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Move to raise rebate limit advances

Plan would let more seniors, disabled get property-tax aid.

TRENTON - An Assembly panel has moved forward with measures to create a constitutional amendment that would double the income limit for New Jersey seniors and disabled people to qualify for a property tax rebate.

The measures approved Monday by the Appropriations Committee call for raising the income eligibility from $10,000 to $20,000, before Social Security benefits. It now goes before the full Assembly, though a hearing date has not yet been scheduled.

If approved by voters, the amendment would make an additional 100,000 taxpayers eligible for an annual $250 rebate. But it also would require the state to pay out an additional $19 million in the 2014 fiscal year.

There are nearly 60,000 people who will benefit from the rebate this year, though that number has seen a slight, but steady decline in recent years.

The bill's sponsor, Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D., Gloucester), said the income limits were last increased in 1983, from $9,000 to $10,000.

"Let's face it, the last time eligibility limits were set for property tax relief, Ronald Reagan was president and you could fill up your gas tank with loose change," Burzichelli said.

The adjustments reflect actual inflation rates from 1983 to 2006.

If approved, the amendment would be implemented in the 2014 fiscal year, at the earliest, because of the process of amending the state constitution.