A Republican candidate running for governor of New Jersey in November asked the incumbent Democrat governor (running for re-election) to schedule a debate before voters are able to cast vote-by-mail ballots.
Republican gubernatorial candidate for New Jersey Jack Ciattarelli sent a letter on Tuesday to the governor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Murphy asking him to schedule an additional debate before residents receive their vote-by-mail ballots.
New Jersey election officials will start sending vote-by-mail ballots on Sept. 18, which is 10 days before the scheduled debate between the two gubernatorial candidates. Upon receiving their ballots, voters can potentially cast their votes before the first official debate takes place on Sept. 28.
“I am writing today after another day on the campaign trail up and down New Jersey. Residents are outraged by property taxes, saddened by all the closed businesses, and concerned about rising crime. They want to hear about solutions—mine and yours,” Ciattarelli wrote in the letter.
“New Jerseyans seem to want a debate BEFORE they have the opportunity to vote,” Ciattarelli wrote, “[but] because of the expanded vote by mail law you signed, our debates take place AFTER people who vote by mail get their ballots.”
“By the time we do take the stage together on September 28, it’s likely that tens of thousands of people will have already cast their ballots.”
The Republican candidate proposed to hold a debate as soon as possible adding that several organizations, including The League of Women Voters, have already expressed interest in hosting gubernatorial debates.
“Logistics should not stand in the way of this important tradition for democracy,” Ciattarelli wrote.
Property Tax Issue in New Jersey
Ciattarelli stressed that New Jersey residents pay a lot in property taxes. One of the main focuses of his campaign is a solution to lower them.
“It’s the one tax that touches every individual whether they own or rent, every business whether they own or rent,” Ciattarelli told NJPHIPAC.
“I will lower your [New Jersey] property taxes through comprehensive reform of our broken school funding formula—a system where 60 percent of state aid goes to just 5 percent of the districts is unsustainable,” Ciattarelli said in a statement on his campaign’s website.
His plan is to shift “education costs, which create an unfair burden on property taxpayers, to the state,” the website states.
If Ciattarelli becomes governor he will “restore state aid to struggling suburban, shore area, and rural schools to relieve the financial burden on local communities.” He proposed a policy that would provide a more equitable distribution of state funds throughout school districts.
“I’m not going to leave any child behind; I’m not going to leave any community behind; and I’m not going to adversely affect the quality of our K through 12 system. But what we do need is a flatter and more equitable distribution of state aid to schools, and when we do that, we can lower property taxes,” Ciattarelli explained in the interview.
He also plans to stop property tax increases as a result of home improvements and freeze property taxes for all senior homeowners, age 65 or older, regardless of income or length of residency, the website states.
Murphy likewise stated on his campaign’s website that his focus is to deliver “a real and lasting property tax relief.”
The Democratic candidate “fought to restore the millionaire’s tax, which requires the wealthiest to pay their fair share to provide much-needed tax relief for middle-class taxpayers and homeowners,” Murphy’s campaign website said.
“He also worked to take pressure off municipalities that allocate more than half of their tax revenue to school funding by directly investing in public schools at the state level,” the campaign website said. According to the governor’s official website, he increased school funding by nearly $1.5 billion since taking office in 2018.
Murphy has also expanded eligibility for a property tax freeze to 23,000 more seniors, and the eligibility for a property tax deduction to allow 50,000 more veterans to take advantage of it, the website stated.
The governor also allocated tens of millions of dollars to make local governments and school districts more efficient, according to his campaign.
New Jersey has the highest effective tax rate on owner-occupied property at 2.13 percent of a home’s value, followed by Illinois (1.97 percent) and New Hampshire (1.89 percent), as of 2019 (the most recent data available), according to Tax Foundation, a Washington-based think tank. The lowest property tax rate in the nation went to Hawaii (0.31 percent), followed by Alabama (0.37 percent), Louisiana and Wyoming ((both at 0.51 percent), the Tax Foundation said.
The U.S. Census Bureau estimated the total number of housing units in New Jersey in 2019 at 3.6 million, of which almost 64 percent were occupied by their owners from 2015–2019. The population of the state exceeds 9 million, according to the 2020 Census (pdf).