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With NJ Transit facing an unprecedented budget crisis, former Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg joined NJPP earlier this week to urge lawmakers to fully fund the transit agency by extending a modest tax on the most profitable corporations in the world. Without this new funding, NJ Transit will have to close a $1 billion deficit through drastic service cuts and fare hikes that would hurt commuters and the broader economy. So, how did we get here? NJ Transit has been underfunded for decades, is the only agency of its kind in the country without dedicated state funding, and relies on fare box revenues much more than comparable transit systems, according to a new NJPP report released Wednesday. “All those corporations paying the [corporate surcharge] have managed to thrive and do very well in New Jersey,” said Senator Weinberg. “We can extend the [corporate surcharge] without harming anyone and help riders.” [NJ.com / Larry Higgs and NorthJersey.com / Colleen Wilson]
Now for some good transit news: NJ Transit will take over several private bus routes in Essex and Hudson Counties that were slated to discontinue in just a few weeks. The agency is adding six new lines and extending a seventh line to replace routes discontinued by O.N.E. and A&C. This is a big win for commuters who would have been stranded without these bus lines; it also highlights the urgent need for lawmakers to fully fund NJ Transit, or else riders across the state will similarly risk losing their bus and train service to budget cuts. [Gothamist / Michelle Bocanegra and Catalina Gonella]
Temperatures in New Jersey are expected to rise by more than 5 degrees by 2050, yet the state does not have any heat safety standards for workers — including the roughly 25,000 farmworkers who put the Garden in Garden State. This year is expected to be the hottest on record, and environmental experts expect heat-related deaths to double over the next three decades and temperatures continue to rise. This underscores the urgency of worker protections like paid heat breaks and access to shade during excessively hot days, especially for a workforce excluded from basic labor protections, including the right to form a union. [NJ Spotlight News / Michael Sol Warren and Karen Yi]
New Jersey’s minimum wage will rise to $15.13 next year — but this much-anticipated milestone is a mixed bag, as NJPP’s Peter Chen explained to ROI-NJ. “This minimum wage increase is the well-deserved and historic culmination of decades of organizing and tireless efforts by low-wage workers, labor unions and advocacy groups throughout New Jersey,” Peter said. But recent spikes in inflation, as well as carve outs in the law, have wiped out potential gains for workers as the minimum wage is still out of sync with the state’s cost of living. “In 2019 dollars, a $15 wage today is only worth $12.30,” Peter added. [ROI-NJ]
Some news from last week (and proof that Twitter is real life): The Murphy administration stopped a Gloucester County school district from penalizing students with school lunch debt. After the new school policy was first reported by The Philadelphia Inquirer, NJPP’s Peter Chen pointed out on Twitter that this was a clear violation of New Jersey’s Hunger-Free Students’ Bill of Rights, and the state stepped in shortly after. More on this below. [NJ Spotlight News / Hannah Gross]
TikToks of NJPP
In a new TikTok, NJPP’s Erica Boland breaks down what happened with school lunches in Deptford, the backlash on social media, and why children should not be punished or shamed for something out of their control. [NJPP]
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