Despite our abundance of diners, peaches, pine trees, and Wawas, we South Jerseyans have long believed and perceived that Trenton treats us like the poor relations of our more numerous cousins elsewhere in the state.
I first heard this low murmur of regional resentment about North Jersey calling the shots (and hogging the cash) when I began writing about South Jersey in 1976.
Now, there's fresh evidence: A research project by Shauna L. Shames, assistant professor of political science, and Spencer T. Clayton, a Ph.D candidate in public affairs, both of whom are at Rutgers-Camden, concludes that those of us inhabiting the Garden State's bottom third truly aren't getting what we deserve.
Their 22-page report was released Tuesday by the Sen. Walter Rand Institute for Public Affairs.
I knew the late state lawmaker for whom the Institute - and, less flatteringly, the Camden transportation center - is named, and have no doubt the ebullient, unabashedly South Jersey-centric Rand would be pleased by the project's findings.
Controlling for population size and other factors by using a respected statistical technique called regression analysis, the two Rutgers-Camden researchers conclude that "counties in the South of Jersey are far less likely than those in the North or Central regions to receive public goods, either as state aid . . . or project costs . . . or general public benefits like transportation infrastructure, education, and good public health."
It seems the quirky, quintessentially South Jersey campaign to have counties below I-195 secede from the rest of the Garden State - to liberate us from the dominance of North Jersey, supporters said - was on to something.
In 1980, voters in Atlantic, Burlington, Cape May, Cumberland, Ocean, and Salem counties approved a secession referendum (the nonbinding measure was not on the ballot in Camden and Gloucester counties). Protesters dressed in Colonial costumes even held a mock trial of then-Gov. Byrne.
While the rebellion subsided, its theatrical tactics reappeared in 1990, when a sales tax increase that would have expanded to include household items like toilet paper inspired a colorful march on the state capital.
"New Jerseyans are accustomed to Trenton sticking coal in their stockings," notes Matt Rooney, a Republican in Camden County whose SaveJersey.com website is an influential conservative forum.
"But for those of us residing in South Jersey," he adds, "we can't even count on getting the same number of lumps as our neighbors up north."
In a rapid response to Tuesday's release of the report, U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross (D., Camden) says "the findings . . . confirm what we in South Jersey have known" pretty much forever.
"There are clear public funding disparities between Southern New Jersey and the rest of the state," the recently reelected 1st District Democrat says in a statement released by his Washington office.
"South Jersey has only ever asked for its fair share."
Alas, despite laying bare what seem like unfair disparities, the researchers also describe South Jerseyans as statistically fatter, poorer, older, and less well-educated than our cohorts in other, evidently more fabulous, regions of the state.
Not that they blame us for not getting our due: "[We} considered the idea that perhaps North and Central Jerseyans participate more [in politics]," the researchers write, but add that there is "no difference in the [voting] rates of citizens across Jersey regions."
Indeed: On Nov. 8, a majority of voters who turned out statewide rejected the preposterous idea of "helping" Atlantic City by allowing two casinos to be built in North Jersey.
Meanwhile, Gov. Christie - born in Newark, raised in Livingston, and raising his family in Mendham, all Northern municipalities by the way - now has record-breaking voter disapproval ratings from one end of the Garden State to the other.
South, Central, and North seem equal in their eagerness for the end of the Christie era.