From the Star Ledger:
It’s become a ritual of gubernatorial transition in New Jersey: the incoming governor expresses “shock” at the dismal state of New Jersey’s finances, thus setting up his predecessor as the scapegoat for what will become — because it has been — every administration’s failure: to resolve New Jersey’s crisis of affordability.
Granted, Gov.-elect Phil Murphy’s way of expressing concern — by quoting then-Gov.-elect Chris Christie’s own words to Gov. Jon Corzine back to Christie eight years later — is a bit more pointed than in prior transitions. But the dynamic is unchanged, as is the stark reality that threatens to make New Jersey ungovernable: We pay too much in taxes, and it’s never enough.
New Jerseyans have been for years among the most highly taxed citizens in the nation, but our tax revenues cannot keep pace with the state’s commitments — to schoolchildren, to the poor, to the elderly, to public employees such as police, firefighters and teachers, and to the provision of local and county services.
To make matters worse, as the population ages and costs escalate, the amounts that the state pays in pension and health benefits to public employees at every level of government are increasingly leaving New Jersey’s economy — as seniors and others choose to move to warmer and more affordable states. Our population growth, among the lowest in the nation, cannot keep pace with that of other states or with steady increases in the cost of obligations, resulting in pressure to raise taxes further.
It isn’t hard to envision the result if nothing intervenes to change this dynamic: a death spiral, the statewide equivalent to what many cities have experienced, in which a shrinking tax base is asked to pay higher and higher taxes, which causes the tax base to shrink further.