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State Republicans oppose increase hotel-tax bill Meadowlands


State Republicans oppose increase hotel-tax bill Meadowlands


Senate Republicans say that when a bill to overhaul the 14-town Meadowlands district comes to a vote Monday, it won’t have their support.

But their opposition to the measure will be merely symbolic unless they can convince a handful of Democrats to align with them in voting it down.

The proposal to restructure the district’s tax-revenue sharing and meld its two authorities had moved quickly since being introduced last week by Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto, D-Secaucus. The Assembly passed the bill Thursday night in a late-running session that included lengthy amendment talks and an emergency vote. The Senate halted the pace that night when it would not allow an emergency vote, but instead passed the amendments.

Now the Senate will return Monday for a vote.

Republicans object to the proposal to shift the revenue-sharing burden from some of the district’s well-developed municipalities to its hotels by adding a 3 percent room tax. And although they do not disagree with the idea of consolidating the Meadowlands Commission and the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, as of Friday they didn’t know the details of the merger.

When the Senate votes on the bill, Republican leader Tom Kean Jr. said, he doesn’t anticipate any support from the caucus. Because of the last-minute changes made Thursday night requiring an emergency vote, the Senate would not allow a vote on the bill, because, Kean said, it “was literally changing by the minute.”

“They’re still writing it as they’re asking us to vote for it,” said state Sen. Gerald Cardinale, R-Demarest. “That is not good government.”

Since 1972, the 14-municipality Meadowlands district within Bergen and Hudson counties has operated under a complex formula in which tax revenues generated by development in individual communities is shared.

Each year, communities that have been allowed to more-liberally develop land send tax dollars from those ratables to the communities that are restricted to preserve open space.

In the past several years, though, the formula has become a sore point for local officials, who view it as inequitable and antiquated.

The legislation, sponsored by Prieto, would consolidate the two Meadowlands agencies and add the hotel tax, a move estimated to draw $7 million to $10 million a year. Last year about $7 million was distributed in the district.

Shifting the burden from the municipalities to the hotels would free up tax revenues for local budgets, which have become strained under increased costs and the need to stay within the mandated 2 percent cap on increases in most tax-supported spending. Prieto also said that any money left over would be used for infrastructure improvements, flood control and promoting tourism.

But Cardinale worries about the plan’s long-term sustainability.

“If that 3 percent hotel tax doesn’t produce enough, then what happens? Cardinale said. “If the cash flow doesn’t happen, then the taxpayers in the whole state” will have to make up the difference to fund the district’s costs to operate. For the past two years, Prieto has said, the state budget has either partially or fully funded the district because municipalities could not meet their tax-sharing obligations.

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