A look at how Gov. Murphy answered an incoming attack from Texas (with facts)

In New Jersey, we are moving in a new direction — and we’re making exciting progress. We’re working hard to be the state of good value for money and good values for all our people. That’s why it was quite a shock recently for me to see Gov. Greg Abbott openly attack my home state in an opinion piece published in our state’s largest newspaper.

For too long, New Jersey put the wealthy and big corporations ahead of ordinary people — and it failed miserably. Now, we’re moving New Jersey in a stronger and fairer direction, and it’s one that Abbott would greatly benefit from taking a closer look at.

I understand Texas pride and the “Don’t Mess with Texas” notion. Heck, I respect that. But as the governor of New Jersey, let’s be clear: No one gets away with taking a cheap shot at New Jersey.

Abbott may want to continue putting the powerful first in his state, and he wants New Jersey businesses to join him. But they — and we — know better.

The facts speak for themselves: Even a cursory review of Texas’ economy during Abbott’s administration should give anyone — especially businesses — pause. Texas’ ranking among state economies has plummeted. According to Governing magazine’s last ranking, the Lone Star State fell from No. 3 to No. 21 (New Jersey was No. 24). Perhaps this is why he’s desperately trying to poach jobs from other states.

So, here’s my counteroffer to Texans and Texas businesses looking for real economic opportunity.

For businesses, New Jersey provides distinct advantages, including our location, with direct access to 31 million consumers within 100 miles of Newark alone. Thanks to our ports, we offer unparalleled global reach as well.

Through years of investment in public education and our world-class colleges and universities, we also boast one of the world’s most highly educated and skilled workforces, ranking fifth in the percentage of our residents with a bachelor’s degree. (Texas is 12th.) All this is knitted together by infrastructure that gives unfettered access to the country.

For new residents, New Jersey brings to the table one of the nation’s top three K-12 public school systems (Texas? No. 33), led by investments in our classrooms and our teachers — a priority that Abbott has consistently ignored and underfunded. This underfunding by the governor has led Texas to have the largest gender gap in educational attainment and the seventh-largest racial educational attainment gap in the nation. New Jersey, on the other hand, ranks No. 6 in the nation for college readiness (Texas is No. 21) and second for pre-K enrollment (Texas is No. 38).

New Jersey is also home to many of the nation’s best health care systems. In contrast, under Abbott and his Republican-controlled Legislature, Texas ranks 46th in health care access, 45th in quality and is home to the nation’s highest rate of uninsured residents.

We also boast a violent crime rate nearly half that of Texas, which may be a product of our belief in strong, common sense gun safety laws, in contrast to Abbott’s reckless belief in allowing more concealed firearms. By the way, 45 guns used to commit crimes in New Jersey in 2016 originated in Texas due to its lax gun laws. I’d like to invite Abbott to join our growing list of States for Gun Safety so we can make our communities safer.

And, for middle-class and working families, New Jersey has a median household income more than $15,000 above Texas’.

It’s simple. If you’d like to be part of an economic revival, in a state that recognizes the value of investments in public education, creates welcoming communities that protect LGBTQ residents and immigrants, and defends a woman’s right to reproductive health care, then New Jersey is the place for you or your business.

We are also not fixated on cutting taxes for the wealthy at the expense of the middle class. According to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, Texas is home to the third-most unfair state and local tax system in the country, with middle-class and working families paying disproportionately higher rates than the wealthiest Texans. In New Jersey, we have a way to go, but we’re fighting to make our taxes more fair, not less.

We have a lot of work to do in New Jersey. We’re climbing out of a hole with honest fiscal policies and smart investments in education and transportation infrastructure. But we’re tackling our challenges openly and honestly.

To those businesses betting on the future of New Jersey, whether that means staying here or relocating from a state like Texas, it will be the best bet you’ve ever made.