The only way to make the Jersey Comeback a reality is for Christie to forego his tax cuts and put the money to work building our public university system

Gordon MacInnes
Gordon MacInnes

Much of 2012 has been taken up with the fantasy of the “Jersey Comeback.”

In recent weeks, Gov. Chris Christie has moderated the tale to suggest that it is more like “Jersey Comeback: The Startup.” This is good, because there is no credible evidence that New Jersey is anyplace but at the tail end of any recovery from the ravages of the Great Recession.

Indeed, the evidence from reliable measures of job creation, unemployment, economic activity, credit ratings, and tax collections suggest that New Jersey is one of a few states that might technically still be in a recession (two successive quarters of negative economic growth).

All this may explain why “comeback” was not heard in the governor’s keynote address to the Republican National Convention.

The problem with the comeback fable is not that another politician is exaggerating or telling incomplete truths. The real problem is that it focuses the public discourse on the wrong targets. Comeback says we’re over the hump and it’s time to celebrate with more tax cuts. In the governor’s proposal, those tax cuts would have eventually cost the state $1.5 billion in lost revenues each year.

If we have the $1.5 billion, then we should spend it on methods proven to create well-paying jobs, not waste it on tax cuts that most residents will hardly notice.

New Jersey is losing its high-value-added jobs to states with great research universities, pleasant communities with high-performing public schools, and a culture that welcomes well-educated people.

Hey! That describes us.

So why are pharmaceutical jobs moving to other high-tax states like California and Massachusetts? It’s not because their taxes are lower. Instead, when drug invention moved from chemicals to biogenetics, those states had the research centers, medical schools, and hospitals to facilitate patient trials. New Jersey lost a step when it stopped investing in public-private partnerships and modernizing facilities at its public colleges and universities to deal with rapidly expanding enrollments.


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