Bill Advances to Raise Property Tax Hikes to Address School Underfunding – On Feb. 15, the Senate Education Committee passed S2434, which would allow school districts experiencing cuts in state aid to increase property taxes by greater than the state’s cap of 2%. Aid cuts result from legislation passed in 2018, codified as P.L.2018, c.67 and known as S2, which sought to implement a school funding formula enacted in 2008. In combination with inflation, an increase in property valuations, and enrollment changes, the legislation has spurred a budget crisis for many districts which previously underfunded their share of education budgets. Permitting property tax hikes beyond 2% will allow districts to raise funds to offset the cuts, which might otherwise take years or even decades for 174 undertaxed districts. The bill now faces review in the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, and its Assembly equivalent remains pending.



$95 Million from Drug Company Settlement Goes to Harm Reduction and Housing – Gov. Murphy announced on Feb. 15 how the state will allocate its first payment of $95 million from a settlement with pharmaceutical companies and drug stores whose actions contributed to the opioid epidemic. At the recommendation of the Opioid Recovery and Remediation Advisory Council and public input gathered through hearings, over the next two to three years, NJ will dedicate these funds to six programs which address harm reduction, prevention and recovery support, treatment, and housing. NJ will receive an estimated $1 billion through the settlement by 2038, which will be split among state and county or local governments. 


Board of Public Utilities ends Subsidy for Nuclear Plants – and Ratepayer Surcharge – On Feb. 14, the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) ordered NJ utilities companies to stop collecting a monthly surcharge enabled through 2019 legislation which raises $300 million to subsidize nuclear power plants. The surcharge, which costs residential ratepayers up to $70 annually – and businesses much more – funds the Salem I, Salem II, and Hope Creek nuclear power plants, which form an integral part of Murphy’s clean-energy plan. In November, utilities companies Public Service Enterprise Group and Constellation Energy withdrew their applications to continue the surcharge for another three years. They will instead seek production tax credits created through the 2021 federal Inflation Reduction Act, which should be available sometime this year. The BPU order takes effect June 1, 2025.


Public Administration

Federal Appeal Court Rules No Gun Carrying Permit Needed for Retired Police – The U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals released a judgment on Feb. 14 which held that federal law that allows qualifying retired police officers to carry a gun without a permit trumps a NJ state law enacted in 2022 (which requires a permit and places restrictions on its issuance). Several police unions and retired police officers sued the state over its law in 2022. The state argued that the federal law applies only to retired federal officers, but the federal district and Appeals courts held the law applies to all retired police in NJ.

Advocates Warn New Bill Revising Tax Debt Collection May Be Unconstitutional – The Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee held a hearing on Feb. 15 in which advocates argued a new bill, S2334, may allow the government to commit a taking, unconstitutional under the 5th Amendment, by collecting more money in the sale of a home facing foreclosure for tax debt than the amount the government is owed. The new law attempts to conform with the constitutional mandate to bar this kind of taking, but representatives of investors and homeowners argue a 45-day limit for property owners to file to keep any remaining equity after a sheriff sale places the onus on the property owner and may still constitute a taking. The bill faces a vote in the Committee.


Affordable Housing Overhaul Bill Passes AssemblyOn Feb. 12, the Assembly passed 51-28 A4, which would abolish the defunct Council on Affordable Housing and transform the state’s system to establish municipal obligations to provide affordable housing under the Mount Laurel Doctrine. Assembly Republicans argued the bill would increase residents’ tax bills, while Democrats asserted the urgency of the reform to address a 200,000-unit affordable housing deficit and an aging population in NJ. The bill’s Senate equivalent, S50, currently faces review in the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.