New Jersey’s openly gay state assemblyman, who was called “numbnuts” in 2012 by Gov. Chris Christie (R), thinks he can do what Christie has never been able to do, numb or not: get New Jerseyans to stay in New Jersey.
Assemblyman Reed Gusciora’s (D) solution is astoundingly simple. He wants to offer state home and business owners the opportunity to slash their property taxes by 25 percent.
The New Jersey Legislature would then be tasked with figuring out how to make up the difference through budget cuts.
The best Christie has been able to offer is a cap on future property tax increases.
Gusciora calls his idea Proposition New Jersey .
This isn’t the first time Gusciora has tried to get this legislation approved by his colleagues in the state Senate and Assembly. But now it might be more important than ever to get it done. A new study shows New Jersey could lose half of its residents who are fed up with shouldering one of the worst tax burdens in the nation.
The New Jersey Turnpike could soon be packed with residents who want to see the New Jersey border sign in their rearview mirrors.
A Monmouth University/Asbury Park Press study —coming a couple of weeks after a Tax Foundation study showed the Garden State’s business tax rate to be the worst in the nation — demonstrated the state’s property taxes are inciting half of the state’s residents to make plans to get out of New Jersey.
However, property taxes are not the only problem faced by those with Garden State license plates on their vehicles. New Jersey’s sales tax is one of the highest in the nation, at 7 percent, behind only California’s 7.95 percent sales tax.
The kicker is that this is not the first time New Jersey residents have told Monmouth University they want to move out permanently.
The study showed the continuation of a seven-year tend of residents planning an exodus from New Jersey.
“Very little has happened over the past few years to change Garden State residents’ desire or ability to remain in the state,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.
Fifty percent of New Jersey residents who responded to the Monmouth University survey released Nov. 10 said they would like to move out of the state at some point compared to 45 percent who said they would like to remain in the Garden State for the rest of their lives.
Of course a frog wants to grow wings so he won’t whomp his butt every time he jumps, but how likely is that to happen?
When asked to assess the probability they actually would move, regardless of whether they want to, 26 percent of all residents said it is very likely and 32 percent said it is somewhat likely they would leave the state.
It is the middle class for whom exit visas might be most imminent.
Only 31 percent of New Jerseyans who make more than $100,000 a year said they are very likely to leave compared to 25 percent of those in the $50,000 to $100,000 a year salary range who are packing their bags.
Among those who are likely to leave the state, the survey showed 50 percent said they would do so before they retire and 40 percent plan to move after they retire.
“The state’s high cost of living is the driving factor, and the chief culprit among these costs is New Jersey’s property tax burden,” said Murray.
Among those who say they are at least somewhat likely to move out of the state, over half (54 percent) cite costs or taxes as their primary motive. This includes 24 percent who blame property taxes as the main reason behind a move.
New Jersey officials —who, let’s be honest, are sometimes noteworthy for their arrogance —can’t take a “don’t let the door hit you where the Lord split you” attitude.
“This (exodus) would leave behind a depleted tax base coupled with a population in need of greater support. If these indications come to fruition, the affordability anxieties that are driving people out of the state now will only get worse,” said Murray.
Of course, it is never all about the economy. Other quality of life issues were mentioned, though much less frequently.
This listed included 6 percent who complained about New Jersey’s weather, 3 percent who were unhappy with the environment, 2 percent fed up with congestion, 2 percent who cited poor government, 2 percent who blamed their dissatisfaction on crime, 2 percent who said New Jersey was a bad place to raise a family, and 1 percent who cited the schools. Others said they just want a change of scenery (12 percent) or want to be closer to their families (4 percent).
But how much can any governor or legislature do?
Christie signed legislation in June 2014 that might not have lowered property taxes, but it did put a cap on future increases.
The legislation was also designed to continue to provide municipalities with the tools they need to keep property taxes down by placing an interest arbitration cap on police and fire contracts.
“Today we are once again delivering meaningful and substantive reform to curb property taxes for all New Jerseyans,” said Christie.
“This reform has already showed that it works to protect taxpaying families, who faced year after year of skyrocketing property taxes before we came into office and brought historic reforms and the lowest level of property tax increases in over two decades.”
Under the bipartisan reforms, including Cap 2.0 and the arbitration cap, property tax growth was slowed to its lowest level in two decades, with statewide increases of 1.4 percent and 1.7 percent in 2012 and 2013, respectively.
The Monmouth/Asbury Park Press survey is not the only evidence of the New Jersey tax burden.
The Tax Foundation’s 2015 State Business Tax Climate Index released Oct. 28 showed New Jersey business tax climate to be the worst in the nation.
“The states in the bottom ten suffer from the same afflictions: complex, non-neutral taxes with comparatively high rates,” wrote the study’s authors, Scott Drenkard and Joseph Henchman.
“ New Jersey, for example, suffers from some of the highest property tax burdens in the country, is one of just two states to levy both an inheritance and an estate tax, and maintains some of the worst structured individual income taxes in the country,” Drenkard and Henchman wrote.
However, one reader of NJ.Com who commented on the Monmouth/Asbury Park Press study pointed out that money isn’t everything.
“Devil’s Advocate” plans to say in New Jersey.
“It’s expensive, but I like it here. I’d probably die of boredom anywhere else.”