Why I am Leaving New Jersey Can be Summed Up…A, T, and W

01 Jun

My wife and I have been living in New Jersey since 1977, except for a brief move to Massachusetts for a year (1981-82).  Before the Covid pandemic and the start of the statewide lockdown that began in March 2020, we visited Florida (January 2020) to determine if we should move to the Sunshine State after I would retire in July 2020.    

We began our due diligence by driving to new and relatively new rental developments and found a handful that “checked off all the boxes” that would meet our needs—location, amenities, quality of construction, etc.  We returned to New Jersey still undecided as to which development would be the most attractive to live in.  In February I did some additional research and came across a development in Fort Myers that was being constructed by an Ohio-based developer who has been in business since the early 1950s.   After reviewing the pros and cons of this development we applied for a lease hoped to move by the end of 2020.  Our plans were put on hold, because I was working on a new book project that was due this year.  We therefore decided to move this month after my manuscript was sent to the publisher two months ago. 

Initially, we decided to move to Florida was because of T and W—taxes and weather. State income tax and property taxes, which were fully deductible from our federal tax return, have been capped at $10,000 because of Trump’s 2017 tax “reform.”  Now with property taxes continuing to rise in New Jersey and a high possibility that state income tax rates will undoubtedly increase because of the uncontrolled spending in Trenton, paying taxes for few benefits makes New Jersey inhospitable for the middle and upper middle class families that do not qualify for the exclusion of $100,000 of retirement income from the state income tax.  If your retirement income is one penny above $100,000 you lose the entire exemption.  That means the real tax rate for retirees who are fortunate to have substantial income approaches infinity. Thus a retiree with an income of $100,000.01 pays approximately $6,000 in state income taxes, while a retiree with $100,000 income or less pays zero state income taxes.   In short, the state income tax creates a huge incentive for couples or single retirees to leave the state.  

Florida and a handful of other states have no income taxes making them more attractive for retirees to relocate and increase their living standards.  Taxes are reason #1 why we are leaving New Jersey. For us, more money in our pockets will increase our charitable contributions in the future, one of our goals in retirement.

Reason #2 for leaving New Jersey is the weather.  The winters have become more intolerable as we have gotten older.  Although we have a gym in our co-op and have used it several times a week before and since the pandemic, walking outdoors year round is preferable to an indoor gym for a good part of the year.  Year round fresh air is essential for good health.

The A–reason #3– for why are leaving New Jersey is the Autocracy of the Murphy administration.  When the governor announced “essential” businesses would be exempt from the state lockdown while so-called nonessential business must be closed, I bristled at Murphy’s draconian, arbitrary, discriminatory and egregious assault on the livelihood of hundreds of thousand workers and thousand of small businesses owners.  

Gov. Murphy from what I recall did not consult the Legislature nor did he meet with small business owners about the ramifications of his autocratic orders.  Murphy and several other governors imposed unnecessary restrictions to deal with Covid, and he made a stupid—and inhumane–decision to force senior citizen Covid patients back into nursing homes, where the death counted rose markedly last year.  

And where were the legislators and courts protecting the rights of small business owners to engage in commerce to meet the needs of New Jerseyans?   New Jersey and other states that imposed severe restrictions have violated the fundamental principle of dealing with a pandemic—isolate the most vulnerable and protect them from the illness, while the rest of the population must continue to live their lives exercising caution to avoid contracting the illness.  

The T and W reasons for leaving New Jersey were in the “cake” for years.  Governor Murphy’s autocracy makes our move to Florida even more desirable.  I refuse to live in a state where the governor treats its people like children and wards of the state.   

We will be celebrating the Fourth of July in a few weeks.  It’s time New Jerseyans—and all Americans for that matter—to embrace independence with gusto.  Otherwise, in the next pandemic some governors and an autocratic president will probably impose even more ill conceived and destructive polices. 

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