By Alan Caruba
Why do I pick on New Jersey? Because it’s so easy and because I was born, raised, and have lived here for most of my life. It is home to some really wonderful people, but it is home to fewer and fewer of them.
A study by two Rutgers economists, James Hughes and Joseph Seneca, reveals that people are abandoning the Garden State at a rate three times higher than just five years ago.
“Census Bureau data reveal a sharp downturn in New Jersey’s population growth in the 2002-06 period and a sharp upturn in the number of people leaving the state,” the two wrote in a commentary published by the largest circulation daily, The Star-Ledger. On its front page, it published an article with the headline, “Jerseyans leave at alarming rate.” New Jersey has the distinction of joining California, Louisiana, and New York as having more people leaving than arriving or just staying.
Comparing these four states is dicey at best. After 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, a lot of Louisianans didn’t even have a home to which to return. The Hurricane, possibly the worst in U.S. history, decimated a big chunk of that state, along with parts of Mississippi.
No homes and no jobs was a good reason for that migration. As for California, the reasons for leaving are so vast as to require a book. Unchecked migration of illegal aliens comes to mind. A failure to anticipate and provide adequate energy generation and enough environmental regulations to drive any business elsewhere come to mind. New York? Well, it elected Hillary Clinton its Senator and has a Governor who wants to give illegal aliens driver’s licenses. Enough said.
A Monmouth University/Gannett polling institute announced in mid-October that a poll they conducted revealed that, “49% of New Jersey adults would like to move out of the state at some point, compared to 44% who would prefer to live out their lives here, and 7% are unsure. Moreover, 51% of those who want to leave the state say they are in fact very likely to make good on that wish. Another 36% say they are somewhat likely to eventually leave New Jersey and 10% are not too or not at all likely.”
The reasons even the Sopranos are thinking of moving to North Carolina or Florida are easy to understand. New Jersey has the highest property taxes in the nation. We have one of the highest sales taxes as well. It costs more to buy auto insurance here than anywhere else. It has had, with the exception of Christie Whitman, one Democrat after another running the state. Whitman borrowed more debt to add to that created by other administrations. She left the job of Governor to head the Environmental Protection Agency. President Bush fired her. She is rumored to be up for the lead in the sequel to the movie, “Clueless.”
By April 2007, the state’s debt ranked it fourth among all other states. It closed out 2006 with $33.7 billion in public debt. It has been among the most indebted states since 1998. One would think our legislators might take some lesson from this, but you would be wrong. Only California, New York, and Massachusetts ranked higher.
This is a state that elected Democrat Jim Florio Governor (1990 to 1994) who immediately raised taxes and almost as immediately was defeated for a second term, replaced by Republican Whitman. This is a state that elected Democrat James McGreevy Governor only to watch him resign (with his wife at his side) for placing his alleged lover, an Israeli citizen, in a high paying state homeland security job. It turned out that McGreevy was gay. Who knew?
Now the state is run by Governor Jon Corzine, a Democrat gazillionaire who was bored after having bought the job of U.S. Senator, so he bought the job of Governor. He’s been in hot water ever since it became known he was giving lavish gifts to his ex-girlfriend and her family members. The fact that she also heads up the state’s largest union of civil servants adds a bit of drama to the revelations. Were legislators surprised to learn in July that they have an unfunded bill of about $69 billion for the health insurance they promised to current and future public retirees? Answer: Yes, probably.
Add into this mix a state Supreme Court that cannot interpret the state constitution that it forbids any other element of the state government but the legislature to initiate spending of any kind. Instead, these robed savants saddled the state with billions in the name of “the children” by requiring a school construction program that transfers money to urban and Democrat-controlled districts from suburban districts. The court has ordered free preschools for 3 and 4 year olds in urban districts even though the state constitution requires schooling only for those ages 5 through 18. Apparently a lot of people in those suburban districts are leaving.
This is also the same state that passed a Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act that instantly destroyed the value of homes and farmlands in a 1,300 square-mile region. As noted in a December Star-Ledger editorial, “Development controls are so sweeping that perhaps less than 20 percent of land in the region is left available for construction, even in the half of the region lawmakers had targeted for future growth.” Killing all growth in a huge swath of the state’s northwestern counties is yet another reason people are leaving.
The result of all of this spectacular stupidity is a projected state income and sales tax loss of $539 million in 2005. “Based on 2006 population out-migration data, the tax losses are estimated to have increased to $680 million in 2006.”
There is, of course, an astonishingly high rate of corruption among our elected leaders of every description; yet another reason for people to head for the exits.
If you tax people to a point where being middle-class is meaningless and punishable, they will leave for places where they are not regarded as a cash cow to be milked for public servants and social programs, and somewhere their children and grandchildren are not expected to pick up the bill. New Jerseyeans are deciding to leave in droves.