Friday Facts and Figures: May 3, 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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$1.1 Billion

A new report by WNYC details how at least $1.1 billion in corporate tax subsidies went to insurance executive George Norcross and his associates. The investigation reveals that out of $1.6 billion in tax subsidies for corporations located in Camden, two thirds “went to Norcross’ own insurance brokerage, his business partnerships and charitable affiliations, and clients of the law and lobbying firms of his brother Philip.” In total, Camden received more than four times the amount of tax subsidies than all of the other “growth zone” designated cities combined. This is a direct result of the Economic Opportunity Act (EOA) of 2013, which removed all meaningful caps and safeguards from the state’s tax subsidy programs. [WNYC / Nancy Solomon and Jeff Pillets]


$650,000 Per Job

Hours after the WNYC story broke, the New York Times reported that in the days leading up to the passage of the Economic Opportunity Act, a lawyer at Parker McCay — Philip Norcross’ law firm — made last-minute edits to the bill that allowed clients it represented to qualify for even larger tax subsidies. One of the changes made it possible for Hotlec International to secure a $260 million tax subsidy to build a new headquarters in Camden, amounting to $650,000 in tax subsidies per job created or retained. Meanwhile, the net benefit to taxpayers is estimated to be $155,520 — over the next 35 years. [New York Times / Nick Corasaniti and Matthew Haag]


$5 Million

The investigative reporting on New Jersey’s tax subsidy programs exemplifies the importance of local news in keeping communities informed and speaking truth to power. That’s why New Jersey has a vested interest in supporting local journalism, especially given the shrinking news media landscape. In a new blog post, NJPP’s Sheila Reynertson outlines how the newly created Civic Information Consortium (CIC) can bolster local news across the Garden State — but only if it’s fully funded. The program, which would partner with state universities and journalists to report on communities without a local news source, requires $5 million in its first year to get up and running; it has received zero funding since being signed into law. Governor Murphy’s proposed FY2020 budget only appropriates $1 million to the CIC, which would severely limit the scope and reach of its work. [NJPP / Sheila Reynertson]


1,230

A new study by economists at the University of California, Berkeley finds that policies that boost the pay of working families can reduce suicides. The researchers’ model suggests that increasing the minimum wage and the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) by 10 percent each would prevent approximately 1,230 suicides each year. Measuring the two policies independently, increasing the EITC by 10 percent reduces non-drug suicides among adults without a college degree by 5.5 percent, while raising the minimum wage by 10 percent decreases suicides by 3.6 percent.  [Washington Post / Andrew Van Dam]


13th

On May Day, activists from New York and New Jersey rallied in Jersey City in support of expanding access to driver’s licenses to all residents, regardless of immigration status. There are proposals in both states’ legislatures to expand access to licenses, and whichever state enacts the policy first will become the thirteenth state in the nation to do so. Rutgers student Esder Chong spoke at the rally, explaining that “Without the ability to drive we can’t commute to school, do activities, go to our professional opportunity events like internships and jobs.” Based on the experiences of other states, driver’s license expansion would make New Jersey’s roads safer as more drivers are trained, tested, and insured. [Gothamist / Shumita Basu and Danny Lewis]


ICYMI

On Thursday, NJPP President Brandon McKoy gave expert testimony at the Tax Incentive Task Force hearing, where he explained that it is not normal or proper for lobbyists to write bills that they have a direct financial stake in. In his testimony, Brandon characterized the drafting of the EOA as “a privatization of the legislative process” that benefitted already wealthy and well-connected corporations. You can read his full statement and watch his testimony using this link. [NJPP / Brandon McKoy]


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