Insider NJ

Advocates, Policy Experts, And Community Leaders Call For Budget For The Many

Insider NJ — March 10, 2020

TRENTON, NJ (March 10, 2020) — Earlier today, members of the For The Many NJ coalition called on the New Jersey Senate Budget Committee to end tax breaks for millionaires and big corporations at their first public hearing in Newark. Members of the coalition, including policy experts, advocates, and community leaders, gathered outside the hearing at the New Jersey Institute for Technology (NJIT) and presented testimony in support of a budget that invests in New Jersey's communities, not corporate special interests.

"We need a state budget that addresses social and racial equity, prioritizes community investment over tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations, and is built on fiscal health and crisis preparedness," said Dena Mottola Jaborska, Associate Director of New Jersey Citizen Action. "We can't have a state budget that accomplishes all these urgent needs without new, fairly derived revenue. Especially now, New Jersey families need to know their state is fiscally strong and capable of addressing the plethora of serious and costly crises that we now face with the arrival or the coronavirus pandemic, the impending economic recession, and the next extreme weather event. If our state leaders don't take action together on a strong, well-funded budget, they are leaving us vulnerable."

The spread of COVID-19 and the subsequent threat of an imminent recession were a unifying theme in the coalition's testimony. New Jersey remains woefully unprepared to weather a future economic downturn as the state lacks a robust Rainy Day Fund. National budget experts recommend states build reserves worth 16 percent of their annual budget; the amount saved in New Jersey's Rainy Day Fund is a mere 1 percent of the state's budget.

"This spring, state lawmakers have a choice," said Sheila Reynertson, Senior Policy Analyst at New Jersey Policy Perspective (NJPP) and co-convener of For The Many NJ. "They can make bold investments to help New Jersey families survive the next economic downturn or continue to give away massive tax breaks to wealthy heirs and millionaires. New Jersey may not be able to control the timing or severity of a recession, but policymakers have tools to prepare and respond more effectively. That starts with ensuring millionaires and big corporations pay their fair share in taxes."

Despite the state's ranking as one of the wealthiest in the nation, 1 in 4 New Jersey families don't have enough savings to withstand an emergency without falling into poverty. It's disproportionately worse for New Jersey's Black households (45 percent) and Latino households (60 percent). By ending tax breaks that primarily benefit wealthy families and big corporations, New Jersey can invest in public programs proven to support low-income and working-class communities. A big deposit into the state's Rainy Day Fund would also ensure these vital programs and services are not cut during a recession.

"Inequality in New Jersey keeps growing for a majority of residents," said Renee Koubiadis, Executive Director of the Anti-Poverty Network of New Jersey. "We believe that to set our state up for a long-term plan of economic growth that could benefit all New Jerseyans, we need to take a hard look at revenue sources that will equate to tax fairness. We hope our state's leaders will take this opportunity to put New Jersey on a more positive path, after years of a stagnating economy."

Over the last decade, New Jersey allowed $15 billion in cumulative tax cuts that primarily benefited the top one-percent of earners. These tax cuts include: allowing the millionaires tax to expire, eliminating the estate tax for wealthy heirs, cutting the sales tax, and cutting business taxes. For the state to advance a budget for the many — not special interests — the coalition recommends restoring these taxes and using the revenue to make investments in education, affordable housing, environmental cleanup, and much more.

"New Jersey's budget should reflect New Jersey's values," said Jesse Burns, Executive Director of the League of Women Voters of New Jersey. "This means prioritizing New Jersey's long-term economic health while investing in crucial programs that serve our communities. For the Many's proposed sustainable solutions generate that much needed revenue without unfairly burdening or abandoning our state's working and middle-class families. It's a clear path forward to a more fiscally responsible future that benefits us all."

"Last year, Governor Murphy, Senate President Sweeney, Assembly Speaker Coughlin and the entire Legislature put New Jersey on the right path to address our persistent housing crisis by adopting a budget that fully funds the state's Affordable Housing Trust Fund (AHTF) for the first time in a decade, said Staci Berger, President and CEO of the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey. "The restoration of the AHTF was a watershed moment in the Network's campaign to Build a Thriving New Jersey, which calls for an array of additional investments to create the affordable homes and housing services our residents need. As a member of the For the Many coalition, we urge our elected officials to continue to move forward and expand on this progress by finding new revenue sources, including common-sense measures such as an income tax increase on the state's highest earners, the restoration of the estate tax, repealing the sales tax cap on yacht purchases, and gun registration fees."

"Big tax cuts for the rich and special interests have drained billions of dollars from New Jersey over the last decade," said Barry Kushnir, President of IFPTE Local 194 and the Hudson County Central Labor Council. "Working families across the state are struggling as a result," It's time to reverse the failed policies of the past and demand that Trenton start investing in us. This begins with a state budget that has enough revenue to make our communities stronger for ALL New Jerseyans."

"We need a budget that's for the many, that takes care of New Jersey's important needs — especially when it comes to the environment," said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. "We need to make sure millionaires pay their fair share, get rid of corporate loopholes and subsidies, and make polluters pay for the damage that they have done to the environment. This way we can stop the raids to environmental programs and the Clean Energy Fund, have funding for NJ Transit operations, and buy electric buses. DEP has been cut for so long, and we need to make sure this budget restores funding so that DEP has enough staff to protect us and the environment. We need to make sure our fiscal house is in order to stop the raids and move New Jersey forward when it comes to important issues like climate change and clean energy, cleaning up toxic sites, and making sure our air is clean and our water is pure."

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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