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Assemblyman Gerry Scharfenberger.

Scharfenberger raises alarms over borrowing plan

By Nikita Biryukov, June 03 2020 11:00 am

Assemblyman Gerard Scharfenberger attacked a bill enabling the state to borrow up to $5 billion to shore up budget holes caused by the COVID-19 crisis that’s due to see a vote Thursday.

“This, on top of the recent toll hikes, is a double kick in the gut to every single New Jersey resident,” the assemblyman said. “After mandating people to give up their businesses and their jobs, this bill adds insult to injury by making them pay for the loss of revenue that resulted from the government-imposed lockdown.”

The bill contains a provision that would impose a property tax surcharge on residents across the state if funding from sales tax revenues were insufficient to cover the cost of the bond’s debt service.

“Raising the sales tax, and adding a surcharge to New Jersey’s already highest in the nation property taxes, will be a devastating and quite frankly, a financial death blow to countless people and families,” Scharfenberger said.

The bill does not raise the sales tax.

Republicans have been raising alarms over the bill, alternatively calling the borrowing plan unconstitutional.

An opinion issued by the Office of Legislative Services more than a decade ago barred the use of bonding to fill budget holes, and the state constitution generally requires bonding worth more than 1% of the state’s budget be approved by voters, though multiple administrations have skirted that rule in the past.

“To make matters worse, the voters don’t even get the opportunity to exercise their legal right to vote on the issue before it becomes law and are instead forced to tread water in Trenton’s wake yet again,” said Scharfenberger. “This is usurping our state’s Constitution. What good are our laws when those who are writing and supposed to be safeguarding them are the same unceremoniously bypassing them?”

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