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Friday, June 29, 2012

NJ Foreclosure Bill Veto Leaves Door Open For New Attack

In a temporary victory for New Jersey homeowners, Governor Chris Christie late Friday afternoon vetoed the odious Residential Foreclosure Transformation Act. However, a careful reading of the Governor's late Friday document dump shows that homeowners have every reason to fear that Christie will support this bill at a later time when politically convenient and when no one is watching.

Homeowners and taxpayer groups must remain on the highest alert -- here's why.  Christie's written comments explaining the vetoes of this and other bills, issued outside the regular appropriations process, make clear that the vetoes "are not a comment on the merits of these legislative initiatives." This language indicates that Christie may reconsider -- on the merits -- this horrible bill if resubmitted later in the 2012-13 legislative session.  New Jersey homeowners must remain very vigilant, and wary of the Governor, who may yet sign this bill and deliver to homeowners his own "drop dead" message closer to the 2013 election.

The basis for this concern is clear.  Given the opportunity to attack this bill and use his typically scathing commentary, Christie did not merely decline.  Christie took pains to clarify that he has not offered an opinion on this bill on the merits.  This is the type of language that makes one believe Christie may actually sign this bill (or a similar reincarnation) if passed -- and to do so closer to the 2013 election when it may become politically attractive to do so to get Democratic and progressive votes on the basis of such misguided compassion. (But compassion for homeowners? No.  This remains a constituency whose votes Christie is taking for granted.)  In addition, the timing of the veto and Christie's prior refusal to make any comments about the merits of this bill add to the evidence from which one may infer that Christie does not disagree with the bill's central concept of using taxpayer-guaranteed bond revenue to have the State purchase and convert foreclosures into 30-year deed restricted affordable housing or other social welfare centers.

This bill (Assembly bill 2168, Senate bill 1566) had been heavily and persistently supported by redistributionist Democrats looking to convert foreclosures into affordable housing and other uses for rehab centers, halfway houses and shelters. However, tea party and conservative groups including Americans For Prosperity and Eagle Forum, and this commentator, were stridently against the bill fearing its 30-year deed restriction after conversion could crash and then prevent any recovery in home prices. In addition, some Democrats in each house bucked party leadership. The bill passed the State Senate with the bare minimum necessary for a majority.

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