STATE – Gov. Jon Corzine’s $29.8 billion budget proposal relies on revenue projections that are too optimistic, according to a consensus of economic reports used by the non-partisan Office of Legislative Services to analyze it.
David Rosen, the office’s budget and finance officer, told the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee Monday that Corzine’s budget will leave New Jersey with a $100 million deficit instead of the $500 million surplus projected by the governor.
The state constitution does not allow deficit spending, so a revenue shortfall would require additional cuts to a budget that is already $3 billion less than the one approved last year.
Rosen also criticized the governor for not including a larger surplus margin in a year where revenue is extremely difficult to predict due to the bad economy. “You would want even bigger surplus than normal as a hedge,” Rosen said.
STATE – Gov. Jon Corzine’s draconian budget proposal has drawn a lot of criticism, but the most controversial component was the plan to eliminate the property tax deduction on the state income tax for most New Jersey residents.
Realizing that his budget had little chance of passing with that proposal intact, last week the Governor announced that he’d restore the tax deduction for residents earning less than $150,000 per year.
“Given the circumstances, allowing people to maintain their property-tax deduction is the right thing to do and will help ease the pain for those being squeezed the most,” Senate President Richard J. Codey (D-Essex) said.
The 2009 economic stimulus bill President Barack Obama signed into law on Feb. 17, is a whopper, not only in cost ($787 billion) and length (1,070 pages), but also in terms of the vast number of spending and tax-relief programs it touches – everything from multi-billion dollar infrastructure investments to business tax cuts to small increases in unemployment benefits.
Some provisions will take years to trickle down; others take effect almost immediately. Here are highlights of a few programs that could impact you directly:
Payroll tax credit. Workers will receive $400 tax credits for both 2009 and 2010 ($800 for married couples, filing jointly). Unlike last year’s tax rebates that were distributed in lump sums, these credits will probably appear as reduced tax withholding on paychecks, starting around June.
All taxpayers dread the prospect of facing an Internal Revenue Service audit. According to the New Jersey Society of Certified Public Accountants (NJSCPA), there are some steps you can take to minimize the likelihood that you’ll be audited or ensure a more positive experience if you are.
What’s It All About?
In an audit, the IRS contacts the taxpayer to verify some of the information contained in a filed tax return. The process usually involves a very careful examination of the return. The IRS is becoming more active in enforcement actions. In 2007, nearly 1.4 million individual tax returns were audited, the highest rate since 1998. Audits of businesses jumped 14 percent, to just under 60,000. Among other reasons, the IRS is trying to reduce the tax gap — the difference between taxes owed and taxes actually paid — which the agency estimates is roughly $290 billion.
MIDDLESEX COUNTY – The freeholders introduced a $392 million budget last week which is nearly $5 million lower than the county’s 2008 spending plan.
Due to the slumping economy, the county will need to raise more money through taxes. The freeholders have cut nearly $10 million from the original spending plan unveiled in March, keeping the tax increase to the 2.5 percent allowed by state law.
“Since unveiling a budget plan in January, the Board of Chosen Freeholders and Middlesex County department heads have aggressively cut operating expenses and salaries and wages to ensure taxpayers receive quality programs and services at prices they can afford,” Freeholder Director Stephen Dalina said.
CLARK—The Union County Freeholders officially announced the closure of Oak Ridge Golf Course in Clark last week. The move had been proposed in January to help close a $24 million budget gap, but it was opposed by a number of county golfers.
The closure of the Oak Ridge Golf Course in Clark is expected to save $740,000 a year. The 67-acre golf course could be converted into a multi-use county park, with its historic clubhouse restored and preserved, officials said.
STATE—Gov. Jon Corzine’s standing with the New Jersey public is suffering along with the economy.
According to the most recent poll by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind, 40 percent of voters approve of the job Corzine is doing while 46 percent disapprove—a reversal from January when 46 percent approved and 40 percent disapproved. “The governor is taking his lumps along with the rest of New Jersey,” said Peter Woolley, a political scientist and director of the poll.
TRENTON – Don’t look for a property tax rebate check this year. Unless you’re a senior citizen, it’s probably not coming.
In a meeting with the Legislature’s top Democrats next week, Gov. Jon Corzine suggested that curtailing the popular property tax rebate program may be necessary to balance the state’s budget. Last year, New Jersey spent $1.7 billion on property tax rebates; $1.1 billion went to non-seniors.
Corzine and state lawmakers emphasized the senior citizen tax rebates would not be cut. “I can’t imagine the circumstances where any of the senior rebate programs are under threat,” the governor said.
MOUNTAINSIDE―The Internal Revenue Service released new withholding tables that will result in more take-home pay this spring for millions of American workers.
“The new tables, now posted on IRS.gov, incorporate the new Making Work Pay credit, one of the key tax provisions included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 that became law last week,” said New Jersey’s IRS Spokesperson Gregg Semanick.
“For most taxpayers, the additional credit will automatically start showing up in their paychecks this spring,” said IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman. “Since employers and payroll companies will handle this change, people typically won’t need to take any additional action. The IRS will continue working to implement this and other provisions of the new law as quickly as possible.”
MOUNTAINSIDE — The Internal Revenue Service and New Jersey community groups are promoting Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) awareness.This tax credit could be a critical financial lifeline to many Americans this year.
Last year in New Jersey, over 498,000 filers received over $956 million from EITC.The average EITC amount in New Jersey was $1,920.Nationwide last year, nearly 24 million taxpayers received approximately $48 billion from EITC. The average EITC amount was $2,000.
“Difficult economic times may mean more people are eligible for EITC because of reductions in their income last year. The amount of the EITC, the government’s largest tax benefit program for working families and individuals, is determined by earned income and family size,” said New Jersey’s IRS Spokesperson Gregg Semanick.
ELIZABETH—With tax season approaching, Union County residents can expect a stream of official-looking envelopes in their mailboxes. Most contain authentic documents, but some “look-alike” mailings have been identified as a source of junk mail, scams, and serious fraud.
“The public is becoming more alert to internet fraud, but we should all be mindful that hucksters and thieves still use the mailbox,” said Freeholder Chairman Alexander Mirabella. “If you think you’ve received look-alike mail, call our Office of Consumer Affairs and check it out.”
ELIZABETH – Union County Manager George Devanney’s $449.3 million 2009 budget proposal includes a 4.95 percent tax increase at a time when many households can ill-afford it.
Devanney’s proposal includes some spending and service cuts. He anticipates a $740,000 annual savings from shuttering the unprofitable Oak Ridge Golf Course in Clark.
An additional $4.6 million in annual savings is expected through retirements and unfilled vacancies in the sheriff’s and prosecutor’s offices, among others, and anticipated layoffs in three departments. Devanney’s budget proposal calls for at least 28 layoffs and the elimination of 55 seasonal positions.
EDISON—Township taxpayers are now just a click away from making property tax payments. Edison has unveiled online property tax payments via the township web site www.EdisonNJ.org.
“This is a major step forward in streamlining and modernizing our government while providing better services. In our increasingly busy world, this should become a great convenience for our residents,” said Mayor Jun Choi.
Online payments provide the convenience of bill paying from a home or personal computer at a time that is convenient. Residents can find the tax-payment logo on the upper right side of the township web site’s front page.
STATE—Seven counties out of the top 10 in the country with the highest property tax rates are in New Jersey.
The same tabulation showed that Garden State homeowners paid the highest property taxes in 13 out of the nation’s 20 top-taxed counties.
Union County’s median property tax bill of $6,727 earned the dubious distinction of making the top 10 list, while Middlesex County’s median property tax bill of $5,575 came in as the nation’s 18th highest average taxed county.