Friday Facts and Figures: August 21, 2020

Friday Facts and Figures is a brief digital newsletter focusing on data points from NJPP reports, research, and policy debates in New Jersey and beyond.
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COVID-19 Cases: 188,527 | Deaths: 14,086
[New Jersey Department of Health / COVID-19 Dashboard]


0

State lawmakers have less than five weeks to pass a budget for next year, yet there are zero public hearings scheduled thus far. This is a large departure from the normal budget process, which gives advocates, policy experts, and the general public an opportunity to weigh in on the state’s annual spending bill. Similarly, the legislature has yet to clarify whether department heads, the state Treasurer, or the Office of Legislative Services will be brought in to testify on departmental spending priorities or the state’s revenue collections and fiscal outlook. That’s why the For The Many NJ coalition sent an open letter to Governor Murphy and legislative leaders on Wednesday calling for a transparent and inclusive budget process. The letter calls next year’s state budget “one of the most consequential budgets in New Jersey’s history” given the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on state revenue and the subsequent possibility of dramatic cuts to public services and programs. Right now, the only publicly scheduled budget event is Governor Murphy’s budget address, which is scheduled for Tuesday at noon. [NJ Spotlight / John Reitmeyer]


$1.77 Billion

While low-paid workers and their families struggle to make ends meet due to the economic fallout from COVID-19, New Jersey’s billionaires and biggest corporations have seen their wealth and profits soar. According to a new report by Americans for Tax Fairness, For The Many NJ, and Make the Road New Jersey, billionaires in New Jersey have accumulated $1.77 billion in wealth since the pandemic hit. Over the same time period, more than 1.4 million New Jersey workers filed for unemployment, more than 600,000 immigrant families have gone without any pandemic relief, and 40 percent of renters are behind on rent. This report serves as good of a reminder as any that state tax and budget policies can advance economic and racial equity — and that requires a tax code where millionaires, billionaires, and big corporations pay their fair share. [NJ 101.5 / David Matthau]


96

Earlier this week, 96 economists and public policy experts urged Governor Murphy and legislative leaders to avoid counterproductive cuts in next year’s budget, and instead raise taxes on the state’s wealthiest individuals and biggest corporations. The letter, co-authored by Alan S. Blinder, professor of economics at Princeton University and former Vice Chair of the Federal Reserve, and Yana van der Meulen Rodgers of Rutgers University, states: “Large cuts would erode the health and social infrastructure needed to continue combating COVID-19, increase inequality, and exacerbate the economic downturn.” The economists cite NJPP’s income tax reform proposal as a reasonable path forward, as it would increase the income tax rates paid on earnings over $250,000. When this many economists warn against damaging budget cuts, you listen! [Bloomberg / Stacie Sherman]


$15 Million

Breaking news from this morning: A new bill by Senator Vin Gopal would end New Jersey’s yacht tax breaks, which cost the state more than $15 million every year. For context: In 2015, New Jersey lawmakers halved the sales tax rate on boating vessel purchases, while also capping the total sales tax paid on boats at $20,000. This sales tax cap means that the bigger the boat, the bigger the tax break. NJPP was a vocal opponent of the bill five years ago, calling it a huge tax cut for the state’s wealthiest individuals. Just last month, NJPP joined Make the Road New Jersey, the Hudson County Progressive Alliance, and members of For The Many NJ at a marina in Jersey City to urge lawmakers to repeal the law. Click the link for a short NJPP blog from 2015 explaining the absurdity of the yacht tax break. [NJPP / Jon Whiten]


ICYMI

Celebration of Progress is less than a month away! Join the NJPP team, our distinguished honorees, and keynote speaker Darrick Hamilton, Ph.D. for a virtual award reception on Thursday, September 10 at 6:00PM. This is a free event and will include New Jersey-themed trivia. Register here! [NJPP / Celebration of Progress]


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