Friday Facts and Figures: September 27, 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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FBI Investigation

FBI agents are investigating New Jersey’s corporate tax subsidy programs, according to a new report by the Philadelphia Inquirer. From the article: “Among their areas of interest has been the development boom in Camden, which has been fueled by $1.6 billion in tax breaks that the state’s Economic Development Authority (EDA) awarded to companies there since 2013.” The investigation, out of the US Attorney’s Office in Philadelphia, is reportedly in its early stages. Agents have interviewed potential witnesses over the last month. [Philadelphia Inquirer / Jeremy Roebuck, Andrew Seidman, and Catherine Dunn]


$100 Million

Twelve New Jersey-based companies threatened to move to the same office park in Pearl River, NY — right on the New York-New Jersey border — unless the state offered them millions in corporate tax subsidies. The result: none of the companies followed through on the threat to move, and the EDA awarded them more than $100 million in combined tax breaks. According to the office park’s leasing agent, the companies used the site to “maximize their incentive packages” from New Jersey, and had no real intention of moving there. This is the latest example of how New Jersey’s corporate subsidy programs enabled fraud and abuse. It also underscores the need for an interstate corporate tax subsidy ceasefire between New Jersey and neighboring states. [New York Times / Nick Corasaniti and Matthew Haag]


Highest Level

Income inequality in the United States has reached its highest level since the Census Bureau began tracking it in 1967. The Gini index, which measures wealth distribution (zero represents total equality while 1 represents total inequality) increased to 0.485 in 2018. To put this number in perspective, the Gini index was 0.397 in 1967, and no European nation had a score higher than 0.38 last year. Increasing inequality, despite a growing economy, shows that growth is not shared widely. More can and must be done to ensure everyone has the opportunity to live a safe and healthy life. [Washington Post / Taylor Telford]


832,133

More New Jersey residents lived in poverty in 2018 than prior to the Great Recession, according to new Census data. In total, 832,133 New Jerseyans were living in poverty in 2018, representing 9.5 percent of the state’s population. This rate remains higher than in 2008, when 8.7 percent of residents lived in poverty. Due to a history of exclusionary economic and social policies, the rate of poverty is even higher for people of color. Lawmakers must continue to prioritize low-income workers, communities of color, and impoverished New Jerseyans who face barriers to success. As NJPP President Brandon McKoy states, “Until we can ensure all New Jerseyans are able to safely and reliably make ends meet, our economy will continue to have trouble growing in a healthy manner.” [Insider NJ / NJPP]


No Discernible Effect

Raising the minimum wage in New York had a positive effect on average wages and no discernible effect on employment, according to a new analysis by economists at the New York Fed. The report measured the impact of New York’s increasing minimum wage on two low-paid industries, hospitality services and retail, in nineteen New York-Pennsylvania border counties (Pennsylvania’s minimum wage is currently $7.25 an hour). This contributes to the mounting evidence showing increases in the minimum wage are good for workers and the broader economy — and no, the sky won’t fall, and jobs won’t disappear if workers are paid a more-living wage. [Federal Reserve Bank of New York / Jason Bram, Fatih Karahan, and Brendan Moore]


ICYMI

Rutgers University President Robert Barchi urged New Jersey lawmakers to expand access to driver’s licenses to all state residents, regardless of their immigration status. In a letter to legislative leaders, President Barchi recommended hearings on driver’s license expansion “as soon as possible” as the policy would benefit DREAMer students who commute to the university’s campuses in New Brunswick, Newark, Camden, and Piscataway. As NJPP has previously reported, ensuring all drivers are trained, tested, and insured will make roads safer for all and provide a boost to local economies across the state. [The Daily Targum / Brenda Brightman]


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