NJ Politics Digest: Want to Benefit From State Aid? You’d Better Head North

Breakfast meats and sporting teams have long created a cultural divide between North and South Jersey, but it appears there's a financial divide, too.

Atlantic City.
Atlantic City. John Moore/Getty Images

There’s been a lot of talk recently about how New Jersey pays much more in federal taxes than it receives in return. For residents of cities in southern New Jersey, the feeling is a familiar one when it comes to state assistance.

And it’s not misplaced

A report by Rutgers University-Camden Senator Walter Rand Institute for Public Affairs examines state aid figures for distressed cities and, as a headline on NJ.com concludes, “South Jersey loses big time.”

According to the report by Michael S. Hayes, assistant professor at Rutgers University-Camden – the top 10 poorest cities in South Jersey, including Camden, Atlantic City, Bridgeton and Seaside Heights receive about 33 percent less aid than distressed cities in central and North Jersey “even after controlling for differences in population, property values, income levels, demographics, etc.”

The report concludes the difference “is entirely the result of disparities in Consolidated Municipal Property Tax Relief Act funds” across the state, and warns that the regional gap is only increasing over time.

State funding makes up about a quarter of all revenue received by local governments in the state, according to Hayes’ report. The regional funding disparity is no secret, a 2008 Monmouth University poll found that 50 percent of South Jersey residents believed that North Jersey receive the lion’s share of state resources.

The study, however, found that the gap only existed between the poorest cities in either region and speculates that budget shortfalls following the 2007 recession led to the state cutting more funds for southern areas than northern parts of the state.

The report avoids making policy recommendations and warns that “fairness is a subjective term with many definitions and interpretations. Therefore, it is impossible for this study to objectively claim whether or not a particular NJ region is receiving its fair share of total state funding assistance.”

It does, however, note that the decision to favor North Jersey might be a “calculated” decision by state policymakers and recommends those in southern areas marshall their facts to make the case of the economic benefits of investing more money in their areas.

Quote of the Day: “I’m a big fan of Steve’s and we have an enormous amount in common. Don’t believe everything you read—or in your case, you write.” — Gov. Phil Murphy, clearing up rumors that he and Senate President Steve Sweeney are feuding, and also denying that he implied Sweeney was racist for blocking two of his cabinet appointments.

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NJ Politics Digest: Want to Benefit From State Aid? You’d Better Head North