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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COVID-19 Cases: 176,501 | Deaths: 13,691
[New Jersey Department of Health / COVID-19 Dashboard]
On Thursday evening, Governor Murphy signed the COVID-19 Emergency Bond Act into law, allowing New Jersey to borrow up to $9.9 billion to address revenue shortfalls brought on by the pandemic. While state borrowing should always be viewed with skepticism, borrowing at this level is necessary for New Jersey to keep the state running and provide relief to the families and small businesses who need it most. The bill gives final bonding authority to a four-member select committee of lawmakers; Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin announced they will serve on the panel alongside Senate and Assembly budget committee chairs Senator Paul Sarlo and Assemblywoman Eliana Pintor Marin. As the bill was debated on the Senate floor, some lawmakers pleaded for diversity in the panel to ensure Black and Latinx legislators could play a role in the new committee. This proposed change was voted down. “You can’t talk about Black Lives Matter, and change names from freeholder to this and that, and yet not stand up when it’s time to stand up for diversity,” said Senator Nia Gill. [NJ Spotlight / John Reitmeyer]
On Tuesday, families harmed by the pandemic and advocates in the For The Many coalition gathered at a marina in Jersey City to highlight Christie-era tax breaks for wealthy families that cost the state billions of dollars in revenue every year. Demonstrators pointed to a 2015 tax break on yacht purchases, which is estimated to cost the state $15 million annually in foregone revenue. This is a prime example of how the state tax code prioritizes the interests of wealthy households over those of low-paid workers and their families. “It’s almost 130 days that our communities have been without relief; no money for rent; no income, no money for food, no health care,” said Make the Road NJ organizer Deya Aldana. “And when we call Trenton, what do we hear? There’s no money. We have to make cuts; billions and billions of dollars in cuts. How can this be true. Look behind us. We see all of these boats. Look at all the boats behind us. We are a wealthy state. We are a state of millionaires and billionaires, and we are a state rich with the power of working class people.” [NJTV News / David Cruz]
Immigrant families in New Jersey have gone more than 130 days without any state or federal pandemic relief. Members of Make the Road New Jersey camped outside of the statehouse last night to urge lawmakers to provide relief for all families — regardless of their immigration status. “It has been very unjust for our community,” said Edison Hernandez, who is camping outside of the New Jersey Statehouse with his 15 year-old son. “We pay taxes, we deserve to have recovery for all.” Make the Road is calling for a weekly stipend for undocumented workers who have lost their jobs but don’t qualify for unemployment benefits. According to an NJPP report published in June, undocumented workers have paid more than $1.2 billion into federal and state unemployment insurance funds over the last decade. [WNYC / Karen Yi]
One way the state could make the tax code fairer — especially for immigrant families who pay taxes but are excluded from most social safety net programs — is by expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). By increasing the program’s eligibility to immigrant workers who file taxes with an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN), state lawmakers could improve the economic security and wellbeing of families who have fallen on tough times. According to a new report by NJPP Policy Analyst Vineeta Kapahi, extending the EITC to ITIN filers would benefit an estimated 54,100 households in the state, assuming current participation rates. This would add an estimated $54.5 million to the state economy, benefitting workers and businesses alike as families have more money to spend in their communities. For those not familiar with the EITC, it is a refundable tax credit for low- and moderately-paid households that can be claimed when you file your tax returns. [NJPP / Vineeta Kapahi]
New Jersey has a big opportunity to make health care more affordable and expand coverage, writes NJPP Policy Analyst Brittany Holom in a new explainer. How? The state can pick up more than $300 million in annual revenue that the federal government is about to abandon by establishing a Health Insurance Assessment (HIA). As Brittany outlines, the HIA is a federal fee on health insurance companies that helps fund the Affordable Care Act. The fee is set to expire at the end of the year, however, giving states the opportunity to take on the assessment without raising insurers’ payments. This could help fund initiatives like health coverage for all kids, subsidies to low-income residents, or even a public plan on the ACA market. [NJPP / Brittany Holom]
Watch the latest Progress 2020 virtual event, Rethinking Corporate Tax Subsidies, where NJPP Trustee Julia Sass Rubin moderated a discussion on ways state economic development strategies can center equity, communities, and workers, not failed trickle-down ideology. Here’s a taste of what to expect: “Tax credits should be used in moderation. In the dash or pinch quantities, not the main meal,” said New Jersey Economic Development Authority CEO Tim Sullivan. “For all of the investment we made in tax credits [over the last decade], we were 42nd in job creation and 49th in wage growth.” [NJPP / Progress 2020]
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