Guest Column

Ciattarelli: Let's focus on property taxes, school funding, N.J.'s economy

Jack Ciattarelli, Republican Candidate for Governor Credits: Jack Ciattarelli for Governor

SOMERVILLE NJ - The lieutenant governor, Kim Guadagno, recently called a proposal to elect the state Attorney General "a bold plan".  I respectfully disagree. It's not bold, nor is it a good idea.

Considering the crises raging in New Jersey, I remain deeply concerned about the other gubernatorial candidates' lack of focus and specifics on issues that punish New Jerseyans every day and stagnate our state economy year over year over year.

Indeed, New Jersey is ranked dead last in economic growth and business climate. We're also No. 1 in the nation in out-migration, meaning people are leaving here more than any other state.

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If any one issue is reason for these dubious distinctions, it is property taxes, which are driven, in part, by inefficiencies linked to having 565 municipalities and 611 school districts. As governor, I will advocate for and incentivize consolidation and regionalization that lowers property 

I will also reform the primary driver of our property tax crisis; namely, terribly flawed and blatantly unfair state school funding.

How flawed and unfair is the current distribution of state school funding?  When middle-class suburban homeowners of a $300,000 residence pay more in property taxes than an $800,000 Jersey City townhouse . . . When middle-class suburban citizens are paying up to $15,000 a year for pre-K and owners of million dollar waterfront condos in Hoboken get to send their children to pre-K for free . . .

My school funding reform ensures equity for all New Jerseyans and lowers property taxes in the most grossly underfunded communities by:

  • Reducing excess aid in the most extremely overfunded school districts.
  • Redefining "Local Fair Share" so no community funds less than 25 percent of their school operating budget or construction costs.
  • Changing the state aid formula by reweighting cost-per-student spending targets.
  • Preventing communities from abating school taxes on new development.
  • Redirecting state funds to make means-tested pre-K less expensive to eligible families statewide.

This detailed school funding reform combined with my proposed reforms of our unfunded pension system, punishing tax code, bloated and outmoded state government and dysfunctional relationship between the Governor's Office and New Jersey's congressional delegation -- which results in New Jersey receiving just 60 cents back on every dollar we send to Washington -- constitutes a five-point plan that is truly bold.

The plan is also comprehensive and specifically designed to improve our business climate, stimulate entrepreneurship, grow our economy and create jobs.  It will produce "a tide that lifts all boats," providing opportunity for all New Jerseyans, especially blue collar and middle class citizens. Just as importantly, it is a plan worthy of bi-partisan support.

Too many gubernatorial candidates are either not speaking at all to the raging crises or wishing them away by saying, for example, that all we need to do "fully fund the current school funding formula" or "make the full pension payment" or "adopt a holistic strategy to lowering property taxes." These aren't serious proposals. They are platitudes that represent the height of irresponsibility and pandering of the worst kind. 

We do not need politics, policies and campaigns that disenfranchise citizens and insult their intelligence with so-called solutions. I am not going down that way. Not as a citizen, not as a state legislator and certainly not as a gubernatorial candidate. As an MBA/CPA, two-time entrepreneur, and successful business owner, I know what we need. We need a plan.


The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer. Click here to submit a Guest Column.

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