New Jersey’s legislators and political candidates say they will do everything possible to improve job prospects and economic growth. The U.S. Supreme Court, by invalidating the Defense of Marriage Act today, has now given every one of them the chance to take immediate action to eliminate one major competitive disadvantage holding New Jersey back. And it isn’t tax rates.
New Jersey is home to many large corporations, great research universities, global consulting firms and big regional law practices. They are all in the business of competing for the best-educated and most talented enterprising employees. Attracting these high-value workers spurs the economy in many ways, because they are well paid and spend much of their income in the state.
The competition for these workers is intense on the global, national and regional scales. Consider, for example, the loss of thousands of pharmaceutical jobs in just the last two years that migrated to California, Massachusetts and New York. Tax rates don’t explain the moves, because they are all high-tax states. The jobs left for these places for a variety of reasons, including the fact that these states are investing in the kinds of things that make locating there attractive for business (higher education, innovative research, modernized transportation, etc.).
Now those states – and 9 others, many of which (like Connecticut) attract good jobs – have another advantage over New Jersey: Prospective employees in same-sex marriages will be able to take advantage of over 1,000 federal benefits since their marriage is recognized by those states.
Sure, if you’re a top-drawer lawyer you could accept the offer of a major New Jersey law firm instead of one in New York or Connecticut. All you would give up are the spousal rights to Social Security, the large exemption from estate taxes for your gay spouse, the rights to 1,012 other federal benefits – and the recognition that your bond with your partner is equal with that of your neighbors and co-workers.
Rather than add to the state’s well-chronicled economic woes, legislators can act immediately to make New Jersey more competitive. All they have to do is to override the governor’s veto of marriage equality before recessing for the summer.
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