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After a frenzied week in Trenton, New Jersey has a new $54.3 billion budget. While it includes some investments worth celebrating, those are overshadowed by a $1 billion corporate tax cut, hundreds of millions of dollars for Hollywood studios and private developers, and an overhaul of the corporate tax code that makes it easier for companies to hide their profits overseas. Even worse than the regressive tax cuts was the process by which the budget was passed, where lawmakers voted on a flawed bill (it was literally full of errors) before anyone had a chance to read it or testify on it. More on that below. [Gothamist / Nancy Solomon]
In a new op-ed, NJPP’s Peter Chen details his experience at the State House this week and outlines three ways to fix New Jersey’s budget process. Here’s a sneak peak of this must-read op-ed: “It’s less than an hour away from triggering a state shutdown. A handful of advocates, reporters and members of the public are sitting in a near-empty committee room. No one has seen a copy of the $54 billion-plus budget that’s about to be voted on. Does this sound familiar? On Wednesday night, this exact scene was giving many budget observers, including myself, déja vu. It was Trenton’s version of Groundhog Day, where the faces change, but the result remains the same.” [NJ Spotlight News / Peter Chen]
In some good budget news, New Jersey lawmakers have doubled the state’s Child Tax Credit, with the maximum benefit increasing from $500 to $1,000. This change partially reflects recommendations made by NJPP’s Peter Chen in a report released earlier this year and will help hundreds of thousands of families with young kids keep up with rising costs. Given the success of the program, lawmakers should continue expanding the credit in future years with higher benefit levels and expanded eligibility so older kids also qualify. [NJ Monitor / Nikita Biryukov]
You know who’s not struggling to make ends meet? Hollywood studios and their millionaire executives. But that hasn’t stopped lawmakers from handing them hundreds of millions of dollars in tax credits (it also hasn’t stopped Hollywood executives from sending us nasty emails about the NJPP analysis linked here, but that’s a story for a different day). While proponents of film and TV tax incentives say they benefit the broader economy, all of the available data and evidence suggest the opposite. This expansion specifically will cost the state $200 million annually, erode safeguards against abuse, and make it impossible to project the total costs of approved projects. “Every study shows that this is a negative return on investment,” NJPP’s Peter Chen told Variety. “The economic gains generated by these programs are ephemeral.” [Variety / Gene Maddaus]
The NJPP team shared their thoughts on the state budget in the statements linked here. Click through for our immediate reactions on the expansion of the Child Tax Credit, elimination of public defender fees, another raid of the Clean Energy Fund, and the cancellation of medical debt for low- and moderate-income income residents. [NJPP / Nicole Rodriguez, Peter Chen, Marleina Ubel, Alex Ambrose, Brittany Holom-Trundy]
TikToks of NJPP
No pet this week, but if you watch carefully, you’ll catch a glimpse of one of Erica’s cats in this reaction to the new state budget on TikTok. [NJPP]
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