OCEAN TOWNSHIP - This Monday, Acting Governor Sheila Oliver signed legislation sponsored by Senator Vin Gopal and Assembly Members Eric Houghtaling and Joann Downey that would expand the veterans’ property tax exemption program to include veterans living in continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs). Tinton Falls Borough President and retired Air Force veteran Gary Baldwin lauded the move, calling it a major step forward for veterans Across New Jersey.
Houghtaling, who introduced the bill for a vote in the Assembly, credited residents, local leaders, and the many veterans living in CCRCs for their consistent efforts to express their support for the expansion in Trenton and at home. "Veterans from Seabrook Retirement Community in our district, including Ron Whalin and Tinton Falls Council President Gary Baldwin, have been tireless advocates for this legislation,” said Houghtaling (D-Neptune). “Thanks to them, this legislation is well on its way to becoming the law of the land, making this program fairer and more accessible to hardworking retired service members across New Jersey.”
The bill (S-1331) would extend the annual $250 deduction on property taxes to any qualified veterans who reside in a CCRC. Currently, veterans must own their own home to be eligible for the program, meaning that veterans can actually face higher tax rates after moving into a retirement community such as Seabrook Village in Tinton Falls. A companion resolution, SCR-110, must be approved by voters in November to formally enshrine the expanded tax relief within New Jersey’s constitution.
“We’re proud to say that this measure was unanimously approved by both houses of the legislature, but we still have more work to do to inform voters of the importance of this tax relief program before they go to the polls this November,” said Downey (D-Freehold). “While this program can never fully match the incredible service of the men and women who have fought and sacrificed for our nation, it is a small but significant way to express our appreciation for their efforts.”
Tinton Falls Council President Gary Baldwin, a retired Air Force officer, has been fighting to expand this property tax deduction for 18 years. Baldwin was surprised to learn that veterans lose this tax deduction when he sold his home and moved to the Seabrook Retirement Community in Tinton Falls, and decided to fight to expand it to the nearly 3,000 veterans and their spouses across New Jersey who are currently excluded.
"Veterans have been living with this discriminatory process for years, and this legislation finally brings fairness to an unfair situation," said Baldwin. "Every resident of a retirement community like Seabrook already pays taxes on the units they live in - there's no reason why they shouldn't receive this cost-saving deduction as well."
Gopal, Houghtaling, and Downey have made serving veterans a top priority. Another bill bill signed into law Monday sponsored by the three legislators (A-4095) expands access to a peddler’s license for New Jersey veterans, creating new career opportunities for former service members as they transition to civilian life.
Current law only grants veterans the right to a peddler’s license if they received an honorable discharge from active military service. Under the new law, this right would be extended to any New Jersey veteran discharged under honorable conditions, whether or not they served on active duty. The holder of a peddler’s license is permitted to sell carried goods or merchandise streetside or directly to individual houses as a canvasser, solicitor, or traveling vendor.
The legislators also recently hosted “The Coming Home Project” at Monmouth University’s campus in West Long Branch, a veterans claims clinic intended to help connect local veterans with services and state benefits to lower their costs and increase the support they receive.