progresso plant

General Mills said Thursday it will lay off 65 workers in March as it moves toward closing the Progresso soup plant in Vineland this summer.

THOMAS BARLAS / Staff Writer

A year ago, as the N.J. Business & Industry Association was completing its sobering survey of outmigration from New Jersey, a bill was introduced to ask corporations why they’ve left or are leaving.

The survey found that over a decade, 2 million residents left the state, reducing employment by 75,000 jobs and statewide adjusted gross income by $18 billion. That was in line with a previous Rutgers study that found the state lost $8 billion in income in the six years ending in 2005.

The NJBIA suggested the outmigration is driven by the state’s extremely high cost of living due to nation-leading taxes and consumer prices inflated by excess regulation.

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As far as the corporations targeted by the bill, which passed the Senate last month, some reasons for leaving seem obvious. New Jersey has the worst business-tax climate in the nation, according to the nonprofit Tax Foundation’s 2017 rankings. This is also a heavily regulated state and its politicians still boast it is a union state, so corporations can count on paying to play here.

The state’s political leaders show no sign of addressing those fundamental discouragements to business, but maybe an exit survey would turn up some smaller things the government could or would address.

The NJBIA’s director of employment, labor and federal affairs said the group supports the survey bill and thinks it would help government focus on what can be done to make New Jersey more attractive to business.

The bill would first require the Department of Labor and Workforce Development to survey all the major employers who have left the state since 2008. From then on, the department would have to conduct annual surveys and provide them to the governor and Legislature.

That is an OK idea and shouldn’t cost too much. But why stop there?

About 19,000 retirees are leaving New Jersey each year. Why not ask them why they’re leaving as well? Could it be the prospect of paying the state’s high taxes and high costs for essentials with their fixed retirement incomes?

Perhaps more important would be finding out why millennials are fleeing. That age group — 18 to 34 — had the largest net reduction in the NJBIA study, losing 57,566 residents from 2007 to 2014.

That outmigration also makes it harder for companies in the state to find the young workers with new skills that they need.

We hope the survey requirement becomes law, and that it somehow motivates leaders already neglectful of the state’s obvious fundamental deficiencies.

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