STATE – While Gov. Chris Christie travels across the state on his “New Jersey Comeback” town hall tour, economic reports continue to challenge the idea that the Garden State’s economy is improving.
According to a report released this week by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, New Jersey was one of only six states that saw a decrease in its Gross Domestic Product in 2011. The overall U.S. GDP grew by 1.5 percent last year, while New Jersey’s GDP shrunk by 0.5 percent. Only Alabama, Mississippi and Wyoming fared worse.
New Jersey’s unemployment rate was at 9.1 percent for April, nearly a full percentage point higher than the national rate. The Garden State was one of only five states to see its unemployment rate go up in April, and it joined Nevada, Rhode Island, California and North Carolina among the five states with the highest unemployment rates in America.
And while there disagreement about the amount, everyone in Trenton acknowledges that tax revenue collections are falling short of projections. The Office of Legislative Services is estimating a budget gap approaching $1.5 billion through the end of fiscal year 2013, while the state treasurer is predicting a shortfall of about half of that amount.
As lawmakers work to craft a balanced Fiscal Year 2013 budget before the deadline at the end of this month, much of the discussion has centered around whether an income tax cut or an income tax credit for a portion of residents’ property taxes would be better. Either plan would have to be funded through a mix of borrowing and one-shot revenue sources that were originally intended for other worthy purposes.
“Despite the sloganeering, every independent analysis shows there is no ‘Comeback’ at all. In fact, it is clear that New Jersey is still in the grips of recession,” says New Jersey Policy Perspective president Gordon MacInnes. “Kill the false advertising campaign, forget about borrowing to pay for invisible tax cuts, and concentrate on investments that will restore opportunities for all New Jerseyans.”