Gary and Linda Cogan have lived in their Mount Laurel home on Yorktown Road, nestled into a development off Church Street, for the last 26 years.
In that time, the value of their home has increased 50 percent, while their property taxes have gone up 400 percent.
It’s people like the Cogans Gov. Chris Christie is worried about.
“We’re concerned about folks like Gary and Linda,” he said, delivering a speech in their driveway on a drizzly Thursday afternoon, “who want to stay in their homes, who want to live here for the rest of their lives. They’re like so many other families across New Jersey … who have raised families, had careers, paid taxes, supported the social and economic fabric of our state and want to stay.”
Using the Cogans’ home as the backdrop for his speech, Christie touted his successes over the last year in his battle against property tax growth, namely the implementation of the 2 percent cap and pension and health benefits reform.
Thanks to those reforms, he said, New Jersey taxpayers will save $337 million on their property taxes next year. In Mount Laurel, the savings will total roughly $550,000. And over the next 30 years, he said, savings from those reforms statewide will come to $132 billion.
But it’s not enough.
“We’re changing the property tax system in this state. We’re not done yet,” Christie told the crowd bunched up on the Cogans’ lawn and driveway. “But brick by brick we’re going to rebuild it in a different way that will help to control property taxes in our state and hope that folks in my generation, we’re not going to have to worry whether we can afford to live here or not.”
Going forward, the governor said he would push the Legislature to pass civil service and sick leave reform, the latter of which he found particularly baffling.
“In government, we have sick leave, and then if you’re not sick for your whole career, you accumulate all those days and you get paid for it,” he said. “Isn’t the benefit actually being that you weren’t sick? Do you have to get paid for that too? … This is crazy.”
Christie also addressed his desire to move school elections to November, discussed overhauling the school funding formula, and responded to a question about whether he’d run alongside Republican presidential front runner Mitt Romney as vice president in typical Christie fashion—by not really answering it.
“How many different ways am I going to answer this? I don’t expect to be asked, and it’s not my place,” he said. “There’s no reason for me to decide before I have to. I’m governor. I want to stay governor. I want to stay in New Jersey.”
Mount Laurel Mayor Jim Keenan said the governor’s office was looking for a suburban Mount Laurel home to hold the governor’s press conference. Keenan made a few suggestions, including Gary Cogan’s, who he knew from the township planning board. The rest, as they say, is history.
“I had to notify my supervisors and let them know I wasn’t coming in today,” said Linda Cogan.
Gary said he’s extremely leery of becoming involved in any way in politics, but admitted to being an unabashed Christie fan.
“I thought it was sensational,” he said of the governor’s speech, which he and his wife got a sneak preview of inside their home before the rest of the crowd heard it. “I liked him before. I like him even more now.”
Keenan, who’s running for the Assembly alongside Moorestown businessman Chris Halgas, said he doesn’t like politicians, which is why he likes Chris Christie.
“Politicians, they shake your hand, and they’re looking at the next guy whose hand they’re going to shake. He didn’t do that,” said Keenan, describing his first encounter with then gubernatorial candidate Christie at an event in 2009. “We need common sense in Trenton.”
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