by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
One of the most striking features for a transplanted Midwesterner arriving at UNC-Chapel Hill’s Hinton James dorm in August 1989 was a message spray-painted on the basketball court: “Go back to Jersey.”
That message came to mind while reading Lee Habeeb’s National Review Online column about people voting with their feet to leave New Jersey.
My dad didn’t leave his country, but he left his home state. And he left because leaders there treated its residents like an ATM for several decades running, passing local and state tax increases that priced him out of his own home. And out of his home state.
Indeed, New Jersey led all 50 states in one tragic category: creating refugees. Last year, the Garden State lost more residents as a percentage of its overall population than any other state in the country, according to a 2014 National Movers Study commissioned by United Van Lines of St. Louis.
New Jersey led its “outbound” list, with 64 percent of all moves being from New Jersey to other states. In case you might think that this past year was some kind of anomaly: New Jersey has been no lower than third in the nation on the United Van Lines survey since 2006 when it comes to the ratio of people moving in to people moving out.
“Who needs a house out in Hackensack?” asked Billy Joel in his hit song “Movin’ Out.” “Is that all you get for your money?” It’s a question New Jersey residents have been asking themselves for decades, especially when they hear stories from friends who’ve escaped to places like North Carolina and Texas.
I fled New Jersey many years ago and now live in a beautiful college town in northern Mississippi. The mortgage payment for my home in Oxford would be twice as high, at least, if I lived in New Jersey. And the property taxes would be six times higher, at least. The $2,000 a year I pay in Oxford, which touts some great public schools, is $10,000 a year less than the taxes on the house my dad sold in New Jersey two years ago. And the home I live in is bigger, nicer, and has much more land. That adds up to $20,000-plus a year in savings on housing costs alone.
As if people needed another reason to blast the Garden State.