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A WATCHUNG COMMUNICATIONS, INC. PUBLICATION The Westfield Leader and THE TIMES of Scotch Plains - Fanwood Thursday, July 29, 1999 Page 5

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Senate President Hails Bills Aimed at Providing Benefits to Retirees, Vets

TRENTON — The full State Senate has given final legislative approval to two measures which would establish new tax cuts for New Jersey’s senior citizens and veterans.

The legislation, Senate Bill No. 68 (S-68) and Assembly Concurrent Resolution No. 29 (ACR-29), symbolize reaffirmation of the Legislature’s commitment to those who have worked and sacrificed for today’s prosperity, said Senate President Donald T. DiFrancesco, a Scotch Plains resident who co-sponsored both of the bills.

S-68, known as the “Retirement Income Tax Act,” would double the maximum income that seniors can exempt from their state income taxes. Currently, seniors 62 and over are eligible to have $10,000 of their income free of state taxes. The measure would make $20,000 in income for married seniors tax free after a four

year phase-in period. “Many of our state’s senior citizens —particularly those on fixed incomes — are faced with a tax burden which makes spending their retirement years in New Jersey tough to afford,” said Senator DiFrancesco, adding that seniors are already paying their fair share for education, for government programs, and for police and fire protection.

“We owe it to our seniors to alleviate the tax burdens on their retirement income,” he added.

He said ACR-29 provides New Jersey’s veterans with a long overdue tax break by increasing the veterans property tax deduction by five times its current rate.

The amendment to the state constitution, if approved in November by voters, would allow the Legislature to increase the annual property tax deduction from $50 to $250 on a phased-in schedule over four years.

“The veterans tax deduction has not been increased since originally passed in 1951,” said Senator DiFrancesco. “I believe New Jerseyans will agree that our veterans deserve our support through tax breaks and property tax relief. I have great confidence that voters will approve this constitutional amendment in November, allowing the Legislature to move forward with granting this long overdue relief to veterans.”

Mr. DiFrancesco said that aging New Jerseyans who have worked to make the state as prosperous as it has become, and veterans who have sacrificed to ensure all Americans have freedom to enjoy that prosperity, deserve the state’s support.

“Times are good in New Jersey, and we have the means to provide these tax breaks to what has become known as the greatest generation. I am very proud to have been a part of the process which will bring about these greatly deserved benefits,” he said.

County Prosecutor Warns Union County Residents About Year 2000 Scams

ELIZABETH — Alarmed by reports of a new “Year 2000” telephone scam, Union County Prosecutor Thomas V. Manahan has urged citizens not to surrender any credit cards or bank information to callers who promise to protect savings or credit cards accounts against Y2K bugs.

“I am really concerned to discover this is occurring around New Jersey,” said Mr. Manahan, who learned about the scam at a recent Year 2000 readiness conference hosted by the Gateway Institute.

The prosecutor said Marc Pfeiffer, deputy director of the State Department of Community Affairs, alerted the participants to two scams that are being reported to consumer affairs watchdogs.

“An unsuspecting person is being asked to forward bank account information to an address so that it can be protected against computer glitches for the turn of the century,” said the prosecutor. “In some of the worst case scenarios, the victims are actually being asked to mail in their credit cards directly and that would be a huge mistake.”

According to Sergeant Steven Siegel of the Prosecutor’s Office Special Prosecutions Unit, the scam may be typical but the Y2K angle is new.

“Once a criminal gets hold of a credit card or a card number, they will be using it to make unauthorized purchases of goods or services,” said Sergeant Siegel, who speaks to civic groups and senior organizations on frauds and scams.

Prosecutor Manahan said by pretending to offer seniors safety and security for their accounts, what an illegal telemarketing scheme really does is “prey on the fear that some people have that they won’t have access to their money.”

Sergeant Siegel said new crime comes on the heels of other ventures that the detectives in the unit have investigated such as the “free vacation” scheme.

“They get a letter or legal sounding notice telling them they have won a contest, a trip or a prize and they are told to call a toll-free 800 number,” he explained.

One item promised the person who got the flier in Union Township that

they had won a free trip to Florida, when, in fact, when they called they were asked to give credit card information to reserve accommodations. Sometimes the “vacation” turns out to be only an offer of a hotel, he added.

Prosecutor Manahan said the warnings issued by his staff when they speak to consumer clubs or senior citizen organization includes warnings and written information about identity theft as well as verbal admonitions about never sending a credit card in the mail or forwarding any account information to anyone who calls.

Executive Assistant Prosecutor Robert O’Leary said information about the scam or about having a speaker discuss the problem are available through the prosecutor’s office.

Aid to Towns Now Based On Inflation Under Bill

TRENTON —Celebrating a victory in the war against rising property taxes, State Senate President Donald T. DiFrancesco of Scotch Plains (R-22nd) traveled to Bogota on July 22 to witness Governor Christine Todd Whitman sign into law his legislation that ties the level of municipal aid distributed by the state to the inflation index.

Senator DiFrancesco sponsored the “Property Taxpayers’ Protection Act,” Senate Bill No. 10, along with Senator Norm Robertson, (R-34th), to give local officials guaranteed annual increases in state funding which will be earmarked exclusively for property tax relief.

“This legislation has long been sought after by municipal officials and with good reason,” said Senator DiFrancesco. “By providing an inflation adjustment for municipal aid, local officials will, for the first time, be able to craft budgets with a higher degree of predictability and reliability than is possible right now.”

The new law provides an inflation index for the Consolidated Municipal Property Tax Relief Aid program effective July 1 and for the Energy Tax Reform Aid program in the year 2003. It is the same index used to determine the municipal cap, namely the Implicit Price Deflator for State and Local Government Purchases of Goods and Services.

Assuming a 2 percent inflation rate, the program will distribute about $15 million statewide in direct prop

erty tax relief in its first year, officials said. By 2003, the program will distribute about $77 million statewide.

“Since the inflation index will become a permanent fixture of the municipal aid process and the funding will be cumulative, taxpayers benefits from the additional and stable aid that will be distributed as a result of the program, aid that must statutorily be used for direct property tax relief,” said Senator DiFrancesco.

“I know how valuable this legislation is to our elected officials. It will help them achieve our mutual goal of stabilizing the ever changing property tax landscape in New Jersey,” he added.

AWARD OF APPRECIATION…Congressman Bob Franks, right, awards Robert Kruthers of Fanwood a certificate of appreciation during the 6th Annual Seventh Congressional District Volunteer of the Year Ceremony. In observance of National Volunteers Week, Congressman Franks recognized more than 60 individuals and organizations from throughout Central New Jersey for their work and dedication within the community.

WINNING HISTORY…Students in the African-American History & Literature class at Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School were this year’s winners in the ‘Black Bowl’ sponsored by the Elizabeth NAACP and Elizabeth High School’s Pan-African Alliance. In their second year of competition, the team bested the field of competitors by answering questions in the areas of Black history and current issues. Pictured, left to right, are team members: Taffarie Laing, Jaime Hawkins, Cheryl Bembry, Andrea Moore and La’Marr McDaniel. The students are taught and coached by James Mason and Richard Call.

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