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: 170,196 | Deaths: 13,018
[New Jersey Department of Health / COVID-19 Dashboard]
Cuts, cuts, and more cuts. That’s how state lawmakers plan on balancing New Jersey’s budget in their new three-month spending bill, which was introduced Thursday morning and then immediately passed by the Assembly Budget Committee later in the day. The $7.7 billion proposal, which will fund state government through the end of September, will buy state lawmakers more time to craft a budget for the remainder of next year (remember, New Jersey is the only state that extended its budget deadline due to the uncertainty brought on by the pandemic). In a statement, NJPP President Brandon McKoy slammed the budget, stating that it was written in secrecy with zero public hearings, giving reporters, advocates, and lawmakers little time to read the bill before it was voted out of committee. It also lacks any new sources of revenue, such as the millionaires’ tax, which would have helped prevent cuts to public programs. [NJ.com / Samantha Marcus]
The state budget proposed by the Murphy administration (which is closely mirrored by the Legislature’s proposal referenced above) would cut more than $1.4 million from initiatives that directly support racial equity, including anti-bias training for law enforcement and programs to end racial disparities in pay. The Rev. Charles Boyer of Salvation and Social Justice described the cuts as “tone deaf to the moment,” given the ongoing national protests against police brutality and systemic racism. This should serve as a stark reminder that state budgets are a racial justice issue, and that elected leaders must put their money where their mouth is if they truly support equity. It’s also worth mentioning that New Jersey’s budget does not have to solely rely on cuts. Lawmakers could have ended Christie-era tax breaks for the state’s wealthiest families — who are overwhelmingly white — but chose not to. [NorthJersey.com / Stacey Barchenger]
Government stimulus is an effective tool at alleviating poverty and minimizing the harm of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to two new studies by researchers at Columbia University and the University of Chicago. Since the pandemic hit, federal aid has increased safety net spending by $460 million across the country. This relief has prevented sharp spikes in poverty that researchers predicted given the unprecedented job loss brought on by the pandemic. By some measures, poverty is actually down and incomes are up for the nation’s lowest paid families. This is strong evidence for the federal government to continue aid that is set to expire — and for state lawmakers to find ways to spend more, not less, on relief for families in need. [The New York Times / Jason DeParle]
Speaking of federal funding, the Trump administration plans to end its support for 13 federally funded coronavirus testing sites at the end of the month, including two drive-through testing centers in New Jersey. This decision comes days after the President’s call to “slow the testing down” as a way to lower the number of positive COVID-19 cases. While the number of new positive cases continues to decline in New Jersey, the U.S. is setting new daily records for new cases seemingly every day. Expanded testing was also a key pillar of Governor Murphy’s plan to slowly reopen the state’s businesses, so time will tell if this decision will harm the state’s reopening plans going forward. [NBC News / Geoff Bennett]
The Trump administration has joined several Republican-controlled states in a new attempt to have the U.S. Supreme Court invalidate the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Approximately 595,000 New Jerseyans would lose their health care if the ACA were repealed, and another 181,000 residents would lose their tax credits to help subsidize their coverage. If this lawsuit is successful, it could end protections for those with pre-existing conditions, the expansion of Medicaid, and subsidies that help make insurance affordable for low-paid families. [NJ.com / Jonathan D. Salant]
Tune in Monday
On Monday, NJPP will release a new report on New Jersey’s primary ballot design and how it has shaped election outcomes for more than two decades. The report, authored by Rutgers professor Julia Sass Rubin, compares New Jersey’s primary ballots with those in every other state and finds that they allow party insiders to pick primary election winners. This is a report release you won’t want to miss. Tune in on Monday at 10:30am using this link! [NJPP / Facebook Live]
Plants of NJPP
We ran out of NJPP pets to highlight, so here’s a picture of David Nelson’s plants! Apologies to those who look forward to the pet pictures every week. If you have a pet that you’d like to have featured, please email me a photo and some fun facts to include in the write up!
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