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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COVID-19 Cases: 692,931 | Deaths: 20,816
[New Jersey Department of Health / COVID-19 Dashboard]
It’s every policy wonk’s favorite time of year: budget season! In his annual budget address this past Tuesday, Governor Murphy proposed big investments to fund the state’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The budget proposal increases funding for public health, schools (pre-K through college), transit, and support for working families. These are all key drivers of strong communities and a strong economic recovery. The budget includes no new taxes as it relies on stronger than anticipated revenue collections and billions of dollars in borrowed funds from the current fiscal year. More on that below. [NJ.com / Samantha Marcus]
One big question mark hangs over Governor Murphy’s budget proposal: does New Jersey have the resources to sustainably fund these new investments? That’s why, on Monday, advocates from For The Many NJ called on lawmakers to #FundTheRecovery by closing corporate tax loopholes and ending Christie-era tax cuts. By bringing the sales tax back to 7 percent, reinstating the estate tax, and closing loopholes in the state’s combined reporting law, New Jersey can raise more than $1 billion annually to invest in our communities. “This year, like past years, our state needs to continue to adopt new, fairly derived and sustainable funding sources,” said Dena Mottola Jaborska, Associate Director of New Jersey Citizen Action. “There are still plenty of meritless tax advantages that the wealthy enjoy here in our state.” [NJ 101.5 / Michael Symons]
Governor Murphy’s budget proposes a full payment into the state pension fund — the first full payment since 1996. This is incredible news, both for the retirement security of 800,000 public workers and for the state’s finances. After Governor Christie Todd Whitman cut the state income tax in 1994, state lawmakers routinely skipped full pension payments, often making no payment at all. This kicked the can down the road, leaving future taxpayers (read: us, right now) to make up for the deferred payments. With a full pension payment, one of the nation’s most underfunded pension systems is on a path to fiscal solvency. [The Wall Street Journal / Joseph De Avila]
In non-budget news, cannabis is now legal in New Jersey! With the stroke of a pen, Governor Murphy signed three bills into law on Monday morning that decriminalize marijuana and set up the regulatory framework for a legal cannabis market. New Jersey is now the 14th state in the nation to legalize cannabis. This follows more than three years of negotiations, a lopsided ballot question, and a last minute mixup over how to handle penalties for those under 21. This is huge news and a big step towards abolishing the failed drug war. A big congratulations to everyone who helped make this possible! [NJ.com / Amanda Hoover]
There’s a new universal basic income pilot program in New Jersey! In Paterson, 100 low-income residents will be selected at random to receive $400 a month, no strings attached. The program, funded by a donation from Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, is open to single residents earning less than $30,000 and families with a combined income under $88,000. Applications are expected to go live next month. [News 12 New Jersey]
Calling all current or newly-minted graduate students — NJPP is looking for a summer fellow! The Kathleen Crotty Fellowship honors the legacy of our late board chair with an intensive, paid summer experience researching policy under the guidance of policy analysts at NJPP. Applications are due by March 1. [NJPP / Crotty Fellowship]
Congratulations to NJPP President Brandon McKoy on being named to the 2021 ROI-NJ Influencers: Power List! ROI-NJ correctly notes that Brandon pushes for policies backed by hard facts and figures, and he isn’t afraid to push elected officials when they don’t deliver on their progressive promises. [ROI-NJ / Influencers: Power List]
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