Will the last one out please turn off the lights before leaving?
That was the not-so-subtle takeaway from a Monmouth University poll that found half of New Jersey residents want to leave the Garden State, and more than a quarter call their departure very likely.
New Jersey has a lot of things going for it — a highly educated workforce; proximity to New York City; and air, rail and seaports that link it to the rest of the world. It’s hard to imagine how bad off the state would be without those intangibles — along with anemic job growth that lags most of the United States, the high cost of living in New Jersey is a frustration for both residents and business owners alike. Most troubling, the survey found, is that its workers and high-income earners who are among those most eagerly seeking to take flight. Almost a third of those earning six figures told pollsters they want out.
The continued bugaboo of punishingly high property taxes needs to be stopped, because it’s crushing the business climate. The same week the Monmouth poll came out, Forbes updated its ranking of the states by business and career climate, and New Jersey tumbled down to 41st overall, with the second-worst overall business costs. Property taxes are a big and ugly part of it.
One of the real triumphs of Chris Christie’s early career in the governor’s office was the agreement with Steve Sweeney on the 2 percent property tax cap. The cap itself was loaded with loopholes that allowed for increases — Atlantic City approved a 29 percent increase in the summer — but it was a step in the right direction in 2010. The needle needs to be moved in the other direction, badly, but the kind of bipartisanship that got this deal done four years ago seems impossible now, with the two big men in the midst of a cold war over their lofty ambitions. We imagine Sweeney’s gubernatorial aspirations and Christie’s even higher ones will make future compromise in this area extremely difficult.
Well, put those differences aside, boys. This is too big to get caught in the same stupid, petty nonsense that’s ground Washington to a halt. The two sides need to cooperate again to create a sustainable solution that finds a more effective way to pay the bills than piling up property taxes. They owe it to the working class and the business community to cut costs and reduce the burden from pensions to right the seconomy. Otherwise, the only race either will be in is to see who’s left to turn out the lights.