They didn't change the state's $74 billion pension system, rein in dual office holding or fix the school-funding formula, but state legislators did give taxpayers $2.3 billion in property-tax relief yesterday.

The unanswered question still on the table is this: After months of exhausting work, do the New Jersey Legislature and Gov. Corzine have the political will to go back to work and make deep structural changes in government spending and taxation?

While most property taxpayers will see a drop in their bills this year, critics argue there is still much work to be done.

"I'm going to wake up tomorrow and hope we have the courage to go back to Trenton and do good things for New Jersey," said Sen. John Adler of Camden County. Adler is one of four Democrats who voted against yesterday's tax-cut legislation because he didn't think it went far enough.

Many felt that way. But, in the end, in an election year, and after months of tax-relief promises, hearings and hallway arm twisting, legislative leaders had to deliver.

"They are exhausted but knew full well that they had to get something done after the grandiose promises and the fanfare caused by the governor and legislative leaders," said Rider University political scientist David Rebovich.

The unresolved issues, however, will not go away.

State Sen. Barbara Buono, a Middlesex Democrat, had strong words for her colleagues, saying that if the government doesn't attack the school-funding formula, it won't really cut property taxes.

"There's no reason why we can't do this funding formula now. We have to attribute the delay to political factors and not logistical ones," she said.

Changing the formula, which gives more money to poor districts than to middle-class and wealthy districts, is the topic of great debate even within the Democratic caucus.

"I just found the governor's decision to delay reworking the school funding formula to be nothing less than staggering," Buono said. "That reform would have been the most significant reform to come out of the special session."

Even though Republicans were openly critical of reform packages throughout the process, only six Republican senators hung tough and voted against the centerpiece rebate bill yesterday. Ten broke ranks and joined the Democrats, leading to a final tally of 28 to 10. Two Republicans did not vote.

Republicans who defected couldn't stand the thought of the campaign commercial or pamphlet that would accuse them of voting against a tax cut.

Emblematic of that was State Sen. Robert Singer, of Burlington and Ocean Counties, who said that once Treasurer Bradley Abelow showed him how many people in his district would get rebates, he supported the bill.

"Too many of my seniors, too many of my families, need that money for me to turn a deaf ear," Singer told reporters.

Democrats had been making that argument for days, playing the class card and distributing figures showing that without the new rebates, the poorest homeowners could lose as much as $300 while the wealthiest would make $1,400 more.

Senate Minority Leader Leonard Lance of Hunterdon County said his fellow Republicans voted their conscience but that he voted against the tax-cut bill because he didn't think the program could last more than a year.

"I imagine the majority will claim this is victory," he said.

And, they did.

Senate President Richard J. Codey said, "When the dust settles, what will be remembered is that we did in fact deliver on our promise to provide property-tax relief and reform."

Contact staff writer Cynthia Burton at 856-779-3858 or