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: 165,816 | Deaths: 12,443
[New Jersey Department of Health / COVID-19 Dashboard]
A new proposal to cut the police department’s budget and redirect up to $15 million toward community-based anti-violence efforts is quickly advancing through the Newark City Council. The ordinance, introduced by Mayor Ras Baraka and passed by the council with just one abstention, would redirect 5% to 7% of the department’s $229 million budget to establish an Office of Violence Prevention, which will manage policy and programs to advance anti-violence initiatives. The city will also develop community-based anti-violence programs, make racist acts a fireable offense for city employees, and close the 1st Precinct, the site of the 1967 Newark uprisings, to establish a museum on the progress of the city’s police force. Some local advocates think the proposal doesn’t go far enough, however, saying that resources would be better spent on public infrastructure projects like replacing the city’s lead water lines. [TAPinto Newark / M.E. Cagnassola]
More than half of a million government workers across the nation — 585,000 — lost their jobs during the month of May. This is a direct result of state and local governments facing deep budget shortfalls due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The job loss is projected to get much worse without immediate and significant federal aid to state and local governments. “These layoffs are happening as we speak. It’s not theoretical,” said Governor Phil Murphy, who warned that New Jersey may be forced to lay off teachers, firefighters, and EMS workers in the coming weeks. Making matters worse, state and local layoffs disproportionately harm Black residents, who make up a large share of the public workforce. In May, House Democrats proposed approximately $1 billion in additional state and local aid in the HEROES Act, but the bill was immediately rejected by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. [Politico / Megan Cassella and Eleanor Mueller]
New Jersey was unprepared for the current economic downturn due to years’ worth of short-sighted tax and budget policy decisions. Specifically, the state failed to build up a healthy budget reserve, leaving state lawmakers without a sufficient Rainy Day Fund to fill the multi-billion dollar budget shortfalls brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. For years, state and national budget experts — including NJPP — urged lawmakers to build up a robust reserve fund, but these warnings fell on deaf ears. If New Jersey had saved the 50-state median for reserves, the state would have $5 billion to prevent against damaging cuts to public services and programs. Instead, the state has one of the worst-funded Rainy Day Funds in the nation and now must rely on a combination of federal aid, borrowing, and new revenue to balance this and next year’s budgets. [NJ Spotlight / John Reitmeyer]
By raising the income tax on the state’s wealthiest households, New Jersey lawmakers could raise over $1.5 billion to support the COVID-19 recovery, according to a new report by NJPP Senior Policy Analyst Sheila Reynertson. The report finds that New Jersey’s income tax code is outdated, inadequate, and unfair, and that reform is necessary to stabilize the state’s finances and prevent damaging cuts to public services that communities rely on. The income tax reforms would go beyond the “millionaires’ tax” proposed by Governor Murphy, and would create new income tax brackets at $250,000 and $1 million, and slightly increase the tax rate at the existing $500,000 and $5 million brackets. “Fixing the tax code is the best way for lawmakers to put into practice the values and priorities we hold as a state,” said Sheila Reynertson in the report release. “This moment presents a big opportunity for New Jersey to advance racial equity and invest in the building blocks of a strong economy that works for everyone.” [NJPP / Sheila Reynertson]
More than 80,000 children in New Jersey are currently uninsured and without access to comprehensive health coverage. This is not only a threat to public health, but also an issue of racial justice. “New Jersey’s communities of color have not only been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, but their children, particularly black and Hispanic children, are disproportionately represented among those without health insurance coverage,” said Dr. Brittany Holom, NJPP Senior Policy Analyst. Earlier this week, advocates from the NJ for Health Care coalition urged lawmakers to advance “Cover All Kids” legislation that would expand eligibility in the state’s NJ FamilyCare program and increase funding for outreach and enrollment efforts. [NJ 101.5 / Patrick Lavery]
Join us next Thursday for the next event in NJPP’s Progress 2020 virtual speaker series: The Recovery Starts Local. This discussion will focus on the challenges faced by local governments in responding to the pandemic and new proposals that would allow states and localities to borrow from the federal government. Featuring NJPP’s Sheila Reynertson and Marc Pfeiffer, Assistant Director of The Bloustein Center for Local Government Research at Rutgers University, this event will be moderated by yours truly. Register using the link. [NJPP / Progress 2020]
Pets of NJPP
We’ve already featured Nicole Rodriguez’s two pets before, but now they’re living under the same roof! The important context here is that Cherry and Bernie are notorious frenemies. Cherry, the pit bull, is mostly terrified of Bernie, the cat, but that doesn’t stop Cherry from trying to steal Bernie’s food on a daily basis.
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