STAY NJ – Promises vs. Reality

STAY NJ – Promises vs. Reality

Someone has to say it: The STAY NJ Act is a smoke-and-mirrors scam, and it’s doubtful that the program as it’s being described today will ever actually be implemented.

What’s being promised NJ homeowners ages 65 & over who earn less than $500,000 per year will receive a credit on their property taxes for their primary residence equal to 50% of what they paid out the previous year, capped at a maximum of $6,500. So, anyone paying over $13,000 a year in property taxes would receive the max credit of $6,500, and those paying less would get a credit equal to half of what they paid the year prior. Municipalities are to be reimbursed for the credits by the State.

The bill also expands the eligibility requirements under the Homestead Property Tax Reimbursement Program (aka the “senior freeze” program) for senior citizens and persons with disabilities, and expands property tax benefits for senior homeowners and renters under the ANCHOR Property Tax Relief Program.

The bill also calls for the creation of ONE application form to be filled out that would put you under consideration for all three programs. If you meet the criteria for more than one program, you would only receive funds from the one that is most beneficial, as determined by the State. That’s the only good provision in this otherwise smoke-and-mirrors legislation, because it streamlines the applicaiton process.

The Catch There are several:

  • There is no way the State can fully fund the STAY NJ program, and they know it. Even though the bill calls for astronomical funding allocations over the next several years ($100 million in2024, $200 million in 2025, $300 milion in 2026, etc.) the fiscal note issued by the Office of Legislative Services states clearly that “these appropriations will not be sufficient to pay for the full cost of the Stay NJ program.” OLS estimates the actual cost of the program to be around $2 billion dollars–that’s BILLION with a B.
  • The bill was amended to ensure that the STAY NJ property tax credit program “will not supersede, impact, or interfere with the full funding” of the state pension system or the maintenance of a 12% budget surplus. With revenues on the downswing, the only way to pay for STAY NJ will be to raise taxes in a BIG way–something that won’t happen until after Election Day 2023.
  • The STAY NJ program isn’t “targeted” to take effect until January of 2026, based upon the property tax payments made in 2025.
  • The bill creates a Task Force that will put forth recommendations on how to combine all of the various tax credit and tax rebate programs into one program–which will probably result in the STAY NJ program being gutted into a flimsy imitation of what’s being promised right now.

The bill sailed through the Senate with a unanimous vote of 37-0, and easily passed the Assembly with a vote of 75-2. Assemblyman Brian Bergen was the only member of the legislature who is running for re-election this year that had the guts to vote no (the other dissenter, Asm. Kevin Rooney, is retiring). With every Senate and Assembly seat up for grabs this November, every other legislator decided to just sit back and let this train wreck proceed unchecked, lest they anger their Senior constituents.

And if you think that’s bad, just wait until you hear about how the Budget Vote was rammed through, quite literally at the 11th hour. The egregious lack of transparency and constituent disenfranchisement committed by the Budget Committee this year deserves its own post.