It’s all in the wording. A recent study by the finance site WalletHub says New Jersey is the third-least dependent state in the union when it comes to federal help. On the surface, that sounds pretty good. We’re “independent,” we pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps, we don’t need help from anybody.
Not so fast. In reality, it means that New Jersey and its residents continue to get shortchanged by the federal government.
The study said New Jersey ranked 49th when it comes to residents dependent on the federal government. It listed us as the 41 least-dependent state when it comes to federal aid. Overall, the state received the third-lowest amount of federal grants per federal tax dollars paid to Washington, D.C., and also the third-lowest amount in terms of other federal assistance.
All of which backs up other recent findings. Governing.com, for example, had New Jersey listed as one of 10 “donor” states in the nation – meaning those of us in those 10 states pay more in federal taxes than we get back from the feds.
Also, the State University of New York’s Rockefeller Institute of Government ranked New Jersey second only to New York when it comes to getting shortchanged. It said New Jersey lost $21.3 billion – in 2017 alone. That meant residents received about 82 cents back on every dollar they sent to the federal government.
Add to that recent changes in tax law that limit state and local tax deductions, and this whole thing likely will get worse before it gets better.
Here’s an idea: During the next election, let’s pin down all of the candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, no matter the party, on their plans to level the playing field. What, specifically, will they do to level the playing field? More federal projects in the state? Any ideas at all?
It’s great to be independent – except when your independence comes at a really high cost thanks to a really unfair system.