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: 14,538,923
Fully Vaccinated People: 6,926,231
[New Jersey Department of Health / COVID-19 Dashboard]
Budget best-practice alert! Earlier this week, NJPP’s Sheila Reynertson joined former Senate President Steve Sweeney at the State House to roll out a new report calling for multi-year budgeting and consensus revenue forecasting. These reforms, widely adopted across the country, would require lawmakers to take a long-term view of the state’s finances when adopting state budgets. “The consequences are right there on paper, so it also has a chance to stop short those politically convenient maneuvers that tend to dominate when we do a budget year-by-year, what I call whack-a-mole style,” said Reynertson. [NJ Monitor / Nikita Biryukov]
New Jersey is facing a big shortfall this budget season, but for once it’s not a shortfall of dollars and cents, writes NJPP founder Jon Shure in a new op-ed. Instead, it’s a shortfall of political will, compassion, and foresight — or at least it will be, unless lawmakers pass a budget that meets the moment and helps low-income families recover from the pandemic. To advance equity and build an economy that works for everyone, Jon Shure recommends this year’s record budget surplus be used to provide immediate relief to residents struggling the most, investing in community infrastructure, and bolstering the state’s rainy day fund. [NJ.com / Jon Shure]
Last year, Governor Murphy announced the Cover All Kids initiative to make sure every child in New Jersey has high-quality, comprehensive health coverage. At the time, more than 80,000 kids in New Jersey were uninsured due to difficulties enrolling, not being eligible for care, and the high cost of existing coverage options. The first phase of Cover All Kids was a big success, but approximately 36,000 children remain uninsured unless state lawmakers continue to implement and fund the initiative in this year’s budget. [NJPP / Brittany Holom-Trundy]
The Senate Health Committee approved a package of bills earlier this week aimed at strengthening the state’s child care infrastructure. Taken together, the proposals would increase access to affordable child care and help child care centers attract and maintain workers through targeted tax credits and funding to recruit and train more staff. One bill would expand eligibility for child care subsidies to low- and moderate-income families earning up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level, or $83,250 for a family of four. [NJ Monitor / Nikita Biryukov]
Some good news out of Newark: The Board of Education and the district’s teachers union agreed to across-the-board teacher pay increases last week. Newark, like the rest of the state, is facing a teacher shortage due in part to stagnant pay and a decline in health benefits over the last decade. The new contract sets the starting salary for teachers at $62,000, making Newark “one of the most competitive urban school systems in the northeast,” according to Superintendent Roger León. An NJPP report released earlier this month called on the state and local governments to increase teacher pay and benefits to bolster the state’s teacher pipeline. [Chalkbeat Newark / Catherine Carrera]
An editorial in The Star-Ledger makes a strong case for abolishing “the line” on New Jersey’s primary ballots, citing NJPP research that candidates on “the line” received an average 35 percentage point bump in the 2020 primary election. And here’s what the editorial had to say about the lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the state’s primary ballots: “It’s time somebody did that, because the ballot used in 19 of New Jersey’s 21 counties is not democracy. It is a mechanism that has been rigged to protect the machine’s candidate.” [The Star-Ledger / Editorial Board]
Pets of NJPP
This week’s “pets” come from DALL-E, an AI model that generates images from any prompt you give it. The NJPP team (mostly Peter) has spent way too much time making funny images with the AI model over the last few days, from the dogs working from home (see below) to George Costanza wearing a Batman costume to Governor Murphy dunking a basketball. Try it out for yourself here. Woof!
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