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: 8,526,571
Fully Vaccinated People: 4,157,475
[New Jersey Department of Health / COVID-19 Dashboard]
This week marks the one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s tragic death at the hands of the police. Since then, state and local leaders expressed their support for justice and reform of our criminal legal system, which enables the over-policing of Black residents. In a statement last year, NJPP President Brandon McKoy said that the best way lawmakers could show support is to “overwhelm their words with swift and direct action by implementing policies that address structural inequities and dismantle white supremacy.” Unfortunately, as NJ Spotlight News outlines here, some major police and prison reform bills have stalled in committee. For example, bills to ban chokeholds and allow the creation of local civilian review boards for police have stalled in the Legislature despite being introduced almost a year ago. [NJ Spotlight News / Genesis Obando]
By now I’m sure you’ve heard the line that people don’t want to work anymore thanks to unemployment benefits. As numerous economists have made clear, there is simply no evidence to support this claim. And as Drew Sheneman of The Star-Ledger illustrates here (literally, click the link to check out the comic), this story is much like the tale of Sisyphus in that it’s a total myth. The real reason behind worker shortages? Employers paying poverty wages, often in unsafe working conditions. On the myth that unemployment benefits are to blame, Drew writes, “It’s more of the same culture war nonsense.” [NJ.com / Drew Sheneman]
Knocking on wood right now so as not to jinx this — the state pension fund is on track for a record year! Pension investment returns are up a whopping 22 percent over the current fiscal year, representing the fund’s best returns since 1998. If this trend continues, it could set an all-time record. In real dollars, this represents $10 billion in growth, which should validate state lawmakers who chose to make the full payment into the pension fund during the height of the pandemic. Without the full payment, the pension fund would not have maximized financial market gains over the last year. [NJ Spotlight News / John Reitmeyer]
Big transit/climate news: NJ Transit has released a plan to transition to an electric bus fleet! As NJPP Crotty Fellow Nausheen Rajan reported earlier this year, New Jersey’s transportation sector is the biggest polluter in the state, especially in communities of color where buses are more prevalent. The proposal includes two electric bus pilots — in Camden and Newark — and plans to upgrade existing bus garages to include charging stations. “This is a victory for the lungs of NJ Transit riders, drivers, and the communities [buses] go through,” said Doug O’Malley, Director of Environment NJ. [NJ.com / Larry Higgs]
Speaking of public transit, a new poll finds that a majority of voters in New Jersey’s most competitive congressional districts (3, 7, and 11) support President Biden’s infrastructure plan. The American Jobs Plan would improve roads and bridges, modernize and electrify public transit, and help fund the construction of the Gateway Tunnel under the Hudson River. The poll also found majority support for raising taxes on corporations to pay for infrastructure investments. [New Jersey Globe / Nikita Biryukov]
Registration is now open for Progress 2021: Reimagining Public Safety! This virtual discussion, moderated by NJPP President Brandon McKoy, will focus on alternatives to policing and the War on Drugs. Panelists include Kassandra Frederique, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance, Rev. Dr. Charles Boyer, Director of Salvation and Social Justice, and Ami Kachalia, Campaign Strategist at the ACLU-NJ. Click the link to register! [NJPP / Progress 2021]
Pets of NJPP
Meet Dax (left) and Sisko (right), co-working cats of Madeline Trimble. When they’re not play fighting (or doing whatever is going on in the photo below), Dax enjoys a good nap while Sisko prefers to chew on wires and destroy toilet paper. At 11 years old, Dax has a full decade on Sisko, but that hasn’t stopped them from being the best of friends. Meow!
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