New Jersey to deliver property tax rebates a week before Election Day

Republicans say Gov. Murphy is playing ‘Santa Claus’ to woo voters to Democrats

By: - August 16, 2023 4:09 pm

Gov. Phil Murphy's administration announced Tuesday that Anchor tax rebates will go out in November this year, just seven months after the benefit first went to taxpayers. (Dana DiFilippo | New Jersey Monitor)

New Jerseyans who received Anchor property tax rebates in the spring may see a second check later this year, and the rebate could arrive just days before New Jersey’s 120 legislative seats go up for election.

Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, called the move “welcome news” for millions of Garden State residents, though his opponents criticized the timing as “convenient” and charged the speedier payments are meant to steer votes to Murphy’s party in November.

“I think this is Governor Murphy, yet again, playing Santa Claus right before an election where, quite frankly, the Democrats are spiraling out of control,” said Sen. Michael Testa (R-Cumberland).

The state’s Division of Taxation on Wednesday announced it began sending letters to more than 1.3 million taxpayers who received an Anchor award this spring asking them to confirm their addresses and banking information.

Those whose information is unchanged from last year can expect to receive their Anchor rebates by Nov. 1, just six days before the state’s general election.

A spokesperson for the governor denied the timing of Anchor awards is politically motivated and questioned why Republicans are taking issue with speedier tax relief.

“The Division of Taxation worked non-stop to come up with a solution this year that will allow us to get these benefits out more quickly and in a much more user-friendly way for taxpayers,” said Jennifer Sciortino, the spokesperson. “First critics of Anchor voted against it, now they’re complaining that relief is coming out too soon. It sounds like they just aren’t happy that the administration and legislative leadership are working together to make New Jersey more affordable.”

Election-year checks are nothing new in New Jersey.

Gov. Brendan Byrne’s name appeared on rebate checks sent out during the Homestead program’s first year, a fact then-State Sen. Raymond Bateman, Byrne’s GOP challenger, partly credited for his loss.

Residents with a dependent child received $500 rebate checks bearing Murphy’s name ahead of 2021’s election as part of a one-time stimulus plan enacted alongside the state’s millionaire’s tax.

Republicans, including 2021 gubernatorial nominee Jack Ciattarelli, charged the checks were intended to steer votes to Democratic candidates, though the majority party lost legislative seats during that cycle.

“It seems all too convenient that right before the election where the entire Legislature is up, the Murphy administration gets to play Santa Claus yet again,” Testa said.

The Anchor property tax rebate program provides homeowners with incomes of no more than $150,000 a $1,500 tax rebate paid through a check or deposited directly into their bank accounts.

Homeowners earning between $150,000 and $250,000 are eligible for a $1,000 rebate, while renters who earn up to $150,000 can receive $450. Legislation passed in June increases those awards by $250 for residents aged 65 or older.

Treasury officials said homeownership, address, and bank data gathered during the program’s first year will allow the department to send awards to most Anchor recipients faster.

“The challenge last season was verifying this information from the expanded numbers of eligible recipients in order to distribute benefits,” said Danielle Currie, a Treasury spokesperson. “The division can now bypass this procedural hurdle for over 1.3 million of the 1.7 million people who received Anchor benefits last spring, and whose mailing address and bank information have not changed.”

Those whose information has not changed since last year will not need to refile an application, Treasury said, and the division expects Anchor awards will continue to go out in the fall in future years.

Applicants whose information has changed can update the same using an online portal before Sept. 30.

Not all Anchor applicants are guaranteed to receive their rebates before Nov. 1. New applicants are to receive their awards within 90 days of their filing date. The Division of Taxation will begin mailing applications next week, and residents have until Dec. 29 to file.

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Nikita Biryukov
Nikita Biryukov

Nikita Biryukov most recently covered state government and politics for the New Jersey Globe. His tenure there included revelatory stories on marijuana legalization, voting reform and Rep. Jeff Van Drew's decamp to the Republican Party. Earlier, he worked as a freelancer for The Home News Tribune and The Press of Atlantic City.

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