Friday Facts and Figures: December 6, 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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7 Percent

Last week, Governor Murphy reiterated his support for restoring the sales tax to 7 percent to increase funding for public schools, mass transit, and higher education. For context, the state sales tax was cut to 6.625 percent in 2016 as part of a deal between former Governor Christie and the legislature to raise the gas tax. Governor Murphy has called the tax cut a “gimmick,” as it provides negligible savings to low- and middle-income families. NJPP’s research supports that claim. As NJPP’s Sheila Reynertson explains to NJ Spotlight, “Instead, [the tax cut] primarily benefits the wealthiest residents … who have the most disposable income to spend, and robs the state of over $600 million in revenue that could be invested in areas proven to grow the economy.” [NJ Spotlight / John Reitmeyer]


Consensus

A proposal advancing through the legislature would modify how the state estimates revenue during budget season. The bill would create a new joint advisory board — comprised of the State Treasurer, Legislative Budget and Finance Officer, and an agreed upon member of the public — to forecast how much revenue the state expects to collect in the following year. This differs from the current approach where the executive and legislative branches offer competing forecasts; however, the proposal still allows the executive branch to ultimately certify the state’s revenue projections. National budget experts, including the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, recommend consensus revenue forecasting as a way to depoliticize the budget process. [NJ.com / Samantha Marcus]


12,000

The Trump administration has announced a new rule that will cut off basic food assistance for nearly 700,000 people across the country, including 12,000 in New Jersey. Specifically, the new rule would restrict states’ flexibility to help unemployed adults who may not qualify for the federal Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) due to strict work requirements. According to NJPP’s Ray Castro, the rule would only affect the “poorest of the poor” and “hunger will likely increase” if the rule is implemented. Fortunately, New Jersey’s Rep. Jeff Van Drew has said he will seek to overturn the change under the Congressional Review Act. [NJ.com / Jonathan Salant]


$700 Million

Workers will lose more than $700 million annually under a new rule proposed by the Trump administration. Unveiled in October, the proposal would do away with the 80/20 rule, a critical protection for tipped workers. This requires workers be paid at least the full minimum wage if more than 20 percent of their labor is performed on non-tipped duties. Getting rid of this protection will allow employers to legally exploit their workers by paying them the tipped minimum wage for work where the full minimum wage should apply. The Economic Policy Institute sums it up neatly, saying the change “will transfer large amounts of money from workers to their employers.” [Economic Policy Institute / Heidi Shierholz and David Cooper]


3.4 Million

Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield is New Jersey’s largest health insurer, providing coverage to 3.4 million residents across the state. A new proposal would change the insurer’s corporate structure from non-profit to a not-for-profit mutual. NJPP has joined health and consumer advocacy groups in calling for the process to slow down so an independent analysis can be conducted. “The smallest change to Horizon’s structure could have a tremendous impact on the health care of millions of New Jersey families, as well as the broader health insurance market,” explains NJPP’s Ray Castro. “This proposal is far too broad and complex to be fast-tracked without a serious vetting process.” [NJ Spotlight / Lilo Stainton]


ICYMI

The Star-Ledger’s editorial board has endorsed driver’s license expansion! From the editorial: “This is not about charity for the undocumented, though it will make their lives a little easier. It is really about the self-interest of the rest of us. Bringing the undocumented out of the shadows will save us all money, and make our roads safer.” [NJ.com / Editorial Board]


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