From the Herald News:
Every week, Giuseppe Morello sadly watches the bills whittle away at his salary as a pipe-fitter.
First comes the $170 a week for health insurance, as his job doesn’t cover it. Then subtract $23 for dental. After taxes, his mortgage and car insurance, hardly anything remains from the $1,000 he started with.
“It’s hard. I work just to pay the bills,” said Morello, 57, of Hawthorne.
Many New Jersey families share Morello’s struggles. A poll released Tuesday found that most respondents can barely keep up with the state’s rising cost of living.
The Monmouth University/New Jersey Monthly Poll, which surveyed 804 adults in April, found many of the state’s households require more than one income and fewer than half saved enough to cover an emergency.
“The survey confirms what everybody realizes,” said James Hughes, dean of the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University. “New Jersey is an extraordinary expensive place to live.”
Sixty percent of respondents said their family’s income is falling behind the cost of living. That’s compared to 40 percent nationally, according to a poll conducted last year by the Pew Research Center.
New Jersey’s high incomes paint a deceptive notion of comfort, Hughes said. The state has the highest median income of the nation, running some 32 percent beyond the national average, according to the Census.
But the state’s costs eat up much of that cushion, Hughes said. New Jersey’s housing expenses, for example, run 52 percent higher than the national average, the Census shows.
“The rising cost of living in New Jersey is a major problem for families at every income level,” said Patrick Murray, the Monmouth University Polling Institute director.
The income crunch, Hughes said, has helped drive the rising number of residents leaving the state. In 2002, 24,000 more people left than moved in, the Census found. By last year, the figure almost tripled, coming to roughly 73,000.
Still, that number is fraction of the state’s more than 8 million people. Immigrants still pour into the state, but rising rental costs – even in urban areas – could take a toll on that trend, Hughes said.
“There’s really nothing on the horizon that’s going to change things,” he said.
Morello doesn’t see much improvement in his immediate future. “I don’t know what we’re going to do,” he said.