I have served in the administration of one governor of New Jersey and have closely observed all other governors from Brendan Byrne up to the present. In my view, Governor Chris Christie's address to the Legislature Thursday was an unprecedented political masterstroke.
The Governor implicitly stated his intention to conditionally veto the "soft" statutory property tax cap of 2.9 percent passed by the Democratic-controlled legislature. He proposed instead that the Legislature enact as a statute his 2.5 percent "hard" cap proposal. The Governor had previously proposed the "hard" cap as a constitutional amendment.
I label the Democratic proposal as a "soft" cap because it permits certain broad exceptions, including cost increases of health care, pension payments, and energy. By contrast, Christie's proposed "hard" cap will allow only one permanent exception, namely capital expenditures, including debt service. There would be one temporary exception for existing collectively bargained union contracts, which would disappear upon the expiration of the respective contract.