At Affordability Summit, Guadagno maintains her focus on property taxes

Lt. Gov and gubernatorial candidate Kim Guadagno spoke about property tax. Opportunity NJ, a non-partisan coalition of NJ business people and citizens held their 2017 New Jersey Affordability Summit at the First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens in Somerset. / Russ DeSantis | For NJ Advance Media

Not only is New Jersey the state with the highest taxes, people who work in the state are now moving to neighboring states to avoid high property taxes, according to Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno.

“You can find a job here now, but you’re moving to Pennsylvania — empirically, we know that. You’re moving to New York — how does that happen? You’re moving to Delaware,” she said.

Traditionally, New York has been a neighbor that has seen its own labor force migrate to New Jersey to reside.

Guadagno, the Republican gubernatorial candidate, addressed a crowd of more than 100 at the Opportunity NJ Affordability Summit co-hosted by the New Jersey Business & Industry Association and New Jersey Chamber of Commerce on Monday in Somerset.

Addressing the state’s affordability in housing, property taxes, education and wages were all topics discussed throughout the daylong event.

Guadagno attacked Democratic gubernatorial opponent Phil Murphy’s plan to tax millionaires, saying a similar plan failed in the state before and is now failing in Connecticut — and could lead to further outmigration of New Jersey residents.

Her plan is to cap property tax increases by 5 percent, a plan she said has been similarly implemented by Democrats in Massachusetts and Illinois.

When asked by reporters what she and Gov. Chris Christie have done in eight years to tackle property taxes, Guadagno replied she’s focused on ensuring more jobs — which was her job as lieutenant governor.

“But, we still have more to do,” she said. “We have 50 percent less unemployment today than we had eight years ago. And the next number on problem has to be … property taxes. And I am the only candidate talking about it.”

A third-party candidate and former mayor of Long Hill, Gina Genovese, is also talking about property taxes, and has been a known advocate of shared services in the state.

But ideas like shared services, despite being successful in Princeton, have not gained traction in a Garden State that has long favored “home rule.”

When asked what ideas like that can be implemented, Guadagno replied:

“There is no silver bullet for fixing property taxes. The 5 percent (cap) is one piece of it, of course; we have to continue what we’ve been doing, which is shared services, encouraging boroughs and townships to combine. We saw it in Princeton, we’ve seen it when some of the police departments combined in Lake Como and Belmar. So, we have to continue making sure that happens, because everyone knows 566 municipalities or the 600-and-some-odd districts are sometimes dysfunctional when it comes to cost.”

Last month, highlighted Princeton as the town in Mercer County where property taxes hurt the most; they are, on average, 16 percent of the median income reported in Princeton.