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: 13,591,131
Fully Vaccinated People: 6,446,689
[New Jersey Department of Health / COVID-19 Dashboard]
New year, new minimum wage! On January 1, many New Jersey minimum wage workers received a welcome increase in pay to $13 per hour. This increase, totaling about $2,000 a year for full-time minimum wage workers, will help families across New Jersey make ends meet, especially amid financial pressures from the pandemic. But as NJPP’s Research Director Nicole Rodriguez highlights here, more work remains before all workers can afford basic needs as the state’s minimum wage law does not treat all workers alike. [NJPP / Nicole Rodriguez]
In bittersweet news, a scaled-down version of the Reproductive Freedom Act was voted out of committee on Thursday. The bill, which does not mention the word ‘abortion’ once, would codify the right to an abortion in state law. However, instead of an insurance mandate to reduce financial barriers to time-sensitive reproductive care, the bill commands the Department of Banking and Insurance to conduct an affordability study, a first step toward addressing policy change. In testimony delivered to the committees, NJPP Senior Policy Analyst Sheila Reynertson noted the bill “does absolutely nothing to make sure that everyone — regardless of income, ZIP code, insurance coverage, or immigration status — can make personal health care decisions with dignity.” [NJ.com / Susan Livio]
The New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA) is still allowing businesses receiving corporate tax breaks to self-report job creation data without independent oversight or auditing, according to a new report by the state Comptroller’s office. How is this possible? The report highlights how the EDA has not acted on three of the comptroller’s 21 recommendations made in 2019 to reform tax incentive programs so companies only receive tax credits they qualify for. “Handing out corporate tax credits based on the promise of ‘job creation’ works only if the state routinely verifies that the jobs are actually created,” NJPP’s Sheila Reynertson said in a statement. “Unfortunately, no such verification system is in place.” [NJ Monitor / Dana DiFilippo]
Some good public health news: a proposal to make it easier for new syringe exchanges to open was voted out of committee on Thursday and now heads to the Senate and Assembly for a full vote on Monday. Harm reduction services and syringe access are the best tools we have for preventing overdose deaths — but only when these programs are able to open and operate. Current law makes it near-impossible for new programs to open (only seven exist in the entire state), and this legislation would fix that. [Insider NJ]
There’s renewed interest in how local governments award public contracts after an audit found the Pennsauken school district lost $1.6 million in savings because of flawed advice from their insurance broker. Despite calls for reform almost a decade ago, many towns and school districts still spend millions on insurance coverage without meaningful oversight or safeguards to suss out politically-connected, self-serving brokers. The lack of meaningful reform allows local officials to award contracts to their friends and donors. Making matters worse, a dearth of local news coverage means local governments face less scrutiny than ever before. [NJ Spotlight News / Jeff Pillets]
NJPP Research Director Nicole Rodriguez spoke with News 12 earlier this week to discuss the latest increase in the minimum wage and its impact on low-paid workers. “This is life-changing, every time we have a minimum wage increase,” Nicole said. Watch the clip here. [News 12 New Jersey]
Mark your Calendar! On Tuesday, January 11, Governor Murphy will deliver his annual State of the State address. Looking for a potent and on-point breakdown of his priorities and proposals? Join NJPP for a special, donors-only rapid response Zoom call on Thursday, January 13 from 12:00 pm – 12:30 pm. Want to join in? Email Jennifer Fekete-Donners, Development Director, to check your donor status and reserve your space today!
Pets of NJPP
In the spirit of the lame duck session, this week’s Pets of NJPP are of the bird variety. Meet NJPP Interim President Jon Shure’s zebra finches. No, they’re not ducks, but they keep great company and are industrious nest builders. Beep beep!
Have a fact or figure for us? Tweet it to @NJPolicy.