Despite three campaign appearances by President Obama, Governor John Corzine lost his gubernatorial seat in New Jersey to GOP challenger Chris Christie last night. Exit polls showed that the top two concerns for New Jersey voters were the economy and the state’s high property taxes.
How high are those property taxes? For the year 2008, New Jersey holds the distinction of the state with both the highest property taxes per capita and the worst business tax climate in the nation, according to the Tax Foundation (note: report will download as a pdf). New Jersey residents also ranked highest in the nation last year with respect to state and local taxes as a percentage of income. New Jersey taxpayers paid a whopping 11.8% of income in state and local taxes, more than 2% above the national average.
Of course, this is nothing new for New Jersey. Residents have generally put up with higher taxes because of what they thought it bought them: some of the best schools in the country, for example. But in the midst of a bad economy, that has changed. New Jersey residents increasingly believe that higher taxes buy them very little (ask Robert Flach) except possibly more corruption.
Governor (for now) John Corzine became the first New Jersey governor to lose a re-election bid since 1993, when then Governor Jim Florio lost to an up and coming GOP challenger Christie Todd Whitman. Whitman, who made cutting taxes a priority in her campaign, later bit at an offer by President Bush clearly intended to knock her out of the public eye and into obscurity.
So what does that mean for New Jersey residents? Luckily for them, they can only go down from here.

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Kelly Phillips Erb is a tax attorney, tax writer, and podcaster.


  1. As a native of the Garden State, and as someone who will probably move back in a year or two, let me offer the following observation:
    It’ll never happen.
    Chris Christie can talk all he wants about lowering taxes, the real issue is spending. New Jersey has a comprehensive system of government services at every level, and a judiciary with a history of telling the other two branches what to do. New Jersey residents simultaneously demand lowering taxes while maintaining the high level of services (i.e. spending).
    While I freely acknowledge that Corzine was a disappointment in many ways, I have to say this: if the guy who ran Goldman Sachs when they were still Kings of the World (or at least Wall Street) couldn’t solve this, a federal prosecutor who got that gig because he raised money for GWB won’t be able to solve it.

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