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Monday, August 4, 2008

Surcharge would address State Police cost controversy

The latest development in the Jon S. Corzine administration's plan to charge rural municipalities for State Police coverage is taking the form of a motor vehicle summons surcharge that could end up on your next moving violation ticket.

The plan, contained in a bill sponsored primarily by Sen. Jeff Van Drew, D-Cape May and Assemblyman Nelson Albano, D-Cape May, would add a $40 surcharge to tickets issued by all New Jersey police agencies.

Revenue generated by the additional surcharge would go towards a fund to assist towns without full-time departments pay for State Police Coverage, and also towards general property tax relief for towns with full-time departments.

This development comes at almost the same time as towns that rely on State Police coverage received bills - usually in the hundreds of thousands of dollars - for what used to be their free annual coverage.

Without any relief from Gov. Corzine's police invoices, homeowners and businesses in such places face property tax hikes, usually around $100 a piece for residents and over $500 a piece for business.

Some towns have challenged the plan through the Council of Local Mandates, which has the power to throw out state initiatives that represent unconstitutional unfunded mandates. Others are lining up in support of bills like Sen. Van Drew's, which would not only provide relief to towns dependent on the coverage of state troopers but also provide funds for the rest of New Jersey's municipalities.

But when it really comes down to it, this new plan looks like yet another way of providing some minor property tax relief without addressing the fundamental problems that make New Jersey government so expensive, including: a massive state government, too many local taxing authorities, and an illogical pension system that is subjected to frequent abuse by those who are supposed to serve the public interest.

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