Star-Ledger quotes Scott Drenkard & Joseph Henchman on New Jersey's tax climate

October 09, 2012

TRENTON - Gov. Chris Christie vowed last year that New Jersey would not again finish last in the conservative Tax Foundation’s annual rankings of the most business friendly states — and according to the latest report issued today Christie has lived up to his promise.

But don’t pop the champagne just yet.

New Jersey moved up one notch, to 49th, but the survey’s authors says it has little to do with anything the Christie administration has done.

“The reason that New Jersey has moved up one place to 49th best is actually because New York dropped,” the survey’s authors Scott Drenkard & Joseph Henchman write.

New York dropped after Republican lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, struck a deal that overhauled the state's tax rate structure, raising the rates on the wealthy while giving the middle class a cut.

The Tax Foundation uses its own formula to compare the different tax rates and other variables in each state, from the income to property taxes. The conservative organization was founded in 1937 and receives some funding from corporations.

Wyoming, South Dakota and Nevada — all western states witnessing population growth — top the list of the most business friendly states. New York is followed by New Jersey and then California as the least business friendly climates.

The authors’ note that New Jersey would have finished last if Democrats were successful in passing their proposed tax surcharge on millionaires. New Jersey ranked near the bottom in property, income and sales tax rates, according to the survey.

"It's a validation that the millionaires' tax is an economy killing proposition," said state Sen.. Kevin O'Toole (R-Essex), who sits on the Senate Budget Committee. "Had Democrats moved forward with the governor's tax cut proposal, it would have made us more business friendly and moved us down proportionately. The McGreevey, Codey and Corzine regime has cemented us at the back of the pack with 8 years of tax increases."

Christie had pushed for a 10 percent across the board cut in income tax rates,a proposal Democrats labeled as a give away to the wealthy and an insult to the state's middle class, who struggle more with property taxes. In response, Democrats offered a property tax credit that would be applied on their income tax bill, a proposal that Christie has now adopted as his own.

Democrats have delayed enacting the cut until the economy begins rebounding enough to over the governor's optimistic revenue growth estimates of more than 8 percent, the second highest expected bump in the nation according to a recent report by the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The only area where the state scored relatively well was the unemployment tax rate, which is rising in upcoming years as the state pays back the federal government for loans it needed to cover unemployment costs during the Great Recession and its fallout.

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