From the Asbury Park Press:
The exodus of New Jerseyans for warmer, less expensive climes is likely to cost the state some clout in Washington. New Jersey is still adding residents, but the growth — a mere 0.2 percent in the year ending July 1, 2006 — continues a downward trend that has seen the state of 8.72 million people drop out of the Top 10 to No. 11. When it comes to divvying up congressional seats after the 2010 census, New Jersey may lose one of its 13 seats and, as a result, a vote in the Electoral College.
The report from the U.S. Census Bureau last week should be must-reading for the governor and legislators. It provides further fuel for calls to make this state more affordable.
In the past year, about 72,000 New Jerseyans have moved to other states, bringing down the growth to only 21,410. Only four years ago, the annual growth was almost 1 percent and only about 25,000 were moving out. The 0.2 percent this past year makes New Jersey the 39th slowest in population growth.
The winners are Arizona and Nevada, with the fastest growth at 3.6 and 3.5 percent, respectively. Four of the Top 10 are in the South: Texas (2), Florida (4), Georgia (9) and North Carolina (10).
The reasons for the move-outs are invariably the same: the high cost of living here, the job picture and the weather. New Jersey’s leaders can’t control the climate. But they can control the number of taxes and the spending that makes them so high. They can pass laws and set policies to make housing more affordable. They can create an environment that encourages businesses to locate here or expand their facilities and to take advantage of the state’s highly educated work force. So far, the Legislature’s record in addressing these issues is abysmal.
The state’s failure to reverse this downward spiral may affect the political map in 2011 when the congressional districts are apt to be redrawn to divide the state into 12 parts instead of 13. Whatever the political party makeup, one less vote in Congress is important. The loss in clout would result from a failure of leadership in Trenton to make sure New Jersey is a place where people can afford to live. The census figures should tell them that right now, it is not.