MORRIS COUNTY — Both chambers of lawmakers have unanimously approved StayNJ, a program designed to significantly reduce property tax bills for seniors in New Jersey. However, there are lingering doubts about the program’s survival until the awards start being distributed in 2026.
StayNJ is targeted at New Jersey homeowners aged 65 and above, offering them tax credits that could cover up to half of their property tax bills, with a cap of $6,500. This applies as long as the homeowner’s annual income does not exceed $500,000.
Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-Middlesex), the mind behind the program, stated, “We have heard from seniors across the state on this issue. We know what a difference this will make for families making difficult decisions. We owe it to our seniors and to their families to ease those burdens.” Governor Phil Murphy put his signature on the bill Friday evening.
The cap on the awards will be adjusted in line with property tax bills, and the program’s estimated cost stands at $1.3 billion when payouts begin in the first quarter of 2026.
However, some advocates and Republican officials have raised concerns about whether these awards will ever be realized. Specific provisions in the bill halt payments if the state fails to meet its commitments regarding school aid, pension payments, or two tax deduction programs designed for seniors and military veterans. Moreover, StayNJ payments will be obstructed if the state is unable to make them while maintaining a surplus equivalent to 12% of annual spending.
Certain Republicans argue that these conditions, combined with a recent dip in New Jersey’s revenue, virtually ensure that StayNJ payments will never be made. Others criticize the $500,000 income cap, suggesting that it directs aid toward residents who don’t require assistance with property taxes.
Assemblyman Brian Bergen (R-Morris) commented, “We have seniors in the state of New Jersey today, who under the provisions of this bill can make $450,000 a year and still get $6,500 back in property tax relief. That $6,500 doesn’t come from a phantom fund. It comes from the money that we take from all the other taxpayers in the state of New Jersey.”
Bergen and Assemblyman Kevin Rooney (R-Bergen) were the only two who voted against the bill in either chamber. A proposed amendment by Bergen that would have lowered the income cap to $200,000 was also rejected by the Assembly.