New Coalition Aims to Build State Budget For the Many, Not Special Interests
For Immediate Release
TRENTON, NJ (February 18, 2020) – Calling for a new approach to state budgeting that puts the needs of ordinary people over those of special interests, a diverse group of community leaders from over 30 organizations announced the launch of For The Many. The coalition, unveiled at a press conference on the steps of the State House Annex in Trenton, will work to clean up the state tax code so New Jersey can reinvest in its communities, infrastructure, and public programs families rely on.
“This is about much more than any one budget or any one policy,” said Brandon McKoy, President of New Jersey Policy Perspective (NJPP), a non-partisan think tank and co-convener of For The Many. “This coalition is about using all of the tools at our disposal, including tax and budget policy, to advance equity and create an economy that works for everyone. New Jersey’s experiment with trickle-down economic policies was a failure, and it’s time to roll back tax cuts for the wealthy and well-connected so the state can make bold investments in its communities.”
Over the last decade, New Jersey enacted $15 billion in cumulative tax cuts that primarily benefited the state’s wealthiest families and largest businesses. These tax cuts exacerbate economic inequality and are a big reason why the state cannot meet its fiscal obligations or make bold investments for its future.
“New Jersey has not recovered from the Great Recession nor the Christie years,” said Imani Oakley, Legislative Director for the New Jersey Working Families Alliance, co-convener of the coalition. “We need to have more robust budget solutions so that we can protect New Jersey’s most vulnerable communities before we suffer another economic downfall. It’s time we start making real investments in the people of New Jersey and the budget is a great place to start.”
Shortsighted tax cuts for the wealthy and well-connected have starved New Jersey of funding for public schools and colleges, NJ Transit, agencies tasked with running the state, and much more. The harm of these cuts fall hardest on marginalized communities of color and low-income families in every corner of the state.
“The Church has always been active in fighting poverty,” said Rev. Sara Lilja, Director of the Lutheran Episcopal Advocacy Ministry of New Jersey. “God’s words on the issue are clear: “Do not pervert or deny justice to your people” (Exodus 23). Our faith emboldens us to speak when so many suffer. Policies that provide the gains of the wealthy while taking away much needed support for low-wage earners and those whose incomes are below the national average must be questioned.”
The goals of the coalition are to: restore state programs and services that families rely on; reverse ill-advised tax cuts that benefitted wealthy residents and multi-state corporations; make the income tax more progressive so budgets are no longer balanced on the backs of working and middle class families; make corporations pay their fair share; and restore fiscal responsibility in the state with a healthy Rainy Day Fund.
“New Jersey is the 12th most unequal state in the nation and according to the most recent ALICE report, nearly 40 percent or almost 2 out of every 5 New Jerseyans are struggling to get by,” said Renee Koubiadis, Executive Director of the Anti-Poverty Network of New Jersey. “Inequality has been rising and our unfair tax system makes it worse. Our residents are struggling and we need to finally make the necessary investments to help people to move forward and contribute to a growing economy for New Jersey.”
The coalition also unveiled nine ways New Jersey can raise new, sustainable revenue without burdening working and middle class families. These proposals include raising the income tax on earnings over $250,000, restoring the estate tax on wealthy heirs, ending the sales tax cut gimmick, and extending the corporate business tax surcharge. Combined, the proposals could generate over $3.1 billion in recurring revenue.
“New Jersey’s legislature has failed to completely turn the page on the Christie administration’s tax and budget policies, which generally favored the wealthy, the politically connected and large, powerful corporations,” said Dena Mottola Jaborska, Associate Director of New Jersey Citizen Action. “Legislators have championed one cause or another without even acknowledging a fundamental problem: we don’t have the resources to meet New Jersey’s most pressing needs. Essential services and programs have been starved of funding for years, middle class and working families continue to struggle to make ends meet while the rich get richer, and our state’s fiscal health remains fragile and vulnerable. To ensure we have a New Jersey that works for everyone we need comprehensive and meaningful reforms to our tax and budget policies. We urge our state legislature to make a complete break with the past and look to New Jersey’s future.”
“The Murphy Administration and the legislature have pledged to get to full state funding of our public schools and to continue expansion of New Jersey’s high quality preschool program. It’s also time to invest in proven practices to help New Jersey school children succeed, including community schools, and make sure there are adequate resources to provide the services students in special education and English language learners need,” said Julie Borst, Executive Director of Save Our Schools NJ Community Organizing and a member of the Our Children/Our Schools network. “We know this means New Jersey needs more resources. That’s why we’re part of the For the Many coalition and support the revenue raisers in the coalition’s platform.”
“Budgets are destiny and they provide a blueprint for the visions of what kind of state we want to build. For too many years, our budgets haven’t reflected a full accounting of all our state’s needs,” said Doug O’Malley, Director of Environment New Jersey. “We need to make investments in our current infrastructure that is crumbling — whether it be lead service lines or NJ Transit’s bus fleet — and prepare to mitigate future threats like increased flooding and sea level rise from climate change. Our budgets should reflect a long-term vision for our state and account for our full needs and incorporate increased revenue to meet that challenge.”
“We need to have a budget that is not only fair, but one that protects the environment and moves us forward in the fight against climate change. For too long New Jersey has raided critical funds for brownfields, clean energy, and more to balance the budget. We cannot continue to do these kinds of raids on the back of the environment. It is critical to fund and move New Jersey forward. Two years ago, Commissioner McCabe promised to increase DEP staff by 100 people in their first year. Here we are, two years later and we are down 150 staffers from the Christie Administration. Enforcement is down, parks are in disrepair, and we don’t have enough people to deal with the lead crisis, clean up toxic sites, and make sure our air is clean to breathe in and our water is clean to drink from,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “We need to not only invest in the DEP but invest in moving our state forward when it comes to reducing GHG’s, cleaning up toxic sites, and fighting climate change.”
“Inequality in New Jersey is getting worse, not better, and our tax system isn’t helping,” said Valeria Gomez, member of Make the Road – New Jersey. “New Jersey’s wealthy contribute a smaller share of their income in taxes than most working families do. Corporations like Amazon – the tenth largest employer in NJ – don’t pay taxes, while their workers rely on public health insurance. New Jersey must pass a budget rooted in fairness and equity, not handouts to the wealthy and well connected. As a recent community college graduate, my future depends on New Jersey investing in our families, workers, and infrastructure.”
New Jersey’s working families have taken a hit over the last decade with the misguided tax policies coming out of Trenton,” said Barry Kushnir, President of IFPTE Local 194 and President of the Hudson County Central Labor Council. “Lawmakers have reduced taxes for New Jersey’s wealthiest residents, cut taxes for businesses and doled out enormous corporate tax incentives without caps or accountability while middle class folks watched their public transportation systems crumble, property taxes rise, and college costs skyrocket. Our current state economy is unjust, unsuccessful, and unsustainable for our struggling middle class residents.
“Trenton lawmakers have an opportunity to produce a just and prosperous New Jersey by creating state tax policies that level the playing field for low-income and middle class families while ensuring sustainable revenue sources to pay for government services,” Kushnir added. This starts by restoring the programs that support workers, students and families in need. Lawmakers can act to reverse inequality by restoring the estate tax, returning the sales tax to previous levels and replacing tax incentive programs subject to abuse with targeted investments that help build a strong economy for all residents.”
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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