Friday Facts and Figures

Friday Facts and Figures: August 4, 2023

New Jersey loses a progressive champion. School board in Bergen County eliminates, then reinstates, mental health services.

Published on Aug 5, 2023 in General

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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New Jersey lost a progressive champion this week with the passing of Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver. The first Black woman to serve as Speaker of the Assembly, Oliver dedicated her life to public service at the local and state levels. During her tenure in the Legislature, she spearheaded efforts for marriage equality, to raise the minimum wage for all workers, and was the original sponsor of the Temp Workers’ Bill of Rights. Our deepest condolences go out to the Oliver family. [Politico / Ry Rivard and Daniel Han]


Public education is under attack across the country, and New Jersey is no exception. Just last week, a faction of right-wing “parents’ rights” school board members voted to eliminate mental health services for the Ramapo Indian Hills district in northern Bergen County. The surprise vote, which shocked students, parents, and district employees, would have left roughly 56 students without mental health services in the upcoming school year. Fortunately, the school board held a special meeting this past Tuesday to reinstate the mental health services in response to widespread criticism and pushback from within the community. Big shoutout to Marsha Stoltz at The Record for breaking the story last week. [NJ Spotlight News / Brenda Flanagan]

$1.6 Billion

A new report finds that sales tax holidays — like New Jersey’s back-to-school holiday — come at a significant cost while providing minimal benefits to families who need the most help. The 19 states with sales tax holidays planned for this year are expected to lose a collective $1.6 billion dollars, with most savings going to wealthier households since they have flexibility to shift the timing of their spending to take advantage of the tax break. [Chalkboard News / Julian Roberts-Grmela]

New Record

With state lawmakers considering fare hikes and service cuts for NJ Transit, the DC metro region shows a better path forward. The public bus system in Alexandria, DASH, has increased service frequency and eliminated fares entirely — and they’re setting new ridership records as a result. Roughly 4.5 million riders have boarded DASH buses this year, a 200,000 increase from the previous record set in 2015. Who would have guessed that more people want to use public transit when the trip is free and service is frequent? [DCist / Margaret Barthel]


With congestion pricing turning into a game of political football, The Star-Ledger Editorial Board brings some hard facts to debate, outlining how this will reduce traffic (good), reduce air pollution (also good), and help fund a subway system that 200,000 New Jerseyans use daily (also good). The editorial also quotes NJPP Policy Analyst Alex Ambrose, who noted, “In every city where it’s implemented, all the science shows that congestion pricing reduces traffic and air pollution.” [The Star-Ledger / Editorial Board]

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