Good morning, Chairman Sarlo and members of the committee. My name is Alex Ambrose and I am a policy analyst at New Jersey Policy Perspective, a nonpartisan think tank focused on advancing economic, social, and racial justice. Our organization is also a member of the For The Many budget coalition.
Thank you for this opportunity to present testimony.
New Jersey’s state budget should prioritize the needs of working-class families who are struggling to make ends meet over corporate special interests – people over profits. That’s why we urge you: do not give corporations a one billion dollar tax cut by removing the corporate business tax surcharge. Not only would a tax cut be a gift to some of the biggest and most profitable corporations in the world like Amazon and Walmart, it will cost the state revenue sorely needed to continue funding education, infrastructure, health care, and so much more.
These funds are essential to balancing the state’s budget, building a healthy surplus, and reducing the racial and economic disparities that were not just exposed but worsened over the last few years. The pandemic taught us that government support helps ease the harm of economic downturns, while cutbacks and austerity only deepen the pain for hard-working families.
This budget needs to advance changes to make the tax code more equitable and make the state more affordable for low- and moderate-income households. A tax cut for wealthy corporations will do the exact opposite.
Revenue collections were strong in the last few budgets, but economists are forecasting an imminent drop in revenue collections, if not a recession. Last year, the Office of Legislative Services testified that the record-high revenues are only temporary and collections will begin dropping, as we have already seen in the latest revenue snapshot.
What we need is reliable growth and predictability through a fair tax code that prioritizes public services and programs that directly benefit everyday New Jerseyans.
Some of those programs are included in our recommendations for this year’s budget, including the Earned Income Tax Credit, the Child Tax Credit, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the Clean Energy Fund, NJ Transit, and Public Defender Fees.
First, we urge you to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit for ITIN holders. Despite being taxpayers themselves, ITIN holders are often excluded from accessing government programs. Expansion would help ensure all people in New Jersey have access to financial security.
Second, we urge you to expand the Child Tax Credit, a policy proven to reduce child poverty. This credit is critical for low-income families, and expanding it will give families additional necessary assistance. Specifically, we recommend doubling the existing credit, as the governor proposed in his budget, as well as expanding eligibility to children up to 11-years-old, as proposed by Assemblywoman Verlina Reynolds-Jackson.
Third, we ask for increased monthly grants for families participating in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. TANF provides critical support to families experiencing economic hardship, and increasing grants to at least 50% of the federal poverty level and adjusting for inflation would better provide our state’s families with the means to get back on their feet.
Fourth, we urge you to end the diversions of the Clean Energy Fund, a fund that makes new, safer technologies more affordable for the state and for working class families. Should the diversions continue, New Jersey will have diverted over $2 billion dollars away from clean energy, and every dollar diverted undermines the clean energy laws we already have in place.
Fifth, we ask that you prioritize funding NJ Transit’s capital needs. NJ Transit has a backlog of projects necessary to keep service reliable and to improve infrastructure to avoid another year of record-high service breakdowns. The agency has many required capital improvements with no identified funding source.
Finally, we urge you to end public defender fees, which are a regressive tax on low-income defendants. The right to an attorney is a fundamental right in our justice system and should not be predicated on the ability to afford adequate legal representation. Eliminating these fees is a critical step in ensuring all residents have access to justice regardless of their financial circumstances.
The state has a robust set of achievements over the last few years including a full pension payment, pre-school expansion, working family tax credits, affordable housing, and more. To think the same economic benefits will come to our state if we give wealthy corporations a tax cut is trickle-down economics at its worst.
New Jersey Policy Perspective asks that while you are evaluating the budget, you keep everyday working New Jersey families in the front of your mind, not corporate CEOs.
The New Jersey state budget must help the grocery worker with no car trying to get to work on unreliable public transportation. It must help the parent working three jobs to pay for child care. It must help the front line worker who has to leave their job to attend to their child having an asthma attack.
Cutting corporate taxes will weaken our state’s fiscal health while doing nothing to strengthen our communities. State lawmakers should prioritize making New Jersey affordable for those who need the most help — not the wealthy and well-connected.
Thank you for your time.