It is tempting to either understate or overstate the influence that policymakers can have on a state’s economy. Certainly, the residents of any state are significantly affected by national and regional trends over which governors and state legislators have no control. It could even be argued there is no such thing as a “state” economy; rather, there is a set of statistics for conditions within the borders of a particular jurisdiction, influenced by many outside factors. Certainly, some states are better positioned than others to endure a downturn because of assets no human can create, such as the presence of oil under the ground or, for New Jersey, proximity to one of the world’s most vibrant cities.
All of that said, policymakers make numerous decisions that end up either helping or hurting the economic well-being of large groups of people. They owe it to their constituents to pay attention to what works, to abandon what does not, and to recognize the importance of public investment.