NJ’s Working Families Need Economic Justice and Shared Prosperity to Find It Harder than Ever to Make Ends Meet
New Jersey Policy Perspective (NJPP) released a new Blueprint for Economic Justice and Shared Prosperity at its Progress 2017 conference on March 11, 2017.
The next governor is New Jersey’s opportunity to slow the state’s collapse, restore its stable financial foundation and rebuild its economy – creating jobs and restoring wealth. The report lays out examples of how New Jersey’s families are finding it harder than ever to make ends meet.
The report makes the following recommendations for economic justice and shared prosperity in New Jersey:
- Make New Jersey Work for Working Families
- Make New Jersey’s Tax Code Fairer & Our Budget More Responsible
- Make Health Care Affordable for All New Jerseyans
- Strengthen New Jersey’s Safety Net
- Invest in the Building Blocks of New Jersey’s Economy
The report outlines specific objectives for how to achieve all of this.
NJPP’s president Gordon MacInnes explains in a recent blog post how this can be done, “For more than 20 years, New Jersey has been on a downward economic and financial slide. Our middle class is shrinking. Poverty is rising. The state government is effectively bankrupt. We’re dangerously close to hitting rock bottom.”
The downward slide in New Jersey’s economy began with tax cuts that were anticipated to stimulate the economy and increase state revenues. In 1994, a 30% percent cut in income tax rates produced immediate declines in state support for property tax relief. The cuts set off a twenty year “chain reaction of gimmicks to hide the damage.”
Specifically, state leaders slashed the state’s payments for public employees’ pensions and retiree health benefits enough to make up for revenues sacrificed to the tax cuts. And the state borrowed almost $3 billion to cover the state’s share of pension costs for two or three years. This borrowing left future taxpayers with the very large repayment bill.
New Jersey residents pay very high taxes but often when we complain, we have specific concerns about how our tax dollars are being spent.
Writes McInnes, “After ten credit downgrades in seven years, New Jersey ranks 49th among the 50 states for creditworthiness. Our once robust biotech and pharmaceutical industry is being lured to states that are accelerating – not slashing – public investments in innovation centers like university hubs. Inequality is at historic highs. In this high-cost state, which never bounced back from the Great Recession, New Jersey’s working families are finding it harder than ever to make ends meet and give their children opportunities to advance.”
“Here’s the good news: New Jersey still has enviable assets. And it’s not too late for new leadership to stop the state’s downward spiral. No candidate should promise that it’ll be easy or painless to restore New Jersey as an engine of enterprise and opportunity. Nor should anyone suggest that one term as governor or as a legislator will be sufficient.”
Specifically, the report recommends
- Making the minimum wage in New Jersey, a more livable wage. “About 1 in 4 New Jersey workers – 975,000 low-paid men and women – would bene t from increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2021.”
- Making health care affordable for all New Jerseyans. As Monarch Housing has been reporting, “The future of health care for millions of New Jerseyans hangs in the balance as the new President and Congress take aim at the Affordable Care Act – the most significant social policy improvement America has seen in over 50 years.”
- Strengthening New Jersey’s safety net. When housing costs are factored in, New Jersey’s TANF assistance falls below many poorer states. New Jersey’s Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) assistance is 10th lowest in the country as a share of fair housing costs
McInnes concludes, “But big ideas, carefully planned and plainly explained, are the starting point.”