New Jersey Governor Chris Christie rode into office on a campaign promise to cut the state's infamously high local property taxes. In the first year of his administration, however, those taxes rose by an average of $7,576 -4.1 percent -in the biggest year-over-year increase since 2007, The Star-Ledger of Newark reports .
Asked at a press conference Wednesday (March 16) whether he bears responsibility for the sharp increase, Christie told reporters, "Absolutely not." Instead, the Republican governor blamed Democrat Jon Corzine, the previous governor, whose administration passed a 4 percent property tax cap that Christie says has failed. Christie noted that his administration has passed a tougher, 2 percent cap that didn't go into effect until this year and, therefore, is too new to judge.
"As of January 1 of this year, now it's on my watch," Christie said Wednesday, according to The Star-Ledger . The governor also used the press conference to push Democrats in the state legislature to approve a series of local governance measures that he supports, claiming they are essential in helping municipalities stay within the 2 percent cap on annual property-tax growth.
Property taxes are among the most explosive political issues in New Jersey, where the average burden is the highest in the nation, according to the Tax Foundation . New Jersey governors from both parties have tried, and failed, to contain local tax increases, and there is already plenty of sparring over the policy changes that Christie has made so far and plans to make going forward.
Democrats, for example, argue that huge cuts in education and municipal aid under Christie's first state budget are forcing localities to raise property taxes to make up the difference. Christie does not dispute this, but blames Democrats for failing to pass the rest of his legislative agenda to ensure that localities have the means to prevent such tax hikes - including, controversially, changes to the way that towns and public employee unions negotiate contracts. Similar proposals have prompted huge protests in Ohio, Wisconsin and other states recently.