In 2017, New Jersey Policy Perspective released the Blueprint for Economic Justice and Shared Prosperity. It charted a course forward for the state after decades of short-sighted policymaking that exacerbated racial disparities, spread economic inequality, and weakened our ability to address emergent problems. Now, as we begin to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and recession, New Jersey is at a transitional moment — a moment of sterling opportunity to build a better future for all residents. Returning to the economy we had before the pandemic is not an option. To move forward, we must affirm our commitment to justice and prosperity for all, and implement policies that ensure all New Jerseyans can thrive.

This new Blueprint is more than a pathway out of the pandemic and recession — it is also a new vision for NJPP. Produced in close collaboration with dozens of partners, the Blueprint encompasses both the issue areas that have long been the backbone of our work, as well as new priorities which NJPP identified as critical to securing just and equitable outcomes. The needs of our state are great and we can no longer afford to silo our policy concerns; we must recognize the inextricable links that tie housing to school funding to transportation and beyond. To avoid robbing Peter to pay Paul, we must grow the pie and be forthright about the level of investment that our communities truly need.

The past few years have been encouraging: New Jersey implemented a bevy of policies that benefit the needs of the many over those of a select few. Policies like a $15 minimum wage, paid sick leave, higher quality and more affordable health care, pay equity, and so much more will help ensure a swifter, more robust, and inclusive economic recovery. But there remains much more to accomplish before we can assert that the Garden State is a place where anyone can succeed regardless of their background. Drastic disparities along the lines of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and immigration status continue to weaken our economy and our communities. We must aggressively work to eliminate poverty, close the racial wealth gap, and pursue restorative justice to build a stronger and fairer future for all.

This requires significant changes. Changes to the way we operate our elections to ensure that marginalized communities are truly engaged in shaping public policy decisions. Changes to the assets in which we invest — like education, transportation, and housing — so every resident has a real shot at success. Changes to how we mitigate the crisis of climate change. And we must do all of this within an anti-racist framework so we do not worsen existing disparities. Failing to address the harms of history will only allow these inequities to fester. The challenges we face are numerous, and they are great, but with challenge comes opportunity. New Jersey has a historic opportunity to rebound in a manner that provides a blueprint for the rest of the nation.

We hope you will find the ideas and policies in this document worthwhile and inspiring. Some are big on hope and will be transformational. Others may seem more modest, but can immediately and tangibly improve people’s lives. While this document does not include every policy imaginable, it speaks to our vision for the future of the state. Taken as a whole, this Blueprint focuses on the goals of reducing the racial wealth gap, eliminating poverty, and realizing equity in every community. That means being inclusive. Longtime partners will see that there is no section focused specifically on immigrants’ rights to follow — rather, these issues are deeply embedded throughout the document. Immigrants’ rights are human rights, and their challenges affect every community. Indeed, if we have learned anything across this project, it is that all of these issues are interconnected, and we must view them — and our efforts to solve them — as related. We must end the austerity mindset that drives the underfunding and budget cuts which harm communities of color first and foremost, and move into a new era of justice for all.

It is an incredible pleasure and privilege to pursue this work in partnership with you. We know these efforts will be difficult, but we are equally assured that they are rooted in a vision of justice and equity. Only together can we find our way to freedom; only together can we realize a better day. In the spirit of togetherness, let’s get to work.