TRENTON - New Jersey mayors who came to Trenton yesterday with any hopes of getting their municipal aid restored left disappointed.
State Treasurer David Rousseau told them that's unrealistic. Rousseau said efforts to restore budget cuts will be more difficult if lawmakers don't approve early retirements for state workers.
"If that early retirement plan isn't adopted soon, the first place they have to find money is to make up for that," Rousseau said.
Legislators have balked at the plan, fearing it would drive up taxpayer-funded retirement benefits.
Legislators and Gov. Corzine have until July 1 to reach a budget agreement and avoid a state government shutdown.
Corzine initially proposed a 10.5 percent cut in aid to New Jersey's 566 municipalities, proposing the sharpest cuts for smaller towns. He has now revised that, saying no town would face an increase in its average residential property tax bill of more than $100 as a result of the cut. Despite the change, the overall 10.5 percent aid cut would still stand.
Towns and cities use that aid to help quell the nation's highest property taxes, which average $6,800 per homeowner.
Mayors say only full restoration of municipal aid would help keep property taxes in check.
Haddonfield Mayor Tish Colombi proposed eliminating all property-tax rebates sent to homeowners annually and instead using the money to boost municipal aid, but Assembly Budget Chairman Lou Greenwald (D., Camden) rejected that idea.
"I think that is a critical mistake," Greenwald said. "That rebate program has to be protected and preserved."
Corzine has proposed eliminating the rebates for households earning more than $150,000.