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.
Sign up here.
COVID-19 Cases: 201,552 | Deaths: 14,300
[New Jersey Department of Health / COVID-19 Dashboard]
On Thursday, the state legislature passed a $32.7 billion state budget that Governor Murphy is expected to sign, bringing New Jersey one step closer to finally enacting a millionaires tax. The budget deal avoids big cuts to state programs and services (great news!), but it relies on $500 million more in borrowing and cuts the governor’s proposed pension payment by $200 million (not great news). The deal also extends the corporate business tax surcharge at 2.5 percent (more good news!), but it does not end tax breaks for yacht purchases or limousine rides. All things considered, this is a good budget given the economic fallout from COVID-19, as the state will be able to sustain and expand state investments as we recover from the pandemic. Governor Murphy is expected to sign the budget on Tuesday, so keep an eye out for a rapid reaction from the NJPP team next week. [Bloomberg / Elise Young]
This year’s budget represents a remarkable change in how New Jersey responds to economic downturns, but the process by which we got here is nothing to celebrate. Calling the creation of this year’s budget opaque and exclusionary, even by Trenton standards, NJPP President Brandon McKoy explains how process is policy in this op-ed in NJ Spotlight: “The basic point is that New Jersey’s state budget — the most important thing it does every year — is developed by a process that marginalizes the public at large and locks out leaders of color at crucial moments. While the governor and legislative leaders have made statements in support of the fight against systemic racism, all continue to fall short in their actions around the budget. A process that privileges the views and voices of white leaders and marginalizes those of Black leaders, by definition, upholds systemic racism, regardless of the intent of individual actors.” [NJ Spotlight / Brandon McKoy]
One big highlight in the budget deal that has largely flown under the radar: an expansion to New Jersey’s Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The refundable tax credit for low- and moderate-income workers will both increase (to 40 percent of the federal credit) and be expanded to include young adults aged 21 and up; under the current program, childless adults must be at least 25 years old to qualify. As NJPP Policy Analyst Vineeta Kapahi explained to NJ 101.5, “That eligibility criteria is based on the assumption that workers who are under 25 are dependent on their families, but the reality is that many New Jersey workers are financially independent or even support their families.” This change to the tax code will boost the incomes of tens of thousands of New Jerseyans and help stimulate local economies across the state. [NJ 101.5 / Michael Symons]
New Jersey’s EITC expansion is definitely something to celebrate, but new data from the Census Bureau show that state lawmakers will have to do much more to truly reduce poverty in the Garden State. The data from 2019 highlight how, even during an economic expansion, New Jersey’s poverty rate (9.2 percent) remained higher than it was prior to the Great Recession (8.7 percent in 2008). The poverty rate among women (10.0 percent) was higher than that of men (8.3 percent), and Black (15.6 percent) and Latinx (15.8 percent) New Jerseyans were nearly three times more likely to live in poverty than their white peers (5.8 percent). This data, while the most recent from the Census Bureau, undercounts poverty in New Jersey for two reasons: it is from 2019 and thus does not capture the economic fallout from COVID-19, and; these figures use the Federal Poverty Line to measure poverty, which does not account for New Jersey’s high cost of living. [NJPP / Vineeta Kapahi]
The new census data also show that New Jersey’s uninsured rate increased in 2019 for the first time since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was fully enacted, likely due to the Trump administration’s sabotage of the landmark health law. In 2019, approximately 692,000 New Jersey residents did not have health care, representing a 6.8 percent increase in the state’s uninsured rate from the year prior. As NJPP Senior Policy Analyst Brittany Holom explains, “These increases were not spread equally among all New Jerseyans. A hostile national environment toward people of color and immigrants, including the fear and uncertainty caused by the Trump administration’s public charge rule, have made it increasingly difficult to boost health care enrollment. In New Jersey, approximately 343,000 Latinx residents were uninsured in 2019, an increase of 7.5 percent in the uninsured rate from 2018.” [NJPP / Brittany Holom]
David Tepper is back in New Jersey! For those who are unfamiliar, David Tepper is a hedge fund billionaire and the wealthiest person in New Jersey. After moving out of the state in 2015, right-wing lawmakers and corporate lobbyists cited him as proof of “millionaire tax flight” — even though he never cited taxes as his reason for moving and the state did not have a millionaires tax in place when he moved. Now he’s back in New Jersey, and I really want everyone who cited him as an example of tax flight to eat their words. [Politico / Matt Friedman]
Have a fact or figure for us? Tweet it to @NJPolicy.