I. State Issues:
a. Governor Addresses the State of the State
Tuesday, January 15, in Trenton, Governor Murphy delivered his First State of the State message to the Legislature and the people of New Jersey. His central message was focused on progress made and prospect to create more opportunities for economic improvement and for social progress. He called for ‘a new approach that reaches deep into every community and puts growing and sustaining a thriving middle-class before anything, or anyone, else. … Those who have been left out must be lifted up. Those who work hard must have their effort repaid. And those who are doing well should see a path to doing better.’
Noting the deficiencies of previous tax incentive programs, the Governor advocated for incentives for businesses that ‘invest in their employees through skills development and training, and that cares about growing innovative and promising small and medium-sized companies. The Governor singled out Newark Mayor Ras Baraka and Plainfield Mayor Adrian Mapp for his plans to use the Opportunity Zone program to help realize their municipalities’ potential.
The Governor recognized our State infrastructure needs, promising a continued commitment to fixing New Jersey Transit. He also noted the need to rebuild and modernize of New Jersey’s aging water infrastructure, citing the leadership of Newark Mayor Ras Baraka on this issue.
In the short term, the Governor hopes to see action on an increased minimum wage and recreational marijuana legalization.
The Governor stated, ‘…the more time I spend outside Trenton the more I learn that all answers do not come from Trenton.’ Through the League, Mayors from all around New Jersey stand ready to help the Governor find the answers he needs to make the State a stronger and fairer place.
In the Republican response, Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick specifically referenced the need to restore the 2% cap on interest arbitration awards.
Contact: Michael F. Cerra, Assistant Executive Director, firstname.lastname@example.org, 609-695-3481 x120.
b. Municipal Property Tax Relief and the Next State Budget
On March 5, Governor Murphy is scheduled to present his Budget Address to the Legislature and the people of New Jersey. At that time, he will propose a State spending plan for the Fiscal Year that will begin on July 1. That proposal will be the basis for further discussions, and ultimate action, on that plan.
For too many years, for municipal officials, the presentation of a State Budget has been like being taken aboard a pirate ship, blindfolded, and forced to walk the plank. You need to be prepared for the worst, all the while silently hoping it turns out to be just a team-building exercise.
Holding on to that hope, we will see, on that date, if municipal taxpayers will be given the opportunity to enjoy the restoration of property tax relief funding that is, rightfully, theirs. With that in mind, it is not too soon to begin to talk to your representatives in the Legislature about what they can do, in the upcoming budget deliberations, to help you to better help the property taxpayers who you are sworn to serve.
Wharton Borough Administrator and Chief Financial Officer Jon Rheinhardt, who also serves as President on the Government Finance Officers Association of New Jersey, has produced a power point presentation, State Aid (Or Is It), that details the history of municipal utility taxes (Energy Tax Receipts) and the State’s long-standing custom of diverting chunks of the proceeds to fund State-level programs.
If you are unfamiliar with the history, or in need of a reminder, State Aid (Or Is It) can give you the background you need to make the case for increased municipal property tax relief funding in the States next budget.
Contact: Jon Moran, Senior Legislative Analyst, email@example.com, 609-695-3481 x121.
c. Bill Preempting Municipal Control of Vegetation Management Likely
Moving To Final Vote
S-2505, known as the “Vegetation Management Response Act,” could be scheduled for a full vote before the Senate on January 31. Its Assembly companion A-2558, has already been approved by the full Assembly. If approved by the Senate the bill would then go to the Governor for his signature or veto.
The League opposes this bill as it would give electric utility companies complete discretion to clear, move, cut, or destroy vegetation growing in, near, or adjacent to the utility’s right of way and without input from municipal officials. While we appreciate the sponsors’ response to the recent storms which left hundreds in the state without power, this legislation takes too broad of an approach.
We urge our members to reach out to their Senators to express the concerns with the bill. Your legislator’s contact information can be found using the state’s website which breaks this information down by municipality. And, for more information on the implication of S-2505/ A-2558 please see our daily alert from December 13.
Contact: Frank Marshall, Esq., League Staff Attorney, FMarshall@njslom.org 609-695-3481 x137.
d. NJ Supreme Court Orders Dismissal of Nearly 800,000 Municipal Court
Yesterday, the State Supreme Court issued an Order dismissing certain older unresolved complaints on minor municipal court matters. This comes at the suggestion of a three judge panel’s report that was issued after hearing public comments in the fall of last year. Offenses such as minor motor vehicle offenses, penalty enforcement actions, and violations of local ordinances, 15 years old or more, have been dismissed.
The Administrative Office of the Court has developed a website to assist defendants wanting more information and to check the status of their possibly dismissed complaints.
In addition to the dismissal of these older cases the Court’s Order also instructs the Supreme Court committee to examine whether the judiciary should consider offenses more than 10 years old and whether to expand the types of matters eligible for dismissal.
You should review this matter with your municipal prosecutor and municipal court administrator for more information and the potential impact the dismissal of these complaints will have on your municipality.
Contact: Frank Marshall, Esq., League Staff Attorney, FMarshall@njslom.org, 609-695-3481 x. 137.