BARNEGAT, NJ - At yesterday’s Township Committee meeting, Barnegat official passed a resolution opposing  A-4175, the “New Jersey COVID-19 Emergency Bond Act.”  The legislation calls for the issuance of $5B in bonds to respond “to the fiscal exigencies caused by the COVID-19 Pandemic.” The bill also authorizes Governor Phil Murphy to apply for loans from the federal government.

The proposed legislation, which has already passed the state assembly, calls for additional property tax levies if there are insufficient funds to meet the interest and principal payments on the bonds. This would be determined on an annual basis.

At yesterday’s COVID-19 press conference, Murphy said the proposed legislation contains standard boilerplate language used for decades. He emphasized the state has no plans to raise property taxes and saw the bonding as an alternative to doing so. However, Barnegat officials are not taking any chances.

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Barnegat Resolution 2020-214 pdfacknowledges that the COVID-19 pandemic has not only wreaked havoc on the physical health of residents, but also on their mental health and financial well-being. The Committee’s opposition to the bill is that it would “increase the tax burden and health, safety, and welfare of residents.”

“The people in Barnegat cannot take any more state taxes,” said Mayor John Novak. “…People are out of work and businesses are closed.”

Both Committeeman Al Bille and Committeeman Al Cirulli spoke about the work Barnegat officials perform to keep local property taxes down.

“This boils down to taxation without representation,” said Cirulli. “On a whim, the state wants $5B. This is outrageous and has to stop.”

Yesterday, 9th District Representatives Senator Christopher Connors, Assemblyman Brian Rumpf and Assemblywoman DiAnne Gove, issued a press release rejecting the proposed legislation. Rumpf and Gove have already voted against A-4175. Connors plans to do the same when it reaches the senate floor.

The local state delegates called the move unconstitutional, saying that the issue should be brought to the voters. They also chastised the Murphy administration’s failure to exercise financial restraint as impacting New Jersey’s ability to respond to COVID-19 from a fiscal standpoint.

“Despite the financial hardships many still face, Trenton now wants the taxpayers to bailout the state by borrowing billions of dollars without voter approval, in violation of the State Constitution,” the 9th District representatives said. “As part of the scheme to pay for the borrowing, Trenton plans to increase, of all things, property taxes. For many taxpayers in our legislative district, this would force them to send even more of their tax dollars to a school district in some other part of the state.”

“If f we weren't able to get this bonding..we'd be forced to do the awful thing of laying off literally, maybe at the state level, 200,000; at the local level, untold numbers of first line workers,” Murphy said yesterday. “Fire, police, EMS, educators, healthcare workers, the very people we need right now, frankly.”

According to the governor, municipalities would have no choice but to raise local property taxes. Murphy also expressed his concerns that there was no certainty on whether the feds would step in and help the state with funds.

“If folks keep raising their voice on this point (about the state’s intent to increase taxes), I have a response for them,” continued Murphy. “I'm going to read their names alphabetically, for all the votes positively that they took to support other bonding in the past with the exact same language.”