Friday Facts and Figures: May 17, 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.
Sign up here.


$317 Million

An April surge in tax collections will leave New Jersey with $317 million extra for its rainy day fund — the first deposit into the account in eleven years. In 2008, the fund’s entire $735 million balance was used to mitigate declining revenue in the first year of the Great Recession. Recommended by credit rating agencies, a rainy day fund is a good budgeting practice that cushions the state’s finances during an economic downturn or natural disaster. Even with $317 million tucked away, New Jersey would still be among the least prepared states if another recession hits. That’s why it’s critical lawmakers build up reserves instead of using this money as an excuse to not pass a millionaires tax. [NJ.com / Samantha Marcus]


$1 Billion

A surplus does not negate the need for new revenue, as New Jersey’s current budget relies on $1 billion in one-shot measures that will expire at the end of the fiscal year. In her budget testimony earlier this week, Treasurer Elizabeth Maher Muoio reiterated the need for long-term, sustainable sources of revenue for the state to continue meeting its obligations and make new investments in education, transit, and property tax relief. A millionaires tax is about more than the fiscal year 2020 budget; it would bring in over $500 million in revenue every year and help the state move away from an overreliance on gimmicky tactics. [NJ Spotlight / John Reitmeyer]


27

On Thursday, Senate President Steve Sweeney unveiled 27 bills based on recommendations from his Path to Progress working group. Headlining the bill package are proposed cuts to public sector pensions and health benefits that would circumvent collectively bargained contracts. The proposed pension changes would exempt judges, law enforcement, corrections officers, and firefighters but apply to public school teachers and other state workers who are disproportionally women and people of color. NJPP President Brandon McKoy had this to say about the proposed cuts: “It is bad public policy — and even worse optics — to ask more than 350,000 working families to make further sacrifices while protecting 17,000 millionaires from a modest tax increase.” [NorthJersey.com / Ashley Balcerzak]


25 Percent

As lawmakers consider proposals that would disproportionately affect women and people of color, it is worth noting that the state legislature is not representative of the state’s population. According to a new analysis by NJ.com, people of color account for a mere 25 percent of the state’s legislative body despite making up 45 percent of the state’s population. Similarly, women make up only 31 percent of the state’s legislative body despite accounting for 51 percent of the state’s population. This troubling lack of representation also exists in the state’s political parties. Out of the 42 county party chairs, only nine are women and six are Black or Latinx. [NJ.com / Brent Johnson, Matt Arco, and Carla Astudillo]


2020

Speaking of racial inequities, lawmakers have given up hope on legalizing recreational marijuana in 2019 — they simply do not have the votes. Instead, Senate President Sweeney indicated the legislature will put the measure to a public vote in the 2020 November election. Until then, lawmakers will focus on passing legislation to expunge certain marijuana-related criminal records and expand the state’s medical marijuana program. Some advocates are not giving up hope. New Jersey United for Marijuana Reform’s Bill Caruso believes cannabis legalization still has a chance of passing as part of a budget deal. [NorthJersey.com / Dustin Racioppi]


ICYMI

In an op-ed in The Record, NJPP’s Sheila Reynertson insists that lawmakers should focus on the policy behind the state’s flawed economic development programs instead of further politicizing the issue. Sheila points out that the Economic Opportunity Act of 2013 removed all meaningful safeguards from the state’s incentive programs and taxpayers simply cannot afford them. In addition to better oversight and hard caps on future subsidies, Sheila insists that the state’s economic incentive programs should be directly inserted into the annual budget process. Lawmakers have until June 30th before the current programs expire. [NorthJersey.com / Sheila Reynertson]


Have a fact or figure for us? Tweet it to @NJPolicy.