Friday Facts and Figures: December 13, 2019

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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New Jersey is poised to become the next state to allow all residents — regardless of immigration status — to legally drive. Earlier this week, a bill to expand access to driver’s licenses cleared both Senate and Assembly committees; a full vote in both chambers is scheduled for Monday. Already law in 14 other states, Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico, driver’s license expansion would make roads safer for all as more drivers would become trained, tested, and insured. According to NJPP’s Erika Nava, there are 466,000 undocumented immigrants of driving age who would directly benefit from the proposal. [ / Matt Arco]

82 Percent

Earlier this week, the House Ways and Means Committee advanced a new proposal to temporarily repeal the $10,000 cap on state and local tax (SALT) deductions. If enacted, this change to the tax code would primarily benefit the wealthiest households in the nation — and few middle-income households would benefit. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the top 5 percent of households (those earning at least $319,000 per year) would receive 82 percent of the benefit, while the bottom 80 percent of households would receive just 4 percent. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities / Chuck Marr, Kathleen Bryant, and Michael Leachman]

$460 Million

On Thursday, a special legislative committee identified one major barrier to NJ Transit’s success: the lack of a sustainable source of funding. To balance its budgets, NJ Transit has transferred funding from its capital budget — including $460 million this year alone — to its operating budget. This means less money to invest in rail expansion and the purchase of new trains and buses. New Jersey could properly fund NJ Transit if it raised more revenue by implementing a millionaires tax, restoring the estate tax, and bringing the sales tax back to 7 percent. [ / Larry Higgs]

3.1 Feet

New Jersey is “ground zero” for sea level rise, according to a new report released by the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Rutgers University. The report estimates that the state could experience a sea level rise of 3.1 feet by 2070 if greenhouse gas emissions remain constant, and more than 3,000 New Jersey homes are located in areas at risk of flooding annually. Sea level is rising in New Jersey more than in other parts of the world due to warming global temperature, melting polar ice sheets, and a sinking tectonic plate under the mid-Atlantic region. The time to act is now. [Asbury Park Press / Amanda Oglesby]


New Jersey is one step away from passing major expungement reform, with a full vote in the Senate and Assembly both scheduled for Monday. The proposal would make it easier for people to clear their records of minor drug offenses by creating an e-filing expungement system, eliminating application fees, creating a “clean slate” process to automatically seal minor offenses after ten years, and allowing immediate expungement for past offenses involving small amounts of marijuana. “[T]his is a necessary step to begin to address the inequities and racial disparities that have characterized marijuana prohibition,” said Sarah Fajardo, Policy Director at ACLU-NJ. [NJ Spotlight / Colleen O’Dea]


NJPP’s Erika Nava makes the case for driver’s license expansion in an op-ed for the Star-Ledger, calling on New Jersey to join the fourteen other states that have passed similar policies. “Every state that has expanded access to licenses has felt the positive effects,” writes Nava. Those benefits include: safer roads, stronger communities, stabilized auto insurance premiums, and more revenue for the state. [ / Erika Nava]

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