Jersey mayors poised to discuss diverted funds

TRENTON – When municipal leaders appear before the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee Tuesday, energy tax revenue – or the lack thereof – is expected to a key talking point.

A mix of New Jersey mayors will likely use the hearing to express their growing dissatisfaction with Energy Tax Receipts dollars increasingly being diverted to the state budget, officials said. Senate lawmakers are hosting a “mayors’ roundtable” ahead of hearing testimony from the state’s Department of Community Affairs commissioner on the fiscal year 2013 budget.

Local leaders have said the Energy Tax Receipts dollars have been diverted to the state budget in ever increasing amounts since 2003.

Now, with the governor and Legislature mulling tax cuts and credits to New Jerseyans, municipal leaders want what they say is rightfully theirs.

“Whether we’re talking about $100 or $1,000, it’s important,” said the mayor of Irvington, Wayne Smith, who is also the president of the New Jersey Urban Mayors Association.

“For years that was a revenue source to the city and now that’s changed,” he said.

Smith is one of a handful of New Jersey mayors expected to be in attendance at next week’s hearing.

Mayors Paul Medany of Deptford Township, Janice Mironov of East Windsor, Art Ondish of Mount Arlington, and Sophie Heymann of Closter are among those slated to sit in on the roundtable.

“The biggest issue right now is the energy gross receipts tax,” said Sen. Paul Sarlo, (D-36), Wood-Ridge, chairman of the Senate committee.

“The Christie administration really has ramped up the diversion of the energy gross receipts tax,” he said.

In March, New Jersey mayors and the State League of Municipalities told the Assembly Budget Committee they should restore $271 million in state aid cut in fiscal year 2011. The money is a small fraction of the more than $3.4 billion they said had been diverted by the state over the past decade.

They argued the money is not “aid,” rather it’s local money being diverted for state use. Jersey mayors poised to discuss diverted funds