by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Anyone who knows much about New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie realizes how much he loves the music of Jersey’s own Bruce Springsteen, even if the object of the governor’s affection is ambivalent — at best — about Christie’s ardor. One suspects that the governor would hate to see this headline, based on the title of Springsteen’s most famous song, on the front page of the Washington Free Beacon: “Born to Run Away from High Taxes.”
New Jersey’s high taxes may be costing the state billions of dollars a year in lost revenue as high-earning residents flee, according to a recent study.
The study, Exodus on the Parkway, was completed by Regent Atlantic last year but held for publication until after the November 2013 elections. The study stated it “intentionally” held its results “as 2014 is not an election year for state legislators” and it will “hopefully encourage a serious and objective dialogue aimed at addressing and solving the challenges that New Jersey currently faces.”
The study shows the state has been steadily losing high-net-worth residents since 2004, when Democratic Gov. Jim McGreevey signed the millionaire’s tax into law. The law raised the state income tax 41 percent on those earning $500,000 or more a year.
“The inception of this tax, coupled with New Jersey’s already high property and estate taxes, leaves no mystery about why the term ‘tax migration’ has become a buzzword among state residents and financial, legal, and political professionals,” the study, conducted by Regent states.
Democrats in New Jersey have been pushing for even higher taxes on the wealthy in recent years. They have failed three times to raise the millionaire’s tax even higher than McGreevey did under threat of a veto by Governor Chris Christie.
The wealthy aren’t the only ones being asked to pony up. This week Democratic State Sen. Ray Lesniak proposed a 5-cent per gallon gas tax to pay for transportation repairs and improvements and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D.) has indicated he would be open to considering several new taxes and fees to boost revenue for the state, including a tax on water consumption.
Such tax hikes are driving residents to states with lower tax rates: In 2010 alone, New Jersey lost taxable income of $5.5 billion because residents changed their state of domicile.