April 11, 2019 | Number of The Day
NJ residents who say they’re getting money’s worth for the taxes they pay

New Jersey has a reputation for high taxes. A new poll puts a number on exactly how frustrated residents are with those taxes. Only 18 percent said they are getting their money’s worth in exchange for what they pay in taxes, according to a recent survey by Rutgers-Eagleton in collaboration with the New Jersey Business & Industry Association.

The tax bill that draws the most scorn from residents is the local property tax, which only 20 percent of those surveyed said they considered to be a very fair or somewhat fair tax. That comes after the average New Jersey property tax bill rose to a record high last year of ($8,767).

The state’s gas tax — which also increased last year — draws low marks as well, with only 23 percent of those surveyed saying it’s very fair or somewhat fair.

Doing somewhat better is the state income tax, which was viewed as very fair or somewhat fair by 38 percent. And the state sales tax — which was slightly reduced in recent years — fared the best; it was viewed as very fair or somewhat fair by 58 percent of those who responded to the poll, which was conducted from March 7-22.

The poll also sought residents’ views on related issues like education, affordability and spending. Interestingly, it found that 59 percent said they were either very satisfied or somewhat satisfied with how the state is handling K-12 education, a service that is heavily funded with local property taxes, and to a lesser degree, state income taxes — two of the taxes that poll respondents considered to be more unfair than fair.

The poll also asked residents about the public-employee pension system, which is grossly underfunded and eats up nearly 10 percent of the state’s annual budget. Only 11 percent favored using increased taxes to fund the state’s regular pension contributions. Among the “tradeoffs” that were considered as more appealing remedies were making employees increase their pension contributions and reducing the quality of their health benefits. Those options drew 65 percent and 64 percent support, respectively. But the pension-funding question did not explain that the state has a long record of underfunding its own pension contributions and, in some years, has skipped making a payment altogether.