Insider NJ

For The Many NJ Calls On Governor, Legislature To Avoid Budget Cuts And Make The Tax Code Fairer

Insider NJ — May 14, 2020

New Jersey (May 13, 2020) — As the economic fallout from COVID-19 decimates New Jersey's revenue collections, members of the For The Many NJ coalition are calling for a pandemic response that avoids damaging cuts to public programs and services that families rely on. In an open letter to Governor Murphy and members of the New Jersey Legislature, the coalition is calling for a balanced response that includes new, sustainable sources of revenue that would make the tax code fairer and set a strong foundation for the state's recovery.

"For New Jersey to have a strong and immediate recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, state lawmakers cannot afford to repeat the mistakes of the past," said Brandon McKoy, President of New Jersey Policy Perspective (NJPP) and co-convener of For The Many. "As we learned in the wake of the Great Recession, a cuts-heavy response will only worsen the economy's fall, exacerbate existing inequities, and slow the state's ultimate recovery."

The letter emphasized that cuts made over the last decade have hampered the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as state departments and agencies are now operating with far fewer full-time staff and less resources than prior to the Great Recession.

"COVID-19 has exposed the weaknesses in NJ's ability to withstand a crisis," said Sue Altman, Executive Director of New Jersey Working Families Alliance and co-convener of the coalition. "Turning towards austerity now is not an option. New Jersey needs revenue, the ability to bond, and better budgeting practices in order to sustain healthy and equitable communities. Tax fairness matters in times of crisis."

Over the last decade, New Jersey enacted $15 billion in cumulative tax cuts that primarily benefited the state's wealthiest households and largest businesses. Many of these households and businesses have also benefited from major tax cuts enacted at the federal level through the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 and, more recently, in the CARES Act.

"Coming into this public health crisis, New Jersey already had nearly 40% of low-wage workers who were unable to afford all of their basic needs," said Renee Koubiadis, Executive Director of the Anti-Poverty Network of New Jersey. "With over 1 million people filing for unemployment, our state needs a long-term vision that includes tax fairness and a number of new and expanded sustainable revenue sources that will prevent the kinds of deep cuts that will be devastating to our safety net programs and a large percentage of residents who need help to climb back up from this crisis."

The letter notes that deep cuts to public services caused New Jersey to be among the slowest states to recover from the Great Recession. Without significant federal aid or new revenue, New Jersey may have to cut programs that were previously considered uncuttable to fill revenue shortfalls brought on by COVID-19.

To ensure a recovery for the many — not just the wealthy and well-connected — the coalition's letter recommends four changes to the state's tax code: reforming the income tax so top earners pay their fair share; reinstating the estate tax and refining the inheritance tax so it only applies to ultra-wealthy households; strengthening combined reporting so interstate companies cannot hide taxable income; and bringing the sales tax back to 7 percent and modernizing it to include services used by high-income households, like chartered flights and limousine services.

"This pandemic has brought unprecedented challenges, and highlighted some of the gaps in our economic and health system - gaps that must be fixed, said Maura Collinsgru, Health Care Program Director, New Jersey Citizen Action. "If we are going to defeat COVID and safely reopen our state, we must ensure all New Jerseyans have access to the health care and coverage and safety net services they need. This will require, not only increased federal support, but enacting new sustainable sources of state revenue from such things as the long overdue millionaires tax, closing of corporate loopholes, health insurance assessment, opioid tax and the COVID-19 Emergency Bond Act. Without these common sense measures the economic and health gaps in our state will only widen."

"Working immigrants like me pay more than our fair share in taxes and contribute to the economy. But we have been completely left behind by government aid," said Roberto Sanchez, member of Make the Road New Jersey. "If we are going to get our state back on track, New Jersey must invest in a recovery that includes all of us. That means raising revenue by taxing corporations that continue to prosper and high income individuals."

"This pandemic has shown us that we are unprepared at the federal level to manage a public health crisis of this scope. But it does show that we can tackle these issues on the state and local level by taking aggressive steps to create a solid foundation for New Jersey renters and homeowners," said Matt Hersch, Director of Policy and Advocacy at the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey. "We call on our legislative leaders and allies to work to generate new sources of state revenue, to reform the tax code, and to close tax avoidance loopholes that will benefit the state economy while supporting investments in safe, decent housing. Only then will we be able to build a thriving New Jersey."

"Providing safe clean drinking water should not be a budget "choice" but a budget necessity," said Eric Benson, Clean Water Action, NJ Campaigns Director. "Investing in clean energy and functional mass transit is absolutely critical as our coastal state faces an uncertain climate future AND can help rebuild our economy for the many, not the chosen few."

For The Many is a statewide coalition of more than 30 organizations working collectively to expand funding for essential services and improve budget practices to adequately meet current and future needs, especially for communities that have been historically marginalized.

Steering committee members include: New Jersey Policy Perspective, New Jersey Working Families Alliance, New Jersey Citizen Action, New Jersey Work Environment Council, Environment New Jersey, Make the Road New Jersey, Anti-Poverty Network of New Jersey, New Jersey Education Association, Communications Workers of America - NJ, Amalgamated Transit Union - NJ, Clean Water Action - NJ.

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