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: 14,493,935
Fully Vaccinated People: 6,916,913
[New Jersey Department of Health / COVID-19 Dashboard]
First, some good budget news: New Jersey has a whopping $12 billion (!!!) surplus over the next two years thanks to stronger than expected revenue collections. As NJPP’s Sheila Reynertson told News 12, this provides lawmakers with a historic opportunity — and obligation — to direct relief to low- and middle-income families, not profitable corporations and special interests. And there’s no need to reinvent the wheel; lawmakers can support those who need the most help by strengthening and expanding programs that we know work. For starters, lawmakers can increase cash assistance in WorkFirst NJ, expand the Earned Income Tax Credit, and establish a state-level Child Tax Credit for families with young children based on the widely successful federal Child Tax Credit expansion. [News 12 / Alex Zdan]
Now for some not-so-good budget news: State lawmakers are poised to use a good chunk of the state’s surplus on a business tax cut worth hundreds of millions of dollars. The proposals, which sailed through committee earlier this week, would use the state’s surplus to shore up the state’s unemployment insurance fund so businesses wouldn’t have to (note that workers will continue to pair their fair share into the fund). The total cost? $375 million to pay off federal unemployment loans, plus $170 million in tax credits. At the committee hearing, which was packed with business lobbyists, NJPP’s Sheila Reynertson asked: “With the state economy already on firmer footing, why are businesses asking for yet another tax cut when we know that there are immediate needs of others who experienced substantially more severe impact from the pandemic?” [NJ Monitor / Nikita Biryukov]
Social and consumer advocates were at the State House earlier this week in support of a bill that would ban auto insurance companies from using non-driving factors — like a person’s job, education level, and credit score — to determine their insurance rate. The practice has a discriminatory effect, resulting in people of color and low-wage drivers paying more for insurance than drivers who are white and wealthier. “The predatory practice of charging Black and brown drivers higher rates based on factors having nothing to do with their driving records is unjustifiable,” said incoming NJPP President Nicole Rodriguez. Watch TV coverage of the press conference here, courtesy of NJ Spotlight News. [Gothamist / Karen Yi]
State lawmakers held a hearing on the sky-high injury rate at Amazon warehouses earlier this week in response to a recent report by NJPP and Rutgers labor professor Carmen Martino. In testimony given to the committee, NJPP’s Nicole Rodriguez outlined three ways lawmakers can better protect workers in the Garden State: Allow employees to form health and safety committees at each worksite; rein in dangerous productivity quotas and give workers permission to opt out of unsafe work; and establish stronger penalties and enforcement mechanisms to promote compliance. [NJPP / Nicole Rodriguez]
Revenue from legal cannabis sales is required to go toward communities harmed most by the War on Drugs. The state, however, has yet to outline how or where these funds will be spent. That’s what brought advocates for racial justice and drug policy reform to the State House earlier this week, demanding that these funds be spent in communities harmed by the drug war, with input from members of those communities. The rally’s speakers included NJPP’s Marleina Ubel, Ami Kachalia of the ACLU-NJ, Rev. Dr. Charles Boyer of Salvation and Social Justice, as well as other members of the Abolish The Drug War coalition. [NJ Spotlight News / Raven Santana]
I hope you didn’t miss this one: NJPP has a new President! Earlier this week, Research Director Nicole Rodriguez was named the next President of NJPP, succeeding Brandon McKoy, who left in the fall to join the leadership team of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Click the link to learn more about Nicole and to watch her introductory video. [NJPP]
Pets of NJPP
Now that know Nicole better, you can get to know her cat, Bernie! Bernie is a little cat with a big voice. He loves to meow for pets, treats, and his mama’s attention. He also loves his big dog sister, Cherry, but not if she gets more pets than her. Meow!
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