Friday Facts and Figures: October 11, 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.


$2.9 Million

The wrestling may be fake, but the cost to taxpayers is very real. Earlier this week, the state Economic Development Authority (EDA) awarded $2.9 million in film tax credits for WrestleMania XXXV, which took place at MetLife Stadium in April. As Pat Garofalo states: “Subsidizing a one-off entertainment event is one of the worst possible uses of taxpayer dollars. It creates no permanent jobs, no sustained economic growth, and doesn’t build a foundation under any industry.” New Jersey is doubling down on film tax credits as they lose their star power across the nation. In the last decade, thirteen states have eliminated their film incentive programs, while other states have scaled theirs back. [Boondoggle / Pat Garofalo]


Lowest

Wealth inequality is on the rise, and the US tax code is a big reason why. For the first time in recorded US history, the wealthiest 400 households are paying the lowest combined tax rate — 23 percent — of any income group. This is a fraction of the 70 percent overall tax rate paid by the nation’s wealthiest families in 1950, and half of the 47 percent tax rate paid in 1980. Today’s inequality is not normal, but it is the result of deliberate policy choices that prioritize the wealthiest individuals and corporations at the expense of everyone else. [New York Times / David Leonhardt]


3.4 Percent

New Jersey is not prepared to weather the next possible recession, according to a new analysis by The Pew Charitable Trusts. The state simply does not have enough money saved to mitigate a revenue shortfall, as budget reserves equal a mere 3.4 percent of the state’s total spending. That’s less than half of the national average of 7.5 percent. This is a direct result of the state not taking in enough tax revenue to meet its obligations and save for a rainy day. Over the last decade, New Jersey allowed its millionaires tax to expire, phased out the estate tax on wealthy heirs, cut taxes for corporations, and cut the sales tax. State lawmakers will surely miss these billions of dollars in foregone revenue when the next economic downturn hits. [NJ Spotlight / John Reitmeyer]


$500 Million

Earlier this week, Governor Murphy announced a plan to replace lead water pipes across the state over the next ten years. This effort would be funded by a $500 million bond initiative, which would go towards replacing lead service lines in publicly owned water systems. This is a good starting point, but it would not address the lead problem entirely. The American Water Works Association estimates that replacing all 350,000 lead service lines in New Jersey, including privately owned systems, would cost $2.3 billion. [NJ.com / Michael Sol Warren]


8.7 Percent

The average premium in the private insurance market will increase by 8.7 percent next year as a result of rising medical care costs. This is still 1.4 percent lower than the average cost of premiums two years ago, however, and many residents will have higher costs offset by state and federal assistance. Nevertheless, the high rate for next year is another example of how New Jersey must do much more to keep premiums at affordable levels, especially as the Trump administration sabotages the Affordable Care Act. According to NJPP’s Ray Castro, a good place to start would be passing legislation to reduce the exorbitant cost of prescription drugs. [NJ Spotlight / Lilo Stainton]


ICYMI

NJPP’s Erika Nava appeared on News 12 to discuss the widespread benefits of driver’s license expansion. The proposal would boost public safety as more drivers are trained, tested, and insured before they get behind the wheel. And as Erika explains, it’s also a matter of fairness: “If you live here in New Jersey, you’re a New Jerseyan. And you should be treated as such.” [News 12 New Jersey]


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