On appeal from the Superior Court, Appellate Division, whose opinion is reported at 166 N.J. Super.. 258 (1979).
For affirmance -- Chief Justice Wilentz, Justices Sullivan, Pashman, Clifford, Schreiber and Pollock. For reversal -- None. The opinion of the Court was delivered by Schreiber, J.
Plaintiffs Harry J. Rubin and his wife Margaret have challenged the constitutionality of the Homestead Rebate Act, N.J.S.A. 54:4-3.80 et seq. Denied a rebate with respect to real property taxes paid on their summer home, they filed a claim with the local tax assessor for a Homestead Tax Rebate for the year 1977. Upon rejection of their claims, plaintiffs unsuccessfully sought relief from the County Board of Taxation and then the Division of Tax Appeals. When their appeal to the Appellate Division failed, 166 N.J. Super. 258 (1979), they filed an appeal with this Court. R. 2:2-1(a).
The facts are undisputed. Plaintiffs, residents of York, Pennsylvania, have been domiciled in Pennsylvania all their lives. Harry J. Rubin, a member of the Pennsylvania Bar, is self-employed. His wife, Margaret C. Rubin, is a social worker employed by the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare. In 1965 they acquired a house in Long Beach Township, New Jersey, which they occupy for approximately four to five weeks
during the summer and intermittently throughout the year. It serves as a vacation home.
Plaintiffs' contentions are threefold. They assert first that the Legislature in enacting the Homestead Rebate Act exceeded the authority vested in it by Article VIII, § 1, par. 5 of the New Jersey Constitution; second, that the Act contravenes the Privileges and Immunities Clause of the federal Constitution, Art. IV, § 2, cl. 1; and third, that it conflicts with the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
The Homestead Rebate Act, in pertinent part, provides that:
Every citizen and resident of this State shall be entitled, annually, to a homestead rebate on a dwelling house and the land upon which such dwelling house is situated, or on a dwelling house assessed as real estate situated on land owned by another or others which constitutes the place of his domicile and which is owned and used by him as his principal residence. [ N.J.S.A. 54:4-3.80(a); emphasis added]
It was enacted by the Legislature in response to Article VIII, § 1, par. 5 of the state Constitution which provides that:
The Legislature may adopt a homestead statute which entitles homeowners, residential tenants and net lease residential tenants to a rebate or a credit of a sum of money related to property taxes paid by or allocable to them at such rates and subject to such limits as may be provided by law. Such rebates or credits may include a differential rate or credit to citizens and residents who are of the age of 65 or more years, or less than 65 years of age who are permanently and totally disabled according to the provisions of the Federal Social Security Act, or are 55 years of age or more and the surviving spouse of a deceased citizen or resident of this State who during his lifetime received, or who, upon the adoption of this amendment and the enactment of implementing legislation, would have been entitled to receive a rebate or credit related to property taxes.
The first sentence of the constitutional amendment was adopted at the general election of November 4, 1975, and the second at the general election of November 2, 1976.
The plaintiffs admit that they do not satisfy the statutory criterion, namely that their New Jersey summer home is their principal residence. However, they contend that the Homestead Rebate Act unconstitutionally narrows the rebate envisioned in ...