Gov. Chris Christie and Senate and Assembly lawmakers have announced a compromise that will hike gas taxes by 23 cents a gallon as early as a week from now, and fund the state’s transportation program, allowing crews to resume work on stalled construction projects throughout the state.
The Republican governor and Democratic lawmakers agreed on a measure that pairs the gas tax increase with a range of tax cuts in other areas. The sales tax is set to drop less than half a cent, from 7 percent to 6.625 percent by 2018. The estate tax, which currently is levied on estates over $675,000, will raise the threshold to $2 million in 2017 and eliminate it the following year.
In addition, the agreement includes an increase in earned income tax credits for the working poor and a tax cut for veterans. Lawmakers were scheduled to vote on the measure in a special legislative session Wednesday, October 5.
The politicians had been in a stalemate over the transportation funding, with Christie wanting to pair the tax increase with cuts in other areas, and Democrats wanting to avoid cutting the estate tax, a move that benefits the rich.
Before the increase, only Alaska had lower gas taxes than New Jersey’s rate of 14.5 cents a gallon. If the increase is signed into law, it will end the incentive for Pennsylvania residents to fill up across the river, since the tax hike will level out the prices in the two states.
#b#Property Tax Suit Heads Toward Court#/b#
#b#Update#/b#: Shortly after U.S. 1 went to press, a new start date for the trial of Monday, October 17 was announced.
The status of Princeton University’s tax exempt property could be argued in a Trenton courtroom beginning Thursday, October 6, in a case that has far-reaching implications for taxpayers and educational institutions around the state.
Barring further delays or a settlement, Tax Court judge Vito Bianco was scheduled to hear arguments from the university and attorney Bruce Afran, who is representing a group of Princeton residents seeking to have the university stripped of its exemption from paying property taxes. Because the university makes money by licensing technology developed by faculty members, and because of other ties to the business community and money-making functions, Afran has argued, it should have to pay property taxes to the town just as any business would.
In 2008 the university settled a suit brought by the Robertson family, which had argued that its gift to fund the Woodrow Wilson School was not being used as it had been intended. The $100 million settlement was reached about a month before the trial was scheduled to begin.
In the current case the university could potentially owe tens of millions of dollars each year in property taxes if it loses the case, making for lower payments by town residents.
Bianco, the judge presiding over the case, ruled against a hospital in a similar dispute last year. The case ended in a settlement where the hospital agreed to pay taxes on part of its property. He has also allowed the Princeton case to proceed, ruling against the university’s attempts to have it dismissed. Bianco also ruled that it was up to the university to prove that it should be exempt from taxes, rather than placing the burden of proof on the plaintiffs.
A comprehensive account of the Afran lawsuit was printed in the June, 2015, issue of the Princeton Echo, a sister paper of U.S. 1 (www.mercerspace.com).