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New Jersey seeks to spend $700 million to ‘stimulate economic growth and improve public health’

(The Center Square) – Gov. Phil Murphy and legislative leaders agreed to allocate nearly $700 million for initiatives they say will help “stimulate economic growth and improve public health.”

The funding includes $435 million from the New Jersey Debt Defeasance and Prevention Fund and $262.6 million from the American Rescue Plan’s (ARP) State Fiscal Recovery Fund. New Jersey received more than $6 billion from the feds as part of the ARP legislation.

“This proposal will allow us to responsibly fund capital construction and continue using federal dollars for one-time, transformative investments in our residents, communities, and infrastructure,” Gov. Phil Murphy said in an announcement.

The Debt Defeasance and Prevention Fund money includes $345 million for the NJ Wind Port and related infrastructure and $90 million for the Rowan University School of Veterinary Medicine/Cooper Medical School.

Meanwhile, according to a memo to the Joint Budget Oversight Committee, Office of Management and Budget Acting Director Lynn Azarchi said the proposal for the ARP funds includes $100 million for the Hackensack University Medical Center (HUMC), a Level 1 Trauma Center. The money would support “its efforts to strengthen regional health emergency preparedness infrastructure.”

It also includes $40 million to create a program “to fill COVID-induced funding gaps in already underwritten and in-process affordable housing and community development projects,” Azarchi wrote. The Department of Community and Affairs (DCA) and the Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency (HMFA) would run the program.

The proposal includes another $37.5 million to implement an eviction prevention program. It would provide targeted support for people who need help applying for various tasks, including hiring temporary staff to determine and disburse assistance payments.

Meanwhile, the state looks to use $25 million to help buy a disused rail corridor in Essex and Hudson counties, money supplementing funds from the Green Acres State Land Acquisition program.

The plan calls for $20 million to support Inspira Health’s proposed acquisition of the Salem Medical Center and $10 million to help retail and pedestrian activity in urban areas with mass transit “that have faced economic harms from the reduction in commuters due to the pandemic.” Another $10 million would go toward a new community center in Pennsauken Township.

It also includes $5 million each for three different programs, including money for RWJBarnabas Health and Rutgers University Behavioral Health for “programming related to addressing increased behavioral health needs due to the pandemic.”

Another supports pandemic-related efforts (including educational and social services) of this facility in Glenfield Park. The third is an expansion of a marketing program to highlight the benefits of doing business in New Jersey.

Meanwhile, the proposal includes $3 million for the modernization and renovation of the Emergency Department at the Morristown Medical Center and $2 million for eligible costs for the National Historical Park in the City of Paterson. Lastly, the state has proposed $100,000 to support Vernon Township’s public health efforts related to environmental remediation.

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‘Build Back Better’ would reinstate SALT deduction

(The Center Square) – The $1.75 trillion “Build Back Better” social spending bill the U.S. House passed would restore the State and Local Tax Deduction (SALT).

The 2017 tax law passed under President Donald Trump capped deductions for state and local taxes paid at $10,000 per year through 2025. Since that time, New Jersey state and federal politicians have worked to reinstate the deduction.

The legislation would increase the cap to $80,000, CNBC reported. It faces an uncertain future in the U.S. Senate.

The SALT “cap has unfairly double taxed families across the country and worked to defund our states’ critical priorities,” U.S. Reps. Bill Pascrell Jr., D-New Jersey; Tom Suozzi, D-New York; Josh Gottheimer, D-New Jersey; and Mikie Sherrill, D-New Jersey, said in a joint statement.

“The bill we just passed in the House would effectively eliminate the impact of the SALT cap for virtually every family we represent, putting money back in the pockets of hardworking, middle class families in New Jersey and New York,” the lawmakers added. “Simultaneously, it will ensure our communities are able to make the critical investments we need, like funding the best public schools in the nation and supporting our law enforcement and first responders.”

However, critics of the deduction deride it as a tax break for more affluent residents. A recent analysis from the left-leaning Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) said its repeal “would worsen racial income and wealth inequities.”

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, has indicated he wants to act on the legislation before Christmas, The Wall Street Journal reported.

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New Jersey’s revenues are up 25% compared to a year ago

(The Center Square) – New Jersey’s revenues continue to rise, with fiscal year-to-date collections up 25% from a year ago.

According to New Jersey’s Department of the Treasury, year-to-date collections totaled more than $10.1 billion, which is more than $2 billion higher than the same four months a year ago.

The General Fund’s largest revenue source, the Sales and Use Tax, saw an increase of $155.6 million, or 14.9%, over last October to reach more than $1.2 billion. So far this fiscal year, collections increased $322.3 million, or 11.6%, compared to the same period a year ago, to reach more than $3.1 billion.

The sales tax numbers reflect consumer activity in September, but state officials say the trend shows “consumer behavior continues to exceed even pre-pandemic levels.”

In October, Gross Income Tax (GIT) collections increased $192.2 million, or 19.8%, compared to October a year ago and totaled more than $1.1 billion. So far this fiscal year, collections rose $874.8 million, or 26.1%, to reach more than $4.2 billion.

Meanwhile, the Corporation Business Tax (CBT) dropped by $37.2 million, or 20.8%, to hit $141.7 million in October. So far this fiscal year, CBT collections increased $413.6 million, or 43%, to reach nearly $1.4 billion.

According to a news release, Treasury Department officials said October’s “collections are typically among the smaller CBT months each year.”

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Murphy earned nearly $1 million in 2020, down from nearly $6.8 million in 2017

(The Center Square) – Gov. Phil Murphy and his wife earned more than $982,600 and paid more than $445,000 in state and federal taxes in 2020.

That’s according to tax forms prepared on the governor’s behalf before his re-election earlier this month but released this week.

Murphy, a Democrat, narrowly defeated former Republican Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli this month to hang on to his office. He became the first Democratic governor since Brendan Byrne in 1977 to win re-election in New Jersey.

The tax numbers released by Murphy’s office show the governor’s adjusted gross income decreased from more than $4.6 million in 2016 and nearly $6.8 million in 2017 to less than $1 million in 2020.

According to the governor’s office, Murphy’s charitable contributions dropped from $175,440 in 2016 to $11,496 in 2020. However, his foundation distributions increased from $595,850 in 2017 to $637,650 in 2020.

A Houston, Texas-based tax partner with RSM US LLP prepared the governor’s taxes, which he filed jointly with his wife, Tammy. The form lists a New York post office box as their address.

A 1040 form for 2020 released on Monday by the office shows Murphy received an extension to Oct. 15 to file his taxes. The tax preparer signed and dated the form on Oct. 11.

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GSI: Retirees fleeing New Jersey has enormous financial implications for the state’s future

(The Center Square) – New Jersey policymakers should put a ceiling on property taxes for all seniors and veterans to help the state keep more retirees from moving elsewhere, a new report recommends.

The recommendation was included in a new Garden State Initiative (GSI) research report, “Retirees and New Jersey: How we can be Perfect Together,” which concludes the state is losing retirees at a higher rate than peer states.

GSI also recommended state leaders build on the state’s strength of high-quality healthcare, expand the income tax exemption to include all retirement income and address gaps in public transportation for retirees.

“Retirees are fleeing New Jersey and it’s not because of the weather,” GSI President Regina M. Egea said in an announcement. “Retirees acknowledge that New Jersey has strong natural attributes such as access to high-quality healthcare, geographic and ethnic diversity and substantial transportation infrastructure in parts of our state.

“That unfortunately is often not enough to overcome the high cost of living for those on a fixed retirement income,” Egea added. “Our analysis finds that the cost of living, driven by taxes, is separating generations of families, and forcing retirees to leave the communities they’ve called home for generations. This situation is the result of decades of policy decisions that have been made in Trenton but can also be reversed by refocusing our priorities.”

The analysis builds on a GSI/Fairleigh Dickinson University School of Public & Global Affairs survey released in November 2019 that found a third (33%) of state residents approaching retirement planned to leave the state because of excessive taxes.

GSI said any loss of retirees carries with it tremendous financial implications for the state’s future. Over the last decade, GSI found New Jersey lost more than $79.3 billion in “total wealth outmigration” to Pennsylvania, Delaware, Florida and Arizona, including $55.9 billion to Florida alone.

“Make no mistake, this is a serious crisis for New Jersey’s families and our state’s future,” Egea said. “But these solutions are attainable and can be implemented with commitment from our leadership in Trenton.

“While many Garden State residents expressed their displeasure at the ballot box on November 2nd, a growing number continue to ‘vote with their feet’ by leaving the state,” Egea added. “The loss of taxpaying residents such as we are experiencing now, represents the greatest threat to our state’s economic and fiscal health that policymakers cannot wish away or now ignore if they want to continue to lead our state.”

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Republican blasts Murphy for borrowing $400 million to fund higher education grants

(The Center Square) – A leading New Jersey Republican is blasting Gov. Phil Murphy for borrowing money to fund $400 million in grants to higher education institutions in the state.

Last week, Murphy, a Democrat, announced a plan to dole out the money. Schools can use the funds for infrastructure, equipment and capital investments.

“State support for our institutions of higher education has long been lacking, but that doesn’t mean we should turn a blind eye to cost when we decide to make an important investment,” state Sen. Declan O’Scanlon, R-Monmouth, said in a statement.

“I don’t think it makes sense for Governor Murphy to propose increasing State debt when his administration is sitting on a windfall of billions upon billions in cash that remains untapped,” O’Scanlon added. “His plan will stick taxpayers with unnecessary debt and interest payments for decades when he should be working to increase affordability.”

Under the plan, the state intends to release the funds as part of “a joint solicitation of four revolving bond programs.” The funds are part of the Capital Facilities Bond Program, which lawmakers established to address funding for the preservation, renewal, and construction of facilities and equipment at New Jersey’s higher education institutions and create a regular financing mechanism.

O’Scanlon suggested the state could use $1.2 billion in the current state budget allocated for “pay-as-you-go capital improvements” or remaining American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds. The feds sent the state more than $6 million in ARP dollars.

“We have billions in the bank that can easily fund a capital program for our colleges and we’re likely to have billions more in surplus than we were expecting due to the Murphy administration’s inaccurate fiscal projections,” O’Scanlon said.

“There is absolutely no doubt that we can afford to fund these important projects with the boatloads of unutilized cash collecting dust in the State bank account,” O’Scanlon added. “Governor Murphy shouldn’t borrow a single penny.”

Last week, when asked for more information about how the state planned to fund the programs, Christine Lee, a Murphy spokesperson, only said it included $400 million “in new infrastructure grant funding of four bond programs.” Lee declined to say how the state would be “topping up” the funds, as Murphy called it during a press conference.

Another Murphy spokesperson, Michael Zhadanovsky, did not immediately respond to a Tuesday request for comment and additional information.

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Feds shell out millions to help cities hire law enforcement professionals

(The Center Square) – The feds are sending more than $11.7 million in grants to help six New Jersey police departments hire more law enforcement professionals.

The money is part of the Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Hiring Program, a competitive award initiative created in 1994. It intends to reduce crime and promote public safety through community policing.

Collectively, New Jersey police departments will use the federal money to hire 72 law enforcement professionals.

Nationwide, the program awarded $139 million in funding to 183 law enforcement agencies. Combined, those departments will hire 1,066 full-time law enforcement members with goals including addressing high rates of gun violence, building trust between law enforcement and communities, combating “hate and domestic extremism,” and how police respond to people in crisis.

Based on the numbers provided by the feds, in New Jersey, the grants average out to roughly $163,676 per job. That is above the national average of about $130,394 per job.

“Our first responders put their lives on the line every single day to keep our communities safe, running toward the danger instead of away,” U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-New Jersey, said in a news release following a meeting with Bergen County law enforcement officials.

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Drug Overdose Deaths Are Trending Down in New Jersey

More Americans are dying from drug overdoses than ever before, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There were an estimated 100,306 fatal overdoses over the 12 months through April 2021 — the most ever reported in a 12-month period and double the annual number of car accidents and firearm deaths combined.

The record number of deadly overdoses marks a 29% increase from the same period a year earlier and is more than double the number reported as recently as 2014. Public health experts attribute the surge to the proliferation of fentanyl — a synthetic opioid reported to be 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine — as well as the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has isolated many Americans struggling with addiction while reducing their treatment options and care resources.

New Jersey is one of only four states where drug overdose deaths are declining. There were an estimated 2,918 fatal overdoses in New Jersey over the 12 months ending in April 2021, compared to 2,948 over the same period the year prior. The 1.0% decrease ranks as the fourth largest improvement of any state.

Still, fatalities involving certain types of illicit drugs are on the rise in New Jersey. Of all drug classifications identified by the CDC, including synthetic synthetic and semi-synthetic opioids, cocaine, heroin, psychostimulants like methamphetamine, and methadone (a drug used to treat heroin and opioid addiction), methadone had the largest increase in fatalities in the state, up 36.6% from a year earlier.

Despite the overall decrease, the fatal drug overdose rate in New Jersey now stands at 31.4 deaths for every 100,000 people, the 22nd highest among all states. Nationwide, the per capita fatality rate stands at 30.3 per 100,000.

All overdose data used in this story are from the National Center for Health Statistics, a division of the CDC. To account for pending investigations and incomplete counts, the numbers reported are estimates calculated by the NCHS. Population-adjusted fatality rates were calculated using population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Decennial Census.

RankState1-yr change in fatal overdosesDrug OD deaths, 12 mos. ending April 2021Deaths per 100,000 people, 2021Drug OD deaths, 12 mos. ending April 2020Deaths per 100,000 people 20201Vermont69.9%20932.512319.12West Virginia62.2%1,60789.699155.23Kentucky54.5%2,31951.51,50133.34Louisiana51.6%2,21847.61,46331.45Tennessee50.1%3,58151.82,38534.56Mississippi49.9%63721.542514.47California47.8%10,58526.87,16218.18Alaska46.7%17624.012016.49Kansas45.7%55819.038313.010South Carolina45.4%1,90737.31,31225.611Oregon45.1%94022.264815.312Minnesota38.5%1,18820.885815.013New Mexico37.0%89342.265230.814North Carolina36.9%3,52633.82,57624.715Texas36.4%4,68716.13,43711.816Georgia36.3%2,08619.51,53014.317Washington35.7%1,89224.61,39418.118Nevada35.7%99232.073123.519Virginia35.5%2,26226.21,66919.320Colorado34.6%1,65528.71,23021.321Arkansas33.0%53617.840313.422Indiana32.4%2,48736.71,87827.723Alabama31.4%1,11022.184516.824New York29.3%5,49627.24,25221.025Arizona28.5%2,76838.72,15430.126Nebraska27.9%21110.81658.427Ohio26.6%5,58547.34,41037.428Florida26.2%7,89236.66,25629.029Maine24.2%52838.842531.230Wisconsin21.8%1,59927.11,31322.331Maryland21.0%2,87646.62,37638.532Oklahoma20.2%79820.266416.833Michigan19.3%2,95229.32,47424.634Idaho18.8%29716.125013.635Utah18.5%67420.656917.436Rhode Island17.5%40937.334831.737Wyoming16.9%9716.88314.438Missouri14.6%2,00432.61,74928.439Pennsylvania13.1%5,41041.64,78436.840Illinois12.6%3,60128.13,19725.041North Dakota11.9%12215.710914.042Iowa9.5%42613.438912.243Montana6.6%16114.815113.944Hawaii6.3%26818.425217.345Massachusetts5.8%2,41934.42,28632.546Connecticut4.4%1,40939.11,35037.447New Jersey-1.0%2,91831.42,94831.748Delaware-1.7%45946.446747.249New Hampshire-7.2%37227.040129.150South Dakota-19.8%778.79610.8

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New Jersey doling out $12 million in grants to reduce gun violence, support crime victims

(The Center Square) – New Jersey’s Department of Law & Public Safety is allocating $12 million in grants to reduce gun violence and help crime victims.

The money includes $10 million for Community-Based Violence Intervention (CBVI) Programs, which officials said is the largest single investment in such programs in state history. The money for the CBVI programs was included in New Jersey’s fiscal 2022 budget.

It also includes $2 million for emergency housing for crime victims. The state is using a federal fiscal 2020 Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding (CESF) grant to cover the cost of the emergency housing initiative.

“We cannot end gun violence unless we invest in the people working on the ground to make their communities safer,” Acting Attorney General Andrew J. Bruck said in an announcement.

“The grant funding we’re making available today is an essential part of the Murphy Administration’s public safety strategy and a reflection of our commitment to this issue,” Bruck added. “We recognize that prosecutors and police cannot end gun violence on their own, and this funding will strengthen the community partners who are so essential to building safer neighborhoods.”

Officials say the programs are a part of New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy’s goal to discover the root causes of violent crime.