2 billion yearly appropriation by the end of the decade
💸 Critics fear the plan is financially unsustainable
After hearing concerns over whether the state can afford such an ambitious goal, a New Jersey Assembly panel on Thursday advanced a proposed law that would cut property taxes in half for most senior citizens.
Advocates for the measure say it would prevent the state's oldest residents from being forced out by costs, and possibly attract seniors in other states to spend their golden years here.
Under the StayNJ plan sponsored by Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, D-Middlesex, New Jersey would annually provide a 50% credit on the property tax bills of residents aged 65 and older. There is no income limit for eligibility.
"This bill would give our seniors an extended vested interest in the future of the towns where they currently reside, knowing they have a financially feasible future in our great state," Monroe Township Mayor Stephen Dalina told the Assembly Aging and Senior Services Committee before the measure was advanced by a vote of 5-1.
Nearly 80% of adults aged 50 and over want to remain in their homes as they age, according to research by AARP. Evelyn Liebman, advocacy director for AARP New Jersey, said that number has been consistent for more than a decade.
"But New Jersey's property taxes make this goal unattainable for far too many, driving older residents to leave our state," Liebman said.
Can New Jersey afford StayNJ?
While critics and proponents of the bill agree that more should be done to make New Jersey affordable for seniors, lawmakers and advocacy groups worry about New Jersey's ability to foot the bill proposed in A1. The legislation does nothing for renters, and it may help high-income earners more than it helps the folks who need relief the most, critics say.
"I think we need to talk about some kind of income cap," said Assemblywoman Beth Sawyer, R-Gloucester, who voted against the measure. "I'm very concerned about the amount of money that this is going to put on taxpayers to sustain this."
The bill appropriates $300 million in the first year. By Fiscal Year 2028, the annual appropriation would be $1.2 billion.
"What I'm asking is that you give this time to do it right," said Maura Collinsgru, director of policy and advocacy for New Jersey Citizen Action. "Because one thing we cannot do is institute a massive property tax rebate bill for seniors, and two or three years from now say, 'Whoops, sorry, we don't have the money.'"
Public comments made by top aides to Gov. Phil Murphy, according to reporting by Politico, criticized the StayNJ plan floated by the New Jersey Legislature's top democrats — a companion bill has been introduced in the Senate by Speaker Nicholas Scutari. Murphy's office sees the tax plan as unsustainable and says it shuts out renters who, in many cases, are most in need of financial relief.
Speaker Coughlin said during the Assembly hearing that he hopes to increase ANCHOR payouts for renters from $450 to $500.
Under the bill, a single application would be created for for StayNJ, the ANCHOR rebate program, and the homestead property tax reimbursement program.