Nearly half of New Jersey residents are mulling leaving the state within the next decade, with the biggest drivers of those exodus being property taxes and a high cost of living, according to a recent report.
The joint poll between Fairleigh Dickinson University and the conservative think tank Garden State Initiative found that 44 percent of residents are considering a move out of the state, compared to 51 percent of residents who are fine with staying in New Jersey.
“What’s interesting is that New Jersey’s top two problems are really deeply rooted political problems,” FDU School of Public and Global Affairs Director Peter Woodley said in the report.
The poll found that 7.5 percent of respondents listed high taxes as their biggest problem with living in the state. That was followed by 7.2 percent citing a high cost of living, 5.6 percent citing “government corruption,” 5.1 citing crime and drugs, 4.9 percent citing bridges and roads, and 4.9 percent who cited the state’s environment.
Eight percent of respondents said they want to leave the state in the next 12 months, but 20 percent said they would like to leave within the next one to five years. Eleven percent said they want to move out of New Jersey in the next six to 10 years.
Twenty five percent of respondents between 18 and 29 years of age, and 26 percent of respondents between the ages of 50 and 64, said they might plan to leave the state in the next one to five years.
“No matter where you are on the economic spectrum… you’ll find taxes are a challenge,” Woodley told NJBIZ. “Whether you’re buying your first house in Elizabeth, or you’re buying a retirement house in Sussex County, you’re going to pay more in New Jersey than other places.”
The high tax rate has been driven by what he called “municipal madness” — 565 municipalities across the state, and many with their own school districts and police, sanitation, heath, and parks and recreation departments.
To that end, legislative leadership and the Murphy administration are eyeing ways many of those local governments can enter shared service agreements, or merge non-K-12 school districts.
“We have a crisis of confidence in the ability of our leaders to address property taxes and the cost of living whether at the start of their career, in prime earning years, or repositioning for retirement, New Jersey residents see greener pastures in other states,” GSI President Regina Egea said in the report.
Woodley pointed out, however, that respondents listed dozens of the state’s attributes which they felt improved their quality of life — 11 percent said the beaches, 9 percent said employment opportunities, 8 percent said good schools and education, and 7 percent said proximity to New York City. But still, 13 percent responded “nothing” improved the quality of life in the state.
“Against that background, it’s interesting that people think about leaving the state,” Woodley said.
FDU interviewed 801 New Jersey adults between Sept. 26 and Oct. 26 for the poll, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 percent.