On its face, the Stay NJ Act sounds like the answer to every senior citizen’s prayers when it comes to New Jersey’s chronically high property taxes.
According to a press release from Governor Murphy’s office, “The Stay NJ senior property tax credit affordability program expands income limits and modifies ownership requirements with the aim of cutting property taxes in half for many eligible New Jersey seniors by providing a direct credit of up to $6,500 on property tax bills when fully implemented.” While this premise is all well and good, the major flaw in this bill is the caveat that the program will only go into effect in the year 2026 – three years from now.
Even the most casual observer knows that three years is geologic time in the political world. So much can and will happen in the span of three years that pundits on all sides of the political spectrum agree that it is highly unlikely that seniors will see any relief when the time finally comes to implement the program.
The reason for this is actually quite simple. As a result of borrowed money, unspent Cares Act funds and the over taxation of its citizens, the state has squirreled away enough funding to implement the program this year. However, these funds are projected to likely be gone by 2025, leaving a budget shortfall for FY 2026 and no ability to begin funding a program as ambitious as the Stay NJ Act.
At the June 30 voting session, I spoke to the full Assembly on this very subject and implored them to initiate the program this year when the funding is available, not three years from now. To date, there has been no change in the beginning of the program.
Why then, would the administration promote a program that will most likely never see the light of day? The answer lies in this November’s election. With the entire legislature up for reelection in a traditionally low turnout year, a program like this is looked upon as an irresistible enticement for senior citizen voters to come out and vote. While motivating people to come out to vote is a good thing, deceiving them in the process is not. This gives further credence to the old adage about elected officials “don’t listen to what they say, watch what they do.”
Unless the implementation date is moved up, the Stay NJ Act will be nothing more than a cruel hoax perpetrated upon senior citizens desperate for relief from New Jersey’s suffocating property tax burden.