Category Archives: New Jersey Policy Perspective

As A Matter Of Fact…Financing the American Dream

August 16th, 2011 | Published in NJPP Blog: As a Matter of Fact …

By Sarah Stecker, Policy Analyst

Last month, in order to facilitate a deal that the state had already cut, Governor Christie signed a bill significantly expanding two programs that provide tax subsidies for developers, the Economic Redevelopment and Growth grant and the Urban Transit Hub Tax Credit.

One section of the bill (S2972/A4161, P.L. 2011, c. 89) changes state law for the benefit of a single developer, the Canadian firm Triple Five Group. The deal made by the state, worth up to $350 million in tax breaks on the company’s more than $1billion investment, enticed Triple Five to resurrect the five-year-old, on-again-off-again eye sore previously known as Xanadu. The developer rebranded the half-finished mega mall as the American Dream at Meadowlands and said that in addition to “high-end” retail the mall would include an indoor ski slope, skating rink and a wave pool. The state estimated that upon completion the project would generate a whopping 35,000 permanent jobs.

The change in the law was required because Triple Five was not eligible for the grant the governor had promised many months earlier. Even though significant parts of the state – up to 80 percent of the municipalities – were eligible to host an ERG project, the area of the Meadowlands where the development was taking place was not covered by the original legislation.

The final grant amount to Triple Five depends on an analysis by the Economic Development Authority of the American Dream proposal. ERG grants can total up to 20 percent of a developer’s investment and can be paid out for up to 20 years as a portion of the tax revenues attributed to the project.

Another section of the bill amends state law requiring residential developers to produce affordable housing units in addition to market-rate units as a condition of receiving Urban Transit Hub Tax Credits. The change means developers will no longer have to put aside 20 percent of the residential housing they build for low and moderate income people. The law was meant to provide developers an incentive at the same time it would address the dire lack of decent, affordable housing in many areas of New Jersey. Municipalities now will make the decision about how much low-income housing – if any – will be included in a project.

The law also now allows developers to use any unused credits to reduce the developers’ taxes for up to 20 years from when the credit was given. At the same time, the new law increases the tax credit available to 35 percent, up from 20 percent, if a residential developer builds any housing in one of nine mass transit-accessible cities designated under the Hub law.

The change to the Urban Transit Hub Tax Credit illustrates the good that public subsidies could do (incentivize transit-oriented development) versus the risk of corporations abusing these tax breaks.

For instance, the Urban Transit Hub Tax Credit is available to corporations as well as residential developers. Campbell Soup, located ¾ of a mile from the Walter Rand Transit Center in Camden, received a $41.2 million credit in February of this year to renovate its headquarters, including more than $6 million to furnish the refurbished office space. In its application for the credit, Campbell’s officials said they would bring 95 workers to the city as a condition of the award. Four months after the grant was awarded and made public, Campbell’s announced it would lay off 130 of the 1,200 workers at its headquarters in Camden.

The layoffs are unlikely to jeopardize Campbell’s state subsidy because the Urban Transit Hub Tax Credit is aimed primarily at supporting capital investment. To qualify, companies must invest more than $50 million in capital improvements and employ at least 250 full-time workers. Campbell’s is complying with the law, but the state’s taxpayers might rightly raise the question of why they are subsidizing the company’s newly renovated headquarters even as Campbell’s increases the state’s unemployment rate.

New Jersey is providing hundreds of millions of dollars in tax subsidies to corporations, developers and businesses in the hopes of stimulating the state economy and creating private sector jobs. But there is a policy trade-off and it is evident in this single piece of legislation. The Administration, abetted by leaders in the Legislature, is choosing corporations over individuals: high end retail over low-income housing; renovating corporate suites over rebuilding public schools. That is short-sighted. The long-term policies of a prosperous state must address the needs of its citizens, not just its corporations.

The state Economic Development Authority expects to approve rules implementing the new legislation at its September Board meeting.

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Filed under Affordable housing, As a Matter of Fact, developers, Economic Development Authority, ERG grants, Gov. Chris Christie, New Jersey Policy Perspective, Triple Five, Urban Transit Hub Tax Credits

As A Matter Of Fact…Tax Them And They Leave? Apparently NOT


August 4th, 2011 | Published in NJPP Blog: As a Matter of Fact …

By Mary E. Forsberg

In 2008, 16,000 New Jersey taxpayers earned $1 million or more. That’s more than in any year before or since 2001 with only one exception – the boom year 2006. In that year, 18,400 New Jersey taxpayers earned more than $1 million. In the following year, only 15,900 taxpayers earned more than $1 million but their average income was $3.5 million, the highest average in any year to date. The numbers tell many stories. Did 2,400 high income people leave New Jersey between 2006 and 2008? Or was their income simply subject to the vagaries of Wall Street and the economy?

Anecdotes abound: So-and-so has a house in New Jersey and one in Florida and decided to call Florida his residence to avoid paying any state income tax (Florida has none). No one knows how often this happens.

Some things, however, are known.

According to data compiled over more than 20 years by the Internal Revenue Service, the average household income of those who move to New Jersey from other states is higher than that of households leaving New Jersey for other states.

Three states (New York, Pennsylvania and Florida) consistently account for the highest number of households moving into and out of New Jersey from elsewhere in the United States.

IRS data analyzed by NJPP in 2003 found no correlation between tax increases or cuts and movement into or out of New Jersey. It was not uncommon for the number of people coming to New Jersey the year after an income tax increase to exceed the number leaving or for the number leaving the year after a tax cut to exceed the number coming in. Further, in most years it was the case that both the number coming and leaving rose and fell in tandem.

A new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, “Tax Flight is a Myth: Higher State Taxes Bring More Revenue, Not More Migration,” provides an up-to-date rigorous examination of the unproven claims that tax hikes drive large numbers of households – particularly the most affluent – to other states. It concludes the following:

Migration is not common. Just 1.7 percent of U.S. residents per year moved from one state to another between 2001 and 2010.
The migration that is occurring is more likely to be driven by cheaper housing than by lower taxes. The difference between housing costs in two different states is often many times greater than the difference in taxes.

Recent research shows income tax increases cause little or no interstate migration. New Jersey is used as an example in two different studies examined in the report. The first, conducted by Stanford University sociologists, estimated the migration effect of New Jersey’s 2004 tax increase on filers with incomes exceeding $500,000. The authors found that net out-migration did increase for those in that income group but it also increased for those with lower incomes – and by virtually the same amount. The second report which was commissioned by the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce found that most of the people included in the study who were moving from New Jersey had less than $500,000 a year in taxable income so would not have been subject to New Jersey’s highest 8.97 percent marginal tax rate. Despite this, the governor continues to claim this study as evidence of a tax-migration effect.

Low taxes can prevent a state from maintaining the kind of high-quality public services that people value, such as good schools, mass transit, cultural facilities and recreational opportunities.

Policymakers need honest and accurate information about the implications of tax increases and tax cuts in order to address the challenging fiscal and economic circumstances that most states continue to face. State policy makers should not let false claims about taxes and migration shape their decisions.

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Filed under As a Matter of Fact, Florida, high taxes, New Jersey, New Jersey Policy Perspective, public service quality of life, tax migration

As A Matter Of Fact…1 in 6 New Jerseyans hit By Governor’s vetoes


From July 11th, 2011 | Published in NJPP Blog: As a Matter of Fact …

By Raymond J. Castro, Senior Policy Analyst

One in six New Jerseyans will be adversely affected by line-item vetoes of two critical programs in the budget Governor Christie signed last week.

Today, the state Senate is expected to vote on restoring funding for those programs – the state Earned Income Tax Credit and NJ Family Care. Doing so, however, will require bipartisan support in order to achieve two-thirds majority.

The governor’s vetoes represented unprecedented cutbacks in state services and will affect more than 1.5 million residents, mostly low-income working families with children. Without these supports many parents will be unable to continue to work in low and moderate wage jobs that support their children in a state with one of the highest costs of living in the nation.

Last week the Legislature passed a state budget that fully funded these program. However the governor in New Jersey has considerably more power than governors in many states and has the discretion to delete any funds proposed for specific programs – or any “line item” in the budget. The only way that those funds can be restored is for the Legislature to vote to overturn each veto with a two-thirds vote.

When voting on each line-item, it will be important that legislators know what the impact is on people in their districts. New Jersey Policy Perspective has created an analysis to show the number of people, county by county, who will be affected by these two line item vetos, which were among dozens of vetoes by the governor.

Budgets reflect a state’s priorities. The public does not always know where individual legislators stand on those priorities because the budget is usually voted on in its entirety. That will all change today, and we hope that each lawmaker, regardless of party, recognizes just how devastating these cuts can be to wide numbers of New Jerseyans.

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Filed under As a Matter of Fact, budget cuts, children, Earned Income Tax Credit, Gov. Chris Christie, line item veto, low income families, New Jersey Policy Perspective, NJ FamilyCare, working poor

As A Matter Of Fact…Budget vetoes: The scorpion and the frog

July 6th, 2011 | Published in NJPP Blog: As a Matter of Fact …

By Mary E. Forsberg, Research Director

A scorpion and a frog meet on the bank of a stream and the scorpion asks the frog to carry him across on its back. The frog asks, “How do I know you won’t sting me?” The scorpion says, “Because if I do, I will die too.”

The frog is satisfied, and they set out, but in midstream, the scorpion stings the frog. The frog feels the onset of paralysis and starts to sink, knowing they both will drown, but has just enough time to gasp “Why?”

Replies the scorpion: “It’s my nature…”

This parable has many variations: the scorpion and turtle; the snake and dog; the viper and farmer. What each variation has in common is a bad actor, a character who can’t play fair, even if it means he might perish.

Those who are reading the press these days may recognize certain similarities with the current state of politics in New Jersey. And the Democratic leadership surely is croaking now.

It wasn’t a surprise that the governor wielded his ax against the Millionaires’ tax and women’s health programs. He did it before. He said he would do it again and he did it.

What was surprising, though, were the other cuts that had nothing to do with policy and everything to do with the very nature of his leadership. The cuts are unprecedented and go beyond any reasonable policy and fiscal considerations.

The Legislature

The budgets of the Executive office, the Legislature and the Judiciary have always been sacrosanct; a “gentleman’s agreement” has traditionally given each responsibility for its own budget and spending.

No governor before has chopped 41 percent from the Legislature’s staff salary accounts, but that’s exactly what the governor did. And he did it with a dose of venom, saying:

“The budget as adopted by the Legislature relied upon exaggerated revenue estimates, flawed assumptions concerning fund balances and ignored the harsh reality of its spending decisions. This reduction, among many others enumerated herein necessitated reductions of known surpluses, imprudent spending and other excesses.”

People who have noticed this salary cut haven’t made much of it. But the fact is, it has the potential to shift the balance of power in the legislative branch. Here’s how that works.

The salary accounts that the governor cut will not affect the salaries of legislators or those of their district office staff. The ones cut supported the Democratic and Republican legislative committee aides and the people who run the partisan staff offices in Trenton. Money for those salaries is appropriated to the Senate and Assembly in a lump sum and is divided based on which party is in the majority – the majority party (currently the Democrats) gets more of the money, has a bigger staff and has the larger suite of offices.

Unless the Legislature overrides this veto with a 2/3 vote (which would require the support of both parties), the staff of those offices will be significantly reduced. How these cuts are shared will be up to the majority Democrats in the Senate and Assembly. And as Assembly Speaker Oliver, a Democrat, was quoted as saying, “I’m certainly not going to shoot myself in the foot.”

Whether the governor understands this or not, a greatly reduced Republican partisan staff in Trenton is certainly a possible outcome of this line item veto.

Higher Education

Students and institutions of higher education felt the sting of the governor’s veto, which cut full-time and part-time Tuition Aid Grants (TAG) below even his own budget recommendation in March. He reduced the Democrats’ appropriation by $48.5 million, even though the amount in the Democrat’s budget was only $21.3 million more than his budget recommended.

In another unusual veto, the governor reduced the number of state-funded positions at each college by nearly 1,200 positions overall. This veto is an easy one to overlook and understanding it isn’t straightforward. What it means, however, is that the governor is reducing the state’s obligation to pay fringe benefits costs for these positions and is transferring those costs to the colleges – all without prior consultation and at the last minute. It is a backhanded way of again reducing the state’s responsibility for its higher education system. For Rutgers University and the Agricultural Experiment Station, this represents a 6 percent loss; for the other colleges, a 5 percent loss.

The veto message was again venomous. He blames the Legislature for this cost shift, saying:

“The Legislature’s failure to appropriately fund health benefit costs for all state employees necessitated a reduction in the state’s support of employee fringe benefits at all public institutions of higher education.”

Legal Services to the Poor

If you are poor in New Jersey and have a legal problem, save it until next year – maybe. Like the TAG scholarship, legal services will be significantly less than even what the governor proposed in his March budget.

His veto eliminated all state funding ($600,000) for the legal clinics at Seton Hall University Law School, Rutgers Newark Law School and Rutgers Camden Law School. In March he budgeted each of them for $200,000 apiece.

He also apparently took umbrage at the additional $5 million included by the Democrats in their budget for Legal Services of New Jersey, which provides legal services to poor people in civil matters. He cut that budget by $10 million – leaving Legal Services of New Jersey with a smaller budget than he recommended in March.

Cleaning up New Jersey

The Governor’s veto cut $18.8 million or 16 percent of the amount he recommended in March for Department of Environmental Protection programs that safeguard and preserve the state’s environment – for remediation of hazardous waste, underground storage tanks, monitoring water, and dealing with diesel pollution. Funding for these programs comes from a 4 percent constitutional dedication of corporate business tax (CBT) revenues. The effort by the governor and some in the Legislature to ensure that New Jersey is “open for business” by doing away with regulations and reducing corporate taxes means less money is available to protect New Jersey’s environment.

The moral of the budget

No one expected the governor to move away from his ideological position on funding health care for women or to abdicate his protection of the wealthiest in the state from the Millionaire’s tax, which would have added an additional 1.78 percent to their income tax bills this year.

But the veto message this year went beyond negotiation and fair play. There are consequences to every action. The scorpion’s sting meant death to both the scorpion and the frog. The consequences of this veto message are a less prosperous state and an increase in the chasm that separates the state’s wealthy from everyone else.

For a complete list of the governor’s line item vetoes, see the chart


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Filed under As a Matter of Fact, blog, Democrats, Gov. Chris Christie, line item veto, Millionaire'sTax, New Jersey Policy Perspective, NJ State Budget, veto override, women's health issues, working poor

>New Jersey Policy Perspective President Deborah Howlett’s statement on the FY2012 New Jersey state budget

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July 1, 2011

Governor Christie’s profligate use of the line item veto on the state budget enacted by the Legislature this week did serious damage to virtually every constituency imaginable in this state – except for corporations and the super-rich.

Christie red-lined a litany of critical funding needs: health care for working families; tax credits for low-wage workers; after school programs for inner-city youth; legal counsel for indigent defendants; drugs for people with AIDS; college scholarships for gifted middle-class students; a resource center for Hispanic women; protective services for abused children; postpartum education; legal clinics; libraries; museums; mental health services; technology and even public television programming. The list is as long as it is damaging.

Unlike responsible governors in states such as Connecticut and California, Christie chose only to make cuts in services to balance the state budget. He refused to sustain the critical investments in New Jersey’s social infrastructure that have allowed all of its residents to enjoy a broadly shared prosperity.

The only winners in the governor’s budget are corporations that will continue to rake in hundreds of millions of dollars in tax subsidies; those wealthy residents whose yearly income exceeds $1 million; and a governor who continues to choose partisan politics over sound public policy.

It’s now up to the Legislature to right these wrongs by over-riding the governor’s veto, line-by-line if necessary.

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Filed under budget adoption, Gov. Chris Christie, line item veto, New Jersey, New Jersey Policy Perspective, NJ State Budget

>AS A Matter Of Fact…Democrats make a statement with budget plan of their own

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June 27th, 2011 | Published in NJPP Blog: As a Matter of Fact …

Democrats have done an unexpected thing. With just days to go before a budget must be enacted, they have introduced their own budget – a “this is what we stand for” budget – with a companion millionaires’ tax to restore at least some of the Christie administration’s proposed program cuts.

That they did this shouldn’t be a surprise.

It’s common practice for the party that controls the Legislature to draft and sponsor the state budget. The Democrats control both houses just as they did last year.

But last year the majority party ceded budget power to the Republican minority, who produced a bill that closely resembled Governor Christie’s March 2010 proposal. Many expected the same to happen this year, so it’s somewhat surprising Democratic leaders have proposed a spending plan of their own.

Here’s what is being proposed [The actual list of changes has not been posted publicly although the press has been briefed and Senate President Sweeney’s office confirmed details]:

MORE REVENUE

$913 million from higher than expected revenue estimates: In March 2011, Governor Christie’s proposed budget planned to spend $29.4 billion in FY 2012. In May, when revenue projections were updated, the Office of Legislative Services (OLS) estimated that collections for the current year and next would be $913 million more than the Governor’s original March estimate. The estimate assumed the current tax structure would remain the same.

$550 million from the reintroduction of the millionaires’ tax: Last year, the legislature passed a millionaires’ tax bill that increased taxes on taxpayers with incomes over $1 million. Governor Christie vetoed the bill. The legislature could not override the veto. In this year’s bill, the additional tax revenue would be tied to additional aid for wealthier suburban schools. Part of the logic is that Republican legislators might be willing to vote for a bill to raise income tax rates on their wealthier constituents if that additional revenue stays in the wealthier school districts.

$300 million in funding shifts from programs that have unused balances: Not all programs spend their entire appropriation every year. Unspent funds either lapse and become unavailable to the program or they rollover and become part of the same program’s spending in the following year. This year the legislature has determined that $300 million is available to be cut from programs that have been over-funded in the past and added to programs that need additional support.

AMONG THE DEMOCRATS’ PRIORITIES

School Aid: The democrats’ bill would add at least $1.1 billion to school spending. Senator Sweeney said this includes the Supreme Court-mandated $500 million for the state’s poorest, urban districts and $600 million for defunded suburban school districts. Something to keep in mind is that the original Millionaires tax enacted in 2004 was tied to property tax relief for senior citizens. That connection made the bill palatable to some Republican legislators who represented senior citizens who would benefit from the property tax relief but would not be subject to the higher tax rates.

Property Tax Relief: It is said the bill would double Homestead Property Tax Rebates – not triple them as Christie said he would do.

Money not spent on the Homestead Property Tax Rebates would be used to unfreeze the Senior Freeze program, allowing new seniors to participate and raising the amount rebated. This program freezes property taxes for people over 65 who earn less than $80,000. In the current fiscal year, only seniors already in the program were eligible for the rebate and the amount was limited to the amount received in the prior year.

It is said an additional $50 million would be made available to communities with understaffed fire and police departments – aiding Newark, Camden and other communities with high crime rates.

Health Care: It is said the bill would restore $7.5 million in ideological cuts to women’s health clinics and $300 million for NJ FamilyCare and Medicaid to allow working parents to continue to obtain affordable health care coverage.

WILL THIS WORK?

By law, New Jersey must pass a budget by the end of the day on Thursday, June 30th. Passing a budget on time is a deadline the state has always taken seriously.

It is impossible to know now how the negotiations are going – if the Democrats will be successful in their attempt to share the sacrifice among all income groups and help the poor and middle class in this state. The governor vetoed a millionaires’ tax last year and has said he will veto it again. It seems unlikely Republicans would join Democrats to over-ride the governor’s veto, especially in an election year, although redistricting has left some Republicans in more Democratic districts.

In battles of the budget, the New Jersey governor holds most of the cards. He alone has the power to determine revenues and set the limit on funds available for programs. If Governor Christie doesn’t agree the state will collect an additional $800 million next year or if he vetoes the Millionaires’ tax and the legislature can’t over ride the veto, that’s money the legislature can’t spend. In addition, New Jersey’s governor has line-item veto power. Any program he doesn’t want funded can be reduced or eliminated. If this happens, the legislature’s only recourse is to override that veto if two-thirds of the legislators support the override.

The only successful override of a governor’s veto was in 1992. Governor Florio vetoed the entire budget passed by the then Republican-controlled legislature. The Republican budget had cut $1.1 billion from Governor Florio’s proposed $15.7 billion budget. At the time, the Republicans had a 27-to-13 majority in the Senate and a 58-to-22 majority in the Assembly. The override passed both houses with no votes to spare. (It was opposed by all Democrats and, in the Assembly, two Republicans.

Democrats now have a 24-to-16 majority in the Senate and a 47-to-33 majority in the Assembly, making veto overrides more difficult. So far none have been successful. Perhaps it will be this budget – this statement of what New Jersey ought to stand for – that will be the first success.

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Filed under As a Matter of Fact, Budget Battle, Democratic Budget, Democratic priorities, Gov. Chris Christie, Health Care, higher revenue, Millionaire'sTax, New Jersey Policy Perspective, property tax relief

>AS a Matter Of Fact…Busting the myth: The real numbers show N.J. is not the most overtaxed state in the nation

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By Mary E. Forsberg and Deborah Howlett
June 26th, 2011

Perhaps you’ve heard a politician or two, in an accusatory tone, declare New Jersey has the highest taxes in the nation. It’s become a rallying cry for the current administration. It is repeated as an indisputable fact by the media. But mostly it just sounds right to people, perhaps because it so neatly fits the cynical narrative of government waste, fraud and abuse.
The thing is, it’s not true.

Consider this from a recent press release by the Connecticut House Republican Party:
“Connecticut residents already pay the highest taxes in America.”
Or this from the Buffalo News editorial page: “New York is the most overtaxed state in the nation.”
Nope. According to the Orange County chapter of the Lambda Alpha economics society, “California is the most overtaxed state in the nation,”
And from a conservative pundit in Chicago: “I live in Illinois … the most overtaxed state in the union.”
But wait. There’s another. The vice chair of the Maine Republican Party has said, “Maine is currently the most overtaxed state in America.”
They can’t all be right.
For the record, New Jersey ranks eighth among all states when state and local tax revenues are compared as a percentage of taxpayer’s personal income, according to an analysis using data from the U.S. Census and the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis. It’s the cleanest comparison of the tax “burden” in all 50 states. New Jersey’s ranking drops considerably once you get past property taxes and look only at state tax collections.
Simply comparing total revenue collected from taxes in each state would produce a wholly inaccurate comparison because poorer, less-populated states would always appear to tax less. Measuring as a percentage of personal income, or on a per capita basis, provides necessary
context and a more accurate comparison among states.
Consider the big three state revenue sources in New Jersey — income, corporate and sales taxes — and then size up property taxes.

Income tax


On a per capita basis, New Jersey ranks seventh among states for income tax revenues, according to U.S. Census data. As a percentage of personal income, New Jersey ranks 19th among states.
It’s important to understand New Jersey is consistently at the top of lists that rank states in terms of median income and millionaires (those with at least $1 million in investable or liquid assets) as a percentage of households.
With all that wealth, the state also has a progressive income tax that collects significant amounts of its revenue from the wealthiest in the state and virtually none from the poorest, such as married couples whose incomes are less than $20,000 ($10,000 for a single person).
The progressive aspect of New Jersey’s income tax has evolved since the state’s first 2 percent flat tax was enacted in 1976. Public opinion polls show a vast majority approve of raising rates levied on income that exceeds $1 million a year.
Other states also have local income taxes. Philadelphia, for example, levies a 3.928 percent wage tax on residents and a 3.4985 percent wage tax on nonresidents on top of the state’s 3.07 percent flat income tax. Cities in New Jersey are barred from imposing income taxes on workers.
Corporate Tax

Corporate taxes in New Jersey rank ninth as a percentage of personal income and sixth when measured per capita.
New Jersey took in a little more than $2 billion in fiscal year 2010 from corporations, or 7.5 percent of all revenue collected by the state. However, 93 percent of the 252,000 corporations subject to New Jersey’s corporate business tax paid the state less than $2,000 each. Corporate revenues for the year surpassed $24.6 billion.
Sales Tax

Comparing revenue from the sales tax puts New Jersey 19th on a per capita basis and 36th when measured as a percent of personal income.
The state sales tax is often cited as one of the highest in the nation because of its 7 percent rate. However, it is applied more narrowly than sales taxes are in many other states.
Food, clothing and gas are exempt, for example. Depending how one looks at it, that is a loss to the state or a savings to taxpayers of about $2.6 billion.
Nor does New Jersey allow cities or counties to collect local sales taxes, which many other states allow.
Montgomery, Ala., levies a 10 percent sales tax (4 percent state; 6 percent local) on everything sold, including food.
In Georgia, a 12 percent combined state and local sales tax is the norm in some areas of the state.
Property Taxes

What’s abundantly clear, however you slice the data, is that New Jersey ranks among the top one or two states in the nation when it comes to property taxes, which are the only real source of revenue for local government in the Garden State. Last year, property taxes produced $25 billion in revenues, exceeding revenue from the state’s three major taxes.
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In total, as a percentage of personal income, taxes in New Jersey rank about eighth among all the states. Considering it ranks near the top for median income and wealth, that designation hardly seems out of line.
But those are not the numbers pushed by anti-tax zealots. Groups such as the conservative Tax Foundation have cited New Jersey as having the highest tax burden in the nation, using a convoluted formula that doesn’t quite parse the intricacies of local tax laws.
For example, the Tax Foundation charges back to New Jersey the $2.6 billion in income taxes paid to New York by New Jersey residents who work in New York and must abide by New York tax laws, over which New Jersey has no control.
By the way, that $2.6 billion is not just a blip in the data. It is more than New Jersey collects from its corporation business tax, the state’s third-largest revenue source, and it is one of the largest income transfers from one state to another in the country.
All of this just points to the need to be careful when citing state rankings.
Some, such as the Tax Foundation’s, only obscure real facts because they allow politicians to cherry-pick data and use them to justify their political philosophy.
So the next time you hear someone say New Jersey is the most overtaxed state in the nation, look past the rhetoric and consider the real numbers behind the statement.

Check out the tax data tables here.

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Filed under corporate taxes, Debrorah Howlett, income taxes, New Jersey, New Jersey Policy Perspective, property taxes, sales tax, tax burden