I will never forget the summer of 2017 when my wife gave birth to our daughter at Virtua Hospital in Voorhees. At the time, we were certain that we would raise our children (we now have three) here in South Jersey. Indeed, New Jersey is my wife’s birth state, and the state I adopted several years ago after immigrating to the United States fifteen years ago.

Yet, it is time to say goodbye. We love our community, our church, and our neighborhood. But the current and long-term economic realities of the region are stark. After a year of unceasing, draconian, and unscientific government-mandated shutdowns — along with an already woeful economic climate — we see little hope for New Jersey. We are packing up and leaving for greener pastures, crossing the Delaware to lay down roots in Pennsylvania.

And we’re not alone. The statistics tell the story; along with New York, California, Illinois, and Maryland, New Jersey ranks in the top five states with the greatest income losses due to people leaving for other states. New Jersey also happens to rank among the top five states in terms of the highest tax burdens.

Despite all of this spending kids were kept out of school for months even after the threat of Covid-19 was dissipating, while parents continue to have little choice in addressing the educational needs of their children. In fact, parents in the Scotch Plains-Fanwood school district paid legal fees from their own pockets to reopen schools, while their property tax dollars paid for the unions’ legal fees!

And, the worst part is New Jersey residents face the highest property taxes in the nation, at an average of more than $9,000 per property. We are 3rd in total state and local tax burden, at 12.2%. We have an 11.5% corporate income tax rate, which is also the highest in the nation; and our state sales tax is in the top 10 nationally, at 6.63%.

In short, the Garden State is no longer affordable for regular families like mine. 

In short, the Garden State is no longer affordable for regular families like mine. 

This is not simply about cutting taxes and — voila! — we’ve fixed the economic climate. It’s about examining what is structurally wrong with the state’s approach to taxing its citizens and creating a livable economic climate for regular people — and our leaders having the wisdom and courage to address our problems, and fix them.

That’s the second big problem: my family sees little hope for structural change. While raising taxes might please Governor Phil Murphy’s political supporters at the New Jersey Education Association, who always want higher taxes and ever-sweeter pension deals for their senior members, these decisions continue to burden not the wealthy, but regular middle-class families like ours. 

New Jersey’s legislature has done little to encourage the growth of business or tackle runaway spending. We’ve spent years hearing about the need to fund new programs. For instance, this year the governor is using the health and fiscal crisis to bolster new social programs to the tune of $1 billion. Of course, the Democrat-led legislature has little, to no, gumption to oppose Governor Murphy’s progressive vision for our state. For decades, lawmakers have gone along to get along, yet proposing and championing actual reforms requires courage. 

Even the left-leaning Brookings Institution recently recognized, in comparison to other states New Jersey has, by far, the single-worst public pension fund in the nation. According to their research, even most generous projections show the New Jersey Teachers’ Pension and Annuity Fund will run out of assets in 12-15 years. If a downturn were to occur, that timeline will shrink dramatically, making it even more unaffordable to live here.

For my family and other middle-class families across the state, our political leadership is communicating something far different from “support for the middle class”. Political rhetoric is great for sound bites and campaigns, but governance is about leadership. And for Jerseyans who tell it like it is, impotent leadership in Trenton is driving us away.

Indeed, like us, many have already made the calculation that Gov. Murphy’s actions are forcing families and future generations from the place we love. My family isn’t the first to leave, and by the looks of it, we will not be the last.

This makes our necessary exit bittersweet, as it’s a ‘goodbye’ that could have been avoided.

Abhi Samuel is the Director of Entrepreneur Engagement at Commonwealth Partners, an O.V. Catto Fellow, a dad, and a soon-to-be Pennsylvania resident. Having grown up in a socialist nation, he believes free-markets and limited government are the greatest poverty eradication programs known to man.

6 thoughts on “Abhi Samuel: Another middle-class family says goodbye to New Jersey”

  1. The lockdowns were more sever in Pennsylvania. Keep on going. Pa will be Jersey in ten years

  2. Meanwhile MANY other families are moving to new jersey because of their amazing k-12 schools, which are supported by these taxes. In fact, NJ is #1 for k-12 education in the entire nation!

    I personally think it’s great to live in a country where you have the freedom to chose whether to live somewhere with good education or not.

    1. Incidentally, NJ’s population grew at a pretty healthy and steady rate over the last decade. Unlike very conservative and low tax states like WV and Mississippi which actually lost population.

      1. Hi Will,
        WV and Mississippi are not low-tax states, and they are historically impoverished so this seems like a disingenuous comparison. Utah, Idaho, Florida, and Texas are better examples of low-tax conservative states, all of which have grown exponentially.

      2. The census stats show that New Jersey had a net loss of people and that the amount of adjusted gross income it represents totals just under $3.2 Billion.

  3. Will apparently loves to pay higher taxes. For the rest of you in New Jersey who want to keep more of the money you work for, a big fat too bad.

    I have never met one person who said I cannot wait to move to Jersey.

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