Category Archives: Stephen Sweeney

Wastewater Well in Ohio Triggered Quakes in Ohio; Is Fracking To Blame?

Did fracking cause the 4.o magnitude earthquake that rocked Northeastern Ohio on Saturday? Experts are begining to think so:

CLEVELAND (AP) — A northeast Ohio well used to dispose of wastewater from oil and gas drilling almost certainly caused a series of 11 minor quakes in the Youngstown area since last spring, a seismologist investigating the quakes said Monday.
Research is continuing on the now-shuttered injection well at Youngstown and seismic activity, but it might take a year for the wastewater-related rumblings in the earth to dissipate, said John Armbruster of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, N.Y.
Brine wastewater dumped in wells comes from drilling operations, including the so-called fracking process to extract gas from underground shale that has been a source of concern among environmental groups and some property owners. Injection wells have also been suspected in quakes in Ashtabula in far northeast Ohio, and in Arkansas, Colorado, and Oklahoma, Armbruster said.
Thousands of gallons of brine were injected daily into the Youngstown well that opened in 2010 until its owner, Northstar Disposal Services LLC, agreed Friday to stop injecting the waste into the earth as a precaution while authorities assessed any potential links to the quakes.
After the latest and largest quake Saturday at 4.0 magnitude, state officials announced their beliefs that injecting wastewater near a fault line had created enough pressure to cause seismic activity. They said four inactive wells within a five-mile radius of the Youngstown well would remain closed. But they also stressed that injection wells are different from drilling wells that employ fracking….
Read more …Here
The evidence seems to be piling up on the harmful and potential cataclysmic effects that fracking can have on the environment, is there any good reason now to oppose a moratorium on this process of energy recovery until the consequences of this process is fully known?
Learn what you can do by stop fracking by going to the website for Food & Water Watch, get educated and sign their petition to congress.
There is also a move afoot to ban fracking in NJ, by overwhelming bipartisan support our State Legislature passed a ban on fracking last year, only to have Gov. Christie veto the bill.
Food and Water Watch is urging Senate President Stephen Sweeney to hold a vote to override the Governor’s veto and are asking residents to call his office and ask that he do so by calling 856-251-9081.
Residents can also sign-on to a letter asking Senator Sweeney to hold a vote to override
Governor Christie’s veto of NJ’s fracking ban by contacting Rachel Dawn, NJ’s organizer for Food and Water Watch at RDawn@fwwlocal.org before tomorrow, January 5th

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Filed under Associated Press, earthquake, Food and Water Watch, Fracking, Gov. Chris Christie, Ohio, Stephen Sweeney

Senate President Sweeney Nearly Struck By Lightning

I’m sure Governor Christie wouldn’t have been alone in wanting Steve Sweeney to be struck by lighting, I think there are a few NJ progressives out there that wouldn’t have minded it either.

http://www.myfoxphilly.com/video/videoplayer.swf?dppversion=10588

Lightning Almost Hits Christie Foe On TV: MyFoxPHILLY.com

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Filed under Gov. Chris Christie, myfoxphilly, Nj Senate President, Stephen Sweeney, struck by lighting

Countdown: How Big a ‘Bully’ is Chris Christie?

If you haven’t been keeping up with Keith Olbermann since returning to the airwaves last month,you’ve been missing out on some good TV. Last night Olbermann ran a segment that addressed NJ Senate President Steve Sweeney’s recent outburst concerning Governor Christie use of the line-item veto to slash many provisions out of the Democratically crafted State budget.

Sweeney went ballistic on Friday, calling Christie every name in the book after learning of the cuts. Evidently Sweeney is feeling a little betrayed and let down by the Governor after delivering him his victory in the fight over pension and benefit reforms with state workers unions.

In the future, Stephen Sweeney should be a little more leery about who he intended to make a bed with. Once you decide to sleep with them, your soiled for life and it is hard to undo sleaziness of how you feel after.

After all, what did Sweeney expect from a big bully like Chris Christie? Once a bully, always a bully. Your either a friend or a foe, there’s no in-between. And Christie has made it very evident what he considers Sweeney to be. The problem for Sweeney however, is that many of his constituents around the state are also beginning to see where Sweeney stands on the issues and they don’t like it.

On Friday, New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney called Governor Chris Christie a “bully” and a “rotten bastard.” And that wasn’t all. Keith talks with Evan McMorris-Santoro of Talking Points Memo about the political betrayal that set Sweeney off and what it reveals about New Jersey’s large-and-in-charge governor.

http://c.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f9?isVid=1&isUI=1

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Filed under Countdown with Keith Olbermann, Gov. Chris Christie, health benefits and pension reform, line item veto, NJ State Budget, public unions, Stephen Sweeney

>George Norcross tales dubbed "bogeyman" bunk are rooted in reality

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Good video for your watching from the Star Ledger’s Brian Donohue, it leaves you scratching your head afterwards:

Ledger Live for June 25, 2011 –

Ledger Live with Brian Donohue. On todayapos;s show, Brian Donohue examines how the battle over the pension and benefits reform bill passed by the New Jersey legislature raised questions about the influence of South Jersey Democratic leader George Norcross. Assertions by Norcross ally Sen. Steve Sweeney that Norcross plays little role in the legislative process contrast sharply with Norcrossapos; own words, as captured in 2001 recordings made as part of a state attorney generalapos;s office investigation.

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Filed under Brian Donohue, Democratic Leader, George Norcross, health benefits and pension reform, NJ State Legislature, political machine, South Jersey, Stephen Sweeney, the Star-Ledger

>Fine Print: Senate Bill No. 2937 Proposed legislation would dictate sweeping changes to public employees’ pensions and healthcare benefits

>By John Mooney – NJSPOTLIGHT.com

Synopsis: “An act concerning public employee pension and health care benefits, and amending and supplementing various parts of the statutory law and repealing P.L.1999, c.96 and P.L.1985, c.414. Makes various changes to pension and healthcare benefits for public employees”

Related Links
Senate Bill No. 2937

Primary sponsor: Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester)

What it means: The 120-page bill makes sweeping changes to public employees’ contributions to their pension and health benefit plans, and to the rules that dictate those benefits. Pensions and benefits have been at the center of debate between Gov. Chris Christie and the legislature since Christie took office, and the apparent agreement on this bill — at least for now — has consumed Trenton for much of the last week and likely for the next.

It’s all in the details: The new bill, introduced yesterday, would require public employees pay up to an additional 2.5 percent of their salaries toward their pensions, and up to 30 percent of their healthcare premiums. But how the law meets those thresholds represents the key differences between what Christie has sought and what Sweeney now proposes, with the Democratic leader phasing in some of the increases and also scaling the healthcare contribution, depending on salary. Low-paid public workers will barely make any contribution at all.

Riding off into the sunset clause: Sweeney struck a deal with Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-Essex) in introducing the bill to also include Oliver’s proposal that the health benefits changes would have a “sunset clause” and revert to being a subject of collective bargaining in 2014. Christie has not yet commented on the proposed sunset, but has appeared reluctant to back any reforms that have a limited shelf life.

What’s next: The Senate budget committee is set to hold a hearing on the bill tomorrow, with the Assembly budget committee slated to hold its own hearing on the companion bill on Monday.

The reaction: Needless to say, public employees unions aren’t taking too well to the ideas, and have big protests planned tomorrow for the Statehouse and maybe legislators’ homes. The New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) is also holding a press conference today to point out what it calls the false assumptions and savings in the proposals.

Will it pass? That of course, is the bottom line. It’s as close as ever to passage, to be sure, but it faces lots of questions both in substance and politics. Sweeney has said he will push it through, even if it means defying some of his Democratic caucus. Oliver has been less willing, and has indicated she may not post it for final vote without consent of her members.

In the end, it will require what was once unfathomable: a sizable number of Democrats going against organized labor during an election year. But these are remarkable times, with similar measures passing in other states with Democratic support.

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Filed under Gov. Chris Christie, health benefits and pension reform, NJEA, NJspotlight, public unions, senate bill 2937, Sheila Oliver, Stephen Sweeney

>Sweeney: Gov. Christie’s tools aren’t the sharpest in the shed

>NJ Senate President Stephen Sweeney has written the following article that appears online this morning on NJ.com. It’s a must read for anyone who thinks that Governor Christie’s “Tool Kit” is the be all, end all solution that will control the rise of property taxes in the state.

Of the 33 bills in the Governor’s “tool kit”, Sweeney rightfully points out that some of them overlapped and were combined to form 24 and later reduced again to by the Governor when he finally realized that proposals about higher education would do nothing to lower property taxes, leaving 20.
Sweeney points out that the Legislature has passed 8 of the 20 bills thus far, the 2% cap on property tax increases and arbitration reform for police and fire contracts being the key pieces passed. While 2 other bills dealing with civil service reform and a cap on sick-leave payouts were passed by the Legislature but vetoed by the Governor. Sweeney then goes on to tell how many of the remaining “tool kit” reforms will do little to bring down property taxes.
So the next time anyone has to hear Republicans in Middletown chastise Democrats in Trenton for not acting on the “tool kit” and saying that these reforms are necessary so that they can control themselves from overspending, I think Sweeney’s article should be read into the record and see what comments, if any Tony Fiore, Gerry Scharfenberger or the others have to say:

The governor has blamed everything and everyone for the highest property tax increase in four years. He continues to state that if only his “tool kit” were passed, New Jersey’s property tax problems would magically disappear.


Closer scrutiny of the governor’s kit proves his claims are false and are merely meant to distract from his own culpability in property tax hikes. The governor cut more than $2.4 billion in funding to schools and municipalities last year. That is why your taxes are going up. The tool kit will not make up that shortfall.

There are reforms that must be implemented, such as pension and health benefits reforms, which I have supported since 2006. I am committed to getting those done. But those reforms are not — and never were — part of the governor’s proposed tool kit.

First, let’s have truth in numbers. The governor started by saying there were 33 bills in the tool kit. Actually, there were 24 after items were combined. Now the governor says there are 20, because he finally realized that four proposals dealing with issues at colleges and universities have absolutely nothing to do with property taxes.

The Legislature did pass eight tool-kit items. First was the creation of the 2 percent cap on annual property tax increases, which the Legislature lowered from the 2.5 percent cap the governor initially proposed. Second was arbitration reform for police and fire contracts, which was heralded across the state by local officials as key to reining in property taxes.

Two others — comprehensive civil service reform and a cap on sick-leave payouts for public employees upon retirement — were passed and sent to the governor, who vetoed them. We have no reform in these two areas because the governor chose to kill reform.

Civil service needs to be reformed and modernized, but abolishing it will not lower property taxes. Only one-third of New Jersey towns are bound by civil service rules, and those towns actually have lower property taxes per capita than towns without civil service. Civil service was established to protect against political corruption and nepotism. It is puzzling that the governor wants to completely eliminate this protection.

Sick-leave payouts should be capped, but the governor vetoed a bill to do that because he wants to take away benefits workers have already earned. That may be a nice talking point, but it won’t stand up in court. And it would create a flood of new retirements as workers cash out before the law would take effect. If the governor got his way, this tool would actually cost taxpayers even more.

Two other parts of the tool kit are already in comprehensive shared services legislation I am sponsoring with Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt and Assemblyman Paul Moriarty, which goes far beyond what the governor envisioned, and which will move through the Legislature later this spring.

These are the only parts of the tool kit that will save you money on your property tax bill. We did them. The handful of remaining bills that the governor clings to won’t save you anything.
One would cap spending on state government operations — which already exists under law, and even if it did not, would have no impact on local property taxes. Another would allow local governments to use furloughs to save money — which they already can do as long as furloughs are negotiated.

Another bill to centralize all power over civil service decisions in the Civil Service Commissioner (read: czar) would only consolidate the governor’s power and do nothing to lower property taxes.

One bill would move school and fire commission elections to November — a move whose total property tax savings, according to the nonpartisan Office of Legislative Service, would be “minimal.”

Others would change the way some employee discipline measures are handled (OLS estimated savings: $140,000), require the mailing of only one sample ballot per household (OLS estimated savings: $1.4 million), and allow municipalities to offset property tax delinquencies against state income tax refunds (OLS estimated net savings: zero).

The governor’s rhetoric does not stand up to simple math. The tool-kit bills that haven’t yet been passed offer no real help from New Jersey’s crushing $25 billion property tax burden.

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Filed under 2% cap, arbitration reform, civil service, Gov. Chris Christie, NJ State Senate, NJ.com, property taxes, Stephen Sweeney, tax saving tool, toolkit

>Just Curious – What Gave Mayor Gerry The Authority To Declare A Local Emergency?

>I have been thinking about this all night and I’m really curious, who or what gave Mayor Gerry the authority to declare a local emergency in Middletown yesterday and what type of “Power” did this give him?

What penalties could residents have expected if they were found to be in violation of Gerry’s “State of Emergency”?

I understand that this was just another grandstanding incident by Gerry Scharfenberger attempting to make it seem that he was in charge. But I am serious, what could have happened under this circumstance? Is there anything in the Town Charter that allows the acting mayor to declare a local state of emergency and if so what powers are provided at the time of declaration?

Further more, was it really nessasary to declare a local state of emergency when an actual State of Emergency was already declared by acting Governor Stephen Sweeney?
Obviously, Gerry’s declaration was nothing more than grandstanding and purely symbolic and had no real teeth, otherwise many of those driving around town Monday and Tuesday would have been stopped by the police and either issued summonses or had their vehicles confiscated

If someone has time to find out answers to the above, I would be interested in hearing them.

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Filed under Gerry Scharfenberger, Middletown, New Jersey, snow storm, state of emergency, Stephen Sweeney

>NJPP Monday Minute 8/30/10: AND THEN THERE WERE TEN The gradual (and inevitable) decline of dual office holding in New Jersey

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Senate President Stephen Sweeney recently announced his retirement – from his other elected office, Director of the Board of Freeholders in Gloucester County.

That the ranking Democratic lawmaker in the state could hold two elected offices at once is unthinkable in almost every other state in the nation. Not so in New Jersey. Here, dual office holding has traditionally been viewed as a peculiarity, much like buying tags to use the public beaches or not being able to pump your own gas.

At least one of those traditions will end, hopefully sooner rather than later.

Sweeney’s retirement reduces to ten the number of dual office holders remaining in New Jersey, all of whom are covered by a special provision in the law that ended the practice more than two years ago.

Lawmakers in Trenton in 2007 voted to ban dual office holding for all state, county and municipal elected officials. However, the amendment to the law exempted those members of the Legislature who were already serving in another elected office on the day it took effect, Feb. 1, 2008. This ” grandfathering” allowed 19 of the 120 members of the Legislature to continue to hold dual offices – a practice outlawed in almost every state, as well as in federal law.

Before the law was rewritten in 2007, New Jersey statute explicitly permitted dual office holding. The law was originally written and enacted by the Legislature in 1962 in a direct response to a New Jersey Supreme Court ruling in 1961 that barred a Morris County freeholder from also serving as a mayor in Dover Township.

Chief Justice Joseph Weintraub, writing for the unanimous court, said: ” As government becomes more complex and additional roles are assigned, the opportunities for dual office-holding must inevitably diminish. What remains constant is the demand of sound public policy that the incumbent in public office shall act with undivided devotion to duty. “

For nearly 50 years, elected officials in New Jersey have flouted that ruling. The singular argument for holding dual offices was that the people had the right to elect whomever they wanted to as their representative, and if it didn’t bother voters why should it bother others?

In One to a Customer, our 2006 report written by Tom O’Neill, NJPP considered the practice of dual office holding and found that it often insulated the office holder from accountability; frustrated the democratic system of checks and balances and inflated pork barrel spending. The report concluded: ” By creating a class of elected officials whose entire lives are embedded in politics and government, dual office holding raises the stakes of politics unacceptably high and erodes the idea of the citizen-legislator. It encourages expensive, cut-throat campaigns and protects elected officials from competition. Perhaps most serious for the long term well-being of New Jersey, it strengthens the most counter-productive aspects of our home-rule tradition. “

There is a growing, bi-partisan consensus in Trenton that the practice should end entirely.

Gov. Christie campaigned for election on a platform that included outlawing all dual office holding immediately, including for those grandfathered into the legislation. ” Dual office holding is simply wrong,” he said. A spokesman for the governor recently suggested that the governor was poised to announce a new package of legislation to address enduring issues, like dual office holding as well as a perhaps even larger ethical conflict, dual public employment.

Sweeney’s announcement last week did not come as a complete surprise. He has been promising to give up his post as Director of the Board of Freeholders since the dual-office holding ban was enacted.

Sweeney, who lists his occupation as an organizer for the International Ironworkers Association, has served on the Gloucester County Board of Chosen Freeholders since 1997. He became director in 1998. Three years later he was elected to the state Senate, and earlier this year was chosen by members of the Senate to serve as Senate President.

The timing was also opportune. The board, which oversees Gloucester County government, has come under scrutiny after being accused of more than 50 violations of the state’s open meetings law. State Superior Court Judge Francis J. Orlando Jr., who sits in Camden, has appointed an independent monitor to observe the freeholders’ meetings for six months and report back to him.

Regardless of the timing, Sweeney’s decision also sets a good precedent and should prove to the holdouts that giving up the authority of a local office will not diminish the power of a state office.

With Sweeney’s retirement, there are 10 dual office holders left in Trenton. They are:

Sen. Nicholas Sacco, D-Hudson, elected to the Senate in 1993. Sacco has been mayor of North Bergen since 1991, following six years serving as a city commissioner. He also has a full-time job as assistant superintendent in the North Bergen School District.

Sen. Paul Sarlo, D-Bergen, appointed to the Senate in 2003, after serving two years in the Assembly. Sarlo has been mayor of Wood-Ridge since 2000, after serving the previous five years on the town council. He chairs the powerful Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.

Sen. Robert Singer, R-Ocean, elected to the Senate in 1993, after serving six years in the Assembly. Singer has been a committeeman in Lakewood since 1980 and served as mayor four times, most recently in 2009.

Sen. Brian Stack, D-Hudson, elected to the Senate in 2007, after serving four years in the Assembly. Stack has been mayor of Union City since 2000. At one point, in 2003-04, Stack held three elected posts: Mayor, Freeholder and Assemblyman.

Asm. John Burzichelli, D-Gloucester, elected to the Assembly in 2001. Burzichelli has been mayor of Paulsboro since 1996.

Asm. Ralph Caputo, D-Essex, elected to the Assembly in 2007, after serving previously from 1968 to 1972. Caputo has been a freeholder in Essex County since 2002. One of the last “grandfathers” allowed by the legislation, Caputo sought and won re-election to his freeholder post in 2008.

Asm. Ronald Dancer, R-Ocean, appointed to the Assembly in 2002. Dancer has been mayor of Plumsted since 1990.

Asm. Joseph V. Egan, D-Middlesex, elected to the Assembly in 2001. Egan has been a city councilman in New Brunswick since 1982, but is not seeking re-election and his term will expire in January.

Asm. John McKeon, D-Essex, elected to the Assembly in 2001. McKeon has been mayor of West Orange since 1998 and was a council member for six years prior to his election as mayor.

Asm. Gary Schaer, D-Passaic, elected to the Assembly in 2005. Schaer has been a city councilman in Passaic since 1995, serving as council president for ten years. He served as acting mayor for 10 months in 2008, after Mayor Samuel Rivera pled guilty to attempted extortion in 2008.

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Filed under duel office holding, Gov. Chris Christie, Monday Minute, New Jersey Policy Perspective, Stephen Sweeney

NJPP Monday Minute 7/12/10: The Cap: Is it really a solution to high property taxes?


Today the State Assembly passed the latest version of New Jersey’s newest attempt at a property tax limitation: a 2.0 percent hard cap on property tax levy increases that provides just four exemptions for exceeding the limit – health care costs, pension costs, debt and unforeseen crises. The bill represents a compromise worked out between Gov. Christie and Senate President Steve Sweeney.

The Governor had been pushing for a 2.5 percent cap that would be written into the state constitution, which would virtually guarantee the cap would never be changed. The Governor also wanted to allow for only one exemption (for debt service) and wanted a 60 percent voter referendum to override the cap.

The amended legislation lowers the cap to 2.0 percent, but includes the additional exemptions listed above and requires a simple majority to override the cap. It also would be a statutory change, not a constitutional amendment – making it more likely that adjustments can be made if unforeseen problems arise.

This bill has moved like lightning. In typical New Jersey fashion, no fiscal analyses have accompanied the cap discussions. And there has been little acknowledgement that the state currently has a 4 percent cap enacted in April 2007 in a bipartisan vote. The current cap law was enacted for budget years after July 1, 2007 and was due to sunset on June 30, 1012. Written into the law was a requirement that the New Jersey Tax and Fiscal Policy Commission report on its effectiveness in controlling property taxes and make recommendations to the Governor and the Legislature on or before January 15, 2005.

In the frenzy of activity surrounding the Governor’s proposed Cap and Tool Kit, everyone has conveniently forgotten the months of hearings, public testimony, research and analysis that accompanied the 2006 special legislative sessions. There is more interest in rigid limits than in making changes that can result in rational policy changes. The lack of transparent policy analysis is what got New Jersey to where it is today; this cap bill is no different.

Discussions of this bill on the Senate floor last week centered on bringing “predictability and control” to property tax bills. And one part of the cap is predictable. The average tax bill in New Jersey is $7,281 on a house assessed at $290,502. A 2 percent increase in that bill is $145.62, payable at $12.14 in a mortgage over a 12 month period. What remains unknown, however, is what will happen when municipalities privatize garbage collection services; or when schools raise fees for sports or other extracurricular programs; or when municipal court costs go through the roof because of the increased traffic violations given out as revenue raisers.

The cap is the first shoe in the governor’s proposal.

Over the next few Monday Minutes, NJPP will analyze Gov. Christie’s “tool kit,” a bundle of 33 bills he is promoting as the second phase of his property tax strategy. Lawmakers are expected to hold public hearings on that legislation through the summer.

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Filed under Gov. Chris Christie, Monday Minute, New Jersey, New Jersey Policy Perspective, NJ State Assembly, NJ State Senate, property tax cap, property taxes, Stephen Sweeney

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: SENATOR BUCCO SUPPORTS DELIBERATIVE APPROACH TO REFORMING NJ PROPERTY TAXES

For Release: Immediate
Friday, July 02, 2010

TRENTON – In remarks during the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee meeting today, Senator Anthony Bucco, R-Morris, indicated support for a deliberative process in studying and advancing property tax reform for New Jersey residents. Senator Bucco’s remarks bring him in line with Senate Democrats who believe that we have to study the issue carefully instead of enacting hasty reform:

If you review the archived audio footage on the New Jersey Legislature’s Web page (http://www.njleg.state.nj.us), Senator Bucco made the following remarks at about 8 minutes, 43 seconds in:

“I think there is room for negotiations into how we implement the cap, whether we eliminate some of the things or add onto some of the things that are being proposed. I think that’s what this Budget Committee is going to be about all summer…”

Also, at the end of the hearing, Senator Bucco made the following remarks, at around 1 hour, 9 minutes and 41 seconds in:

“We passed the bill for 2.9, the Senate President’s compromise bill that he had put in, and we know that the Governor is going to CV that, and I think that the sooner we can come to an understanding and a bill that we can support with the CV, I think this is very important.

“Again, it’s not going to help this year, but the sooner we do it, I think the better off all of us will be in making sure that we move forward with the other proposals.”

Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney, D-Gloucester, Cumberland and Salem, made the following statement upon reviewing Senator Bucco’s remarks:

“We appreciate Senator Bucco’s admission that there is no need to rush a very important, and very necessary, property tax reform package which could have unintended consequences. We look forward to a deliberative, thorough vetting of all the issues, and a property tax plan which will make New Jersey affordable beginning in the next tax year.”

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Filed under NJ Senate Democrats, press release, property tax cap, property tax relief, Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, State Senator Anthony Bucco, Stephen Sweeney