Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Christie's Sleight of Hand Doesn't Fool Taxpayers

Star-Ledger Editorial Board

Gov. Chris Christie is practicing sleight of hand with a property tax relief program for senior citizens and people with disabilities. A trick he hopes no one will notice.

Not a chance.

The governor boasted to seniors in April that he has kept the Senior Freeze program fully funded. Hey Gov, they're old, not stupid. And they don't need a twitter account or Facebook page to get the naked truth. All they need to do is rip open their tax bill. Senior Freeze has not kept its promise to those in the program.

In effect, the governor has raised taxes on the elderly.

Here's how Senior Freeze is supposed to work: The program freezes your taxes at the year you become eligible - 65 or older, joint income for a couple is $80,000 or less, state resident for 10 years, in your current home for three years. If your taxes are $6,000 when you become eligible, that's it. If your property taxes go up to $7,500, you'll get reimbursed for $1,500, to keep you "frozen" at the $6,000 tax rate. That's why they call it Senior Freeze.

But despite what the governor said, he has not maintained full funding for the program. As a result, reimbursements are not keep pace with property tax increases for the 136,295 already in the program.

Bottom line, elderly and disabled participants will pay more in taxes. And if you got wind of the program and wanted to apply, you're out of luck. Last year, the program was closed to new applicants, and Christie wants to keep it closed for 2012, too.

Assemblyman Paul Moriarty (D-Gloucester) says constituents are nervously calling his Gloucester and Camden county offices. "I'm concerned that the governor doesn't know what he's done, or he's misleading thousands of seniors," Moriarty said. "Everyday, I'm hearing from seniors. One man told be he paid property taxes for 40 years, and the Senior Freeze was part of his retirement plan. He was counting on it."

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