Sun Editorial: The goal should be to attract people to New Jersey, not chase them away

One of the new governor’s “big picture” goals should be finding ways to not only keep people here, but bring in more.

By Alan Bauer
The Sun

The good news is traffic should be getting better and the lines at the DMV shorter. The bad news? Well, there’s a lot of bad news.

Once again, New Jersey is a leader in United Van Lines’ Annual Movers Study. In 2017, 63 percent of the company’s moves to and from the state were outbound. The state has been at or near the top of this list for years.

To be fair, United tracks only United moves. Maybe Mayflower and North American are bringing hordes of people here, but that’s probably not happening.

When New Jersey fails to keep pace with the rest of the nation in population growth, bad things happen. Remember when the state had 15 members of the House of Representatives? We’re down to 12 now — a fairly significant drop in congressional muscle.

The economy also can suffer when, just to keep up, a state is pretty much dependent on its residents making babies and living longer (the 2000 Census showed 1.6 percent of the state’s population 85 years old or over, compared to 2 percent in 2010).

Home prices can dip. Having fewer people leads to fewer customers for businesses, which leads to fewer businesses, which leads to less competition, which leads to higher prices for everybody who hung around. The labor pool also shrinks, making it harder to find qualified workers.

Even the arts, which depend on patrons to support plays, concerts, festivals and the like, can suffer.

Perhaps our new governor can begin to change the perception the grass is greener on the other side of the toll booths. Hint: Taxes and a general high cost of living might have something to do with the exodus.

Gov. Murphy has a lot on his plate, but one of the “big picture” goals should be finding ways to not only keep people here, but bring in more.