TRENTON — New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney, D-Gloucester, once famously told me, "New Jersey doesn't have a spending problem, we have a revenue problem." Now, we may have both.

Those who have long advocated for making the so-called rich "pay their fair share" have cited studies that show the rich don’t move because of high taxes, but a new study shows just the opposite is happening. Millionaires are leaving New Jersey at an alarming rate, and leaving with them is the money they contribute to the state treasury.

At a time when Gov. Phil Murphy continues to aggressively pursue a costly progressive agenda, he will need every penny he can get to pay for it. Murphy has often called for "tax fairness." That's Trenton-speak for taxing the rich. The rich have apparently had enough.

New Jersey 101.5's David Matthau reports more than "5,700 millionaires packed their bags and left" over the last year. They are among a huge exodus from New Jersey right now. U.S. Census data shows the state is losing around 1,000 people a week. We now know a good portion of them are among the state’s top wage earners.

It becomes even more worrisome when you consider:

  • The top 1 percent of taxpayers account for more income taxes than the bottom 90 percent combined;
  • The top 10 percent of wage earners pay two-thirds of the income tax;
  • Taxpayers with adjusted gross income of more than $465,000 pay almost 40 percent of all federal taxes

With New Jersey potentially facing a multi-billion dollar shortfall in the state budget that must be adopted by June 1, and Murphy determined to add billions more in spending, more than the rich may be asked to pay their "fair share."

New Jersey already has the highest tax burden, and both Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, D-Middlesex, have publicly come out against raising taxes. It will make for an interesting showdown between the two top legislative Democrats and Murphy as budget talks begin. There already exists a less-than-cordial relationship in this triad, and the report of millionaires bolting from New Jersey is likely to embolden Sweeney and Coughlin in their opposition to Murphy's tax hikes in the new budget.

Tax hike proponents have argued for years that the rich can afford to pay more. While that may be true, this new report shows they just don't want to, and the rest of New Jersey may be asked to pay the price for the tax policies that are driving millionaires out of the Garden State.

Eric Scott is Vice President, Senior Political Director and Director of Special Projects for New Jersey 101.5. He anchors "New Jersey's First News" and weekday morning newscasts from 5 to 10 a.m., in addition to hosting a bimonthly Town Hall series.

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