Friday Facts and Figures is a weekly newsletter with data points, analysis, and commentary on the biggest policy debates in New Jersey and beyond.
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Vaccine Doses: 10,714,661
Fully Vaccinated People: 5,398,012
[New Jersey Department of Health / COVID-19 Dashboard]
It’s official: New Jersey is much bigger — and more diverse — than it was ten years ago! This is according to new Census data, released yesterday, outlining where New Jersey’s 9.29 residents live. The state’s urban areas and densest counties, namely Essex and Hudson, fueled most of the population growth while New Jersey’s rural and southern counties actually lost population. Taken as a whole, New Jersey continues to grow despite erroneous claims of residents “fleeing” the state. Look out for a deep dive in the new Census numbers, and what they mean for redistricting, next week by NJPP Senior Policy Analyst Peter Chen. [NJ Spotlight News / Colleen O’Dea]
Earlier this week, Fitch Ratings upgraded New Jersey’s credit outlook from “negative” to “positive” in response to the state’s improving finances and the full pension payment included in the latest state budget. This should serve as more proof that raising revenue through progressive tax policy is good for the state’s fiscal health. For context, New Jersey received 11 credit downgrades during the Christie administration — a record number of downgrades under any one governor in the nation’s history — as the state cut taxes and, as a result, fell behind on meeting the state’s pension payments. For the state to upgrade its credit rating, Fitch recommends that lawmakers continue to bolster New Jersey’s reserves in future budgets. [NJ.com / Samantha Marcus]
There’s a renewed push in Congress, led by Rep. Josh Gottheimer, to reinstate the full state and local tax (SALT) deduction, which was capped at $10,000 in 2017. The problem? The SALT deduction disproportionately benefits wealthy families, with the top one percent of earners receiving the largest tax break if the SALT cap is fully repealed. Instead, federal lawmakers should consider alternatives to a full repeal, such as raising the cap or limiting how much high-earners could deduct. “When it comes to the topic of SALT, the facts are really straightforward,” NJPP President Brandon McKoy told New Jersey Monitor. “Lawmakers can pursue repeal, just don’t say it’s progressive policy or advancing equity.” [New Jersey Monitor / Daniel Vock]
This week, Acting Governor Sheila Oliver signed into law a new two-year pilot program to help young people reintegrate into their communities after leaving juvenile detention. Camden, Newark, Paterson, and Trenton will receive a portion of the $4.2 million allocated under the new program to create support service hubs that will offer mentoring, substance abuse treatment, and employment services. This pilot program marks an important shift away from punishment and toward restorative justice. As it stands, New Jersey spends $53 million on juvenile detention centers compared to a mere $16 million on youth community programs. [WHYY / P. Kenneth Burns]
The nation’s criminal justice approach to substance use and addiction isn’t backed up by any hard science or evidence, writes Bridgeton Mayor Albert Kelly highlights in a new op-ed. This is reflected in the ongoing overdose crisis, which claimed the lives of 3,046 New Jersey residents in 2020. Current research is showing us that drug addiction has less to do with substances themselves, and more to do with addictive behavior, especially when compared to non-drug “addictions” — such as food, gambling, and social media. This insight can help dictate the next steps in fighting the overdose crisis by utilizing compassion-driven, trauma-informed care and a public health approach to drug use through harm reduction services and decriminalizing all drugs. [NJ.com / Albert B. Kelly]
Did you know the word “taxpayer” has racist roots? A mainstay in modern political debate, the term was originally used during Reconstruction to derail policies implemented by recently freed Black lawmakers in southern state legislatures as intrinsically corrupt. Today, the word remains coded for white people — especially homeowners and business owners — even though we all pay taxes. [In The Public Interest / Jeremy Mohler]
Pets of NJPP
No one sent me any pictures of their pets this week (don’t worry, I’m not mad, just disappointed), so here’s another photo of NJPP President Brandon McKoy’s dog, Scout. Woof!
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