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New Jerseyans Tell Leaders: Get Moving on Property Taxes

Friday, Sept. 30, 2005

Residents not convinced that either candidate’s plan will work


Big news story – New Jerseyans hate their property taxes. Nearly two-thirds of residents believe that high property taxes are driven in large part by waste and bloated payrolls, but most think it would be difficult to make a substantial dent in property taxes without cutting services. Moreover, 83 percent of New Jerseyans do not believe that the state’s politicians are serious about tackling this issue.

The latest Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey Poll also asked Garden State residents to evaluate the property tax proposals put forth by the two main contenders for governor. The problem is very few people have heard of either candidate’s plan. Only 1-in-4 residents say they have heard of Doug Forrester’s plan (25%) and a similar number are aware of Jon Corzine’s plan (23%). More than 6-in-10 (63%) have heard of neither.

When residents hear a short description of the two candidates’ proposals, more think they would obtain a greater break from the Republicans’ 30 percent tax credit (44%) than from the Democrat’s increases to the current rebate system (23%). Another 1-in-4 (23%) say don’t believe they would get any relief from either plan.

Among those who have prior knowledge of both candidate’s proposals, Forrester’s is seen as more beneficial by a margin of 45 to 20 percent over Corzine’s. Homeowners select the “30-in-3” years credit over increased rebates by a 52 to 20 percent margin. Renters are split, perhaps highlighting the overall lack of public awareness about the details in either plan. Among renters, 32 percent say they will benefit more from Corzine’s plan to 27 percent for Forrester’s, even though the Republican’s proposal gives direct benefits only to the actual property owner.

Both candidates have stated that they can pay for their property tax plans through cost-cutting measures. Residents are not convinced that either will be able to pay for his plan without raising other taxes, although they have somewhat more confidence in Forrester’s ability to do this.

Only 17 percent believe that Jon Corzine can pay for property tax relief through increased economic growth and cost savings, as the candidate claims. Another 62 percent say he will have to raise other taxes to enact his plan. By comparison, more residents – 33 percent – believe the Republican’s claim that he will pay for property tax credits by eliminating fraud and wasteful spending. Still, a majority of 51 percent say he will also have to raise taxes to achieve his plan.

“As the campaign gets under way and voters start to examine the candidates more closely, property taxes will be at the forefront,” remarked Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute. “Right now, more than 4-in-5 residents think that their political leaders are more talk than action when it comes to property tax relief. These two candidates have to convince the voters they are serious about easing the property tax burden and that they can do it without raising other taxes.”

When New Jerseyans are asked which of four taxes – federal income, state income, state sales, or local property tax – is the most unfair, it is no contest. Fully 6-in-10 residents (61%) – including 68 percent of homeowners – tag the property tax for this dubious honor.

The poll found that half of residents (50%) would like to see a property tax system that incorporates ability to pay as well as home value in determining their tax rate. Another 34 percent oppose this idea and 16 percent have no opinion. On the other hand, New Jerseyans do not support a property tax plan that would lead to increases in the state income tax – 48 percent nix this idea compared to 35 percent who are willing to take a hit on income taxes if it means they will see a significant drop in their property tax bill. Another 16 percent are undecided on this.

Many residents realize that their school district is the largest factor in the amount they pay in property taxes. Just over half (51%) say local schools are most responsible for this, but a good number feel that other levels of government play a bigger role. This includes state government (19%), municipal government (14%) and county government (9%).

Most residents (52%) feel that it would be hard to significantly lower property taxes without cutting services. However, another 35 percent feel that some serious belt-tightening on the part of local authorities could do the trick.

While many New Jerseyans believe that it would be hard to lower property taxes without losing services, most think that waste and fraud (64%) and the number of administrators on local payrolls (65%) contribute a lot to the Garden State’s higher property tax. Less than half of residents (44%) say that the high salaries paid to public employees contribute a lot to the higher property tax burden.

Fewer residents – 36 percent – across New Jersey believe that growth in their towns and the services required by new development is a major contributor to higher taxes. Among those who live in rapidly growing towns in the state, the number who tab growth as a key culprit in their increasing property tax bill is slightly higher at 41 percent.

This recent Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey Poll was conducted by telephone with 800 New Jersey adults from September 21 to 26, 2005. This sample has a margin of error of ± 3.5 percent.

TABLES – MUP01-2 / September 30, 2005

The questions referred to in this release are as follows:

(* Some rows may not add to 100% due to rounding.)

T1. Thinking about the different taxes that people pay, which tax do you think is the least fair – the federal income tax, state income tax, state sales tax, or local property tax?

Federal
Income
Tax

State
Income
Tax
State
Sales
Tax
Local
Property
Tax

(VOL)
All

DK

(n)

September 2005
New Jersey Adults

15%

6% 9% 61% 5% 4%

(800)

Registered Voter
–Yes

15

6 8 63 6 3

(649)

–No

15

7 11 53 5 9

(151)

Party ID
–Democrat

18

5 12 56 5 4

(256)

–Independent

18

8 5 63 4 3

(237)

–Republican

9

6 9 68 6 3

(206)

Community Type
–Urban

25

6 11 47 6 6

(157)

–Stable Town/Suburb

13

8 4 66 3 5

(296)

–Growth Area

11

5 10 66 6 2

(332)

Income
–<$50,000

16

7

9 58 4 5

(284)

–$50-100,000

16

4 8 67 4 1

(222)

–>$100,000

13

9 10 61 6 2

(182)

Home Ownership
–Own

11

6 7 68 4 3

(592)

–Rent

25

6 9 46 8 5

(183)

T2. Do you own or rent the place where you currently live?

Own

Rent

Live rent
free-with
family

(n)

September 2005
New Jersey Adults

68%

29% 3%

(800)

Registered Voter
–Yes

73

24 2

(649)

–No

51

42 7

(151)

Party ID
–Democratic

63

35 2

(256)

–Independent

71

24 5

(237)

–Republican

75

22 3

(206)

Community Type
–Urban

38

58 3

(157)

–Stable Town/Suburb

73

22 4

(296)

–Growth Area

81

16 3

(332)

[ASKED OF HOMEOWNERS ONLY:]

T3. Which of the following do you think is most responsible for the amount you pay in local property taxes—state government, county government, local government, or the public schools?

State
Govt.

County
Govt.
Local
Govt.
Public
Schools

DK


(n)

September 2005
Homeowners only

19%

9% 14% 51% 8%

(592)

Registered Voter
–Yes

18

8 14 54 6

(510)

–No

21

11 15 37 17

(82)

Party ID
–Democrat

18

11 15 47 8

(175)

–Independent

21

5 18 48 8

(182)

–Republican

19

7 13 60 1

(165)

Community Type
–Urban

13

11 15 44 16

(79)

–Stable Town/Suburb

20

9 14 50 7

(226)

–Growth Area

19

8 13 53 6

(278)

T4. Do you think that property taxes in your town can be significantly lowered if your town and school tightened its belt and cut costs, or do you think that it would be difficult to lower property taxes without cutting services?

Can be
lowered
through
belt
tightening


Difficult
without
cutting
services

(VOL)
Neither /
Both

DK

(n)

September 2005
New Jersey Adults

35%

52% 6% 7%

(800)

Registered Voter
–Yes

34

53 6 6

(649)

–No

37

49 5 10

(151)

Party ID
–Democrat

30

59 3 8

(256)

–Independent

34

57 4 5

(237)

–Republican

45

43 8 4

(206)

Community Type
–Urban

32

53 4 12

(157)

–Stable Town/Suburb

36

50 4 10

(296)

–Growth Area

36

53 9 2

(332)

T5. How much do each of the following contribute to higher property taxes in the state – [READ ITEM] – a lot, a little, or not at all?


September 2005


A Lot


A Little
Not at All
DK


(n)

A. Waste and fraud

New Jersey Adults

64%

24% 5% 8%

(800)

Registered Voter
–Yes

66

22 6 6

(649)

–No

57

28 4 11

(151)

Party ID
–Democrat

59

30 4 7

(256)

–Independent

62

26 5 7

(237)

–Republican

74

15 7 4

(206)

Community Type
–Urban 61 21 9 9

(157)

–Stable Town/Suburb

66

21 6 7

(296)

–Growth Area

62

28 3 8

(332)

B. High salaries for public employees

New Jersey Adults

44%

37% 12% 7%

(800)

Registered Voter
–Yes

46

34 13 6

(649)

–No

35

44 8 12

(151)

Party ID
–Democrat

41

39 11 9

(256)

–Independent

45

37 14 4

(237)

–Republican

47

33 11 9

(206)

Community Type
–Urban

41

35 17 7

(157)

–Stable Town/Suburb

44

36 12 8

(296)

–Growth Area

45

39 9 7

(332)

C. Too many administrators on the payroll

New Jersey Adults

65%

19% 7% 9%

(800)

Registered Voter
–Yes

68

18 6 7

(649)

–No

54

22 9 15

(151)

Party ID
–Democrat

59

21 9 11

(256)

–Independent

67

23 4 6

(237)

–Republican

67

15 8 10

(206)

Community Type
–Urban

61

19 8 12

(157)

–Stable Town/Suburb

63

20 7 10

(296)

–Growth Area

67

20 6 7

(332)

D. The amount of development in your town requires government to provide more and more services

New Jersey Adults

36%

39% 17% 7%

(800)

Registered Voter
–Yes

36

39 18 7

(649)

–No

36

39 16 9

(151)

Party ID
–Democrat

42

35 15 9

(256)

–Independent

32

41 23 4

(237)

–Republican

39

38 17 6

(206)

Community Type
–Urban

33

39 19 9

(157)

–Stable Town/Suburb

34

39 21 6

(296)

–Growth Area

41

38 14 8

(332)

T6. State legislators and the candidates for governor have made a number of proposals to reduce property taxes in New Jersey. Do you think the state’s politicians are serious about tackling this issue or do you think that these proposals are more talk than action?

Serious

More
talk than
action

DK

(n)

September 2005
New Jersey Adults

12%

83% 4%

(800)

Registered Voter
–Yes

13

83 5

(649)

–No

11

85 4

(151)

Party ID
–Democrat

14

81 5

(256)

–Independent

10

88 3

(237)

–Republican

14

80 6

(206)

Community Type
–Urban

9

84 7

(157)

–Stable Town/Suburb

15

80 5

(296)

–Growth Area

12

85 3

(332)

T7. Have you heard of any proposals to reduce property taxes from either of the two major party candidates for governor? [IF “YES” ASK: Which – Forrester’s, Corzine’s or both?]

Yes,
Forrester

Yes,
Corzine
Yes,
Both
No,
Neither

DK


(n)

September 2005
New Jersey Adults

8%

6% 17% 63% 5%

(800)

Registered Voter
–Yes

10

6 19 61 5

(649)

–No

4

8 13 68 6

(151)

Party ID
–Democrat

5

10 14 68 4

(256)

–Independent

7

6 22 60 5

(237)

–Republican

17

2 18 59 5

(206)

Community Type
–Urban

9

7 15 65 4

(157)

–Stable Town/Suburb

7

6 15 63 8

(296)

–Growth Area

9

5 20 62 4

(332)

Home Ownership
–Own

11

6 21 58 5

(592)

–Rent

3

9 8 74 7

(183)

T8. Doug Forrester proposes giving homeowners a straight 30 percent credit on their property tax bills, whereas Jon Corzine proposes increasing the amount people receive under the current rebate system based on their income. Based on what you know or have heard, whose proposal do you think you would benefit more from – Forrester’s, Corzine’s, or neither one?

Forrester

Corzine Neither DK

(n)

September 2005
New Jersey Adults

44%

23% 23% 9%

(800)

Registered Voter
–Yes

47

25 19 8

(649)

–No

34

19 36 11

(151)

Party ID
–Democrat

33

33 24 10

(256)

–Independent

44

24 25 8

(237)

–Republican

68

12 13 6

(206)

Community Type
–Urban

33

25 28 14

(157)

–Stable Town/Suburb

47

25 21 8

(296)

–Growth Area

49

21 23 7

(332)

Home Ownership
–Own

52

20 22 6

(592)

–Rent

27

32 26 16

(183)

Income
–<$50,000

32

28 28 11

(284)

–$50-100,000

47

25 21 7

(222)

–>$100,000

68

13 16 3

(182)

Have heard of both plans

45

20 28 7

(144)

T9. If Forrester is elected governor, do you think he will be able to pay for his plan by cutting fraud and wasteful spending in government or would he need to raise other state taxes such as income tax to pay for his plan? [QUESTION ASKED OF HALF THE SAMPLE]

T10. If Corzine is elected governor, do you think that he will be able to pay for his plan through increased economic growth and cost savings or would he need to raise other state taxes such as income taxes to pay for his plan? [QUESTION ASKED OF HALF THE SAMPLE]

FORRESTER’S PLAN: CORZINE’S PLAN:


Able
to pay by
cutting
fraud and waste


Would need to
raise other taxes

DK

(n)

Able
to pay
through
growth and
savings

Would
Need to
raise other
taxes

DK

(n)

September 2005
New Jersey Adults

33%

51% 16% (396) 17% 62% 21%

(404)

Registered Voter
–Yes

35

50 15 (318) 19 60 21

(331)

–No

28

55 17 (78) 12 68 20

(73)

Party ID
–Democrat

20

64 16 (131) 31 51 19

(125)

–Independent

40

44 16 (119) 14 70 15

(118)

–Republican

46

42 12 (105) 12 65 23

(101)

Heard of candidate’s plan

39

51 11 (116) 20 65 15

(94)

T11A. Would you support or oppose a plan to significantly cut property taxes in New Jersey if it meant that the state income tax would need to be raised? [QUESTION ASKED OF HALF THE SAMPLE]


Support


Oppose
(VOL)
Depends

DK


(n)

September 2005
New Jersey Adults

35%

48% 8% 8%

(396)

Registered Voter
–Yes

32

51 10 7

(318)

–No

42

43 5 11

(78)

Party ID
–Democrat

41

45 5 9

(131)

–Independent

31

46 15 8

(119)

–Republican

32

56 7 5

(105)

T11B. Would you support or oppose a property tax system that is based on a homeowner’s income and ability to pay as well as on the assessed value of their home? [QUESTION ASKED OF HALF THE SAMPLE]


Support


Oppose
(VOL)
Depends

DK


(n)

September 2005
New Jersey Adults

50%

34% 3% 13%

(404)

Registered Voter
–Yes

47

36 4 13

(331)

–No

60

25 2 13

(73)

Party ID
–Democrat

48

36 3 13

(125)

–Independent

56

33 4 7

(118)

–Republican

48

35 2 14

(101)

Community Type

For this poll, New Jersey municipalities have been grouped into the following categories based on population size and density:

Urban – Any municipality with a population of 25,000 or more and a population density over 4,000 people per square mile or a population density over 10,000 people per square mile.

Stable Towns/Suburb – Any non-urban or non-rural municipality that had less than 10% population growth from 1990 to 2000. Also some older established towns in Bergen, Camden, Essex, Gloucester, Monmouth, Morris, Passaic, Somerset, and Union counties are grouped here.

Growth Area – Any municipality that experienced 10% or greater growth from 1990 to 2000 as well as remaining rural areas of the state.

Results for this Monmouth University/Gannett NJ Poll are based on telephone interviews conducted September 21-26, 2005 with a statewide random sample of 800 adults, age 18 and older. For results based on the total sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the error attributable to sampling has a maximum margin of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. Sampling error increases as the sample size decreases, so statements based on various population subgroups, such as separate figures reported by gender or party identification, are subject to more error than are statements based on the total sample. In addition to sampling error, one should bear in mind that question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of opinion polls.

Click on pdf file link below for full methodology and results by key demographic groups.

Download this Poll Report with all tables