Tag Archive: New Jersey Policy Perspective

Driving Chris Crazy

New Jersey Policy Perspective (NJPP) is an organization that says it “aims to create a New Jersey with a robust economy, where opportunity and prosperity are widely shared.” One of the ways the organization proposes to share the opportunity and…
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Dr. Feel Good Should Collaborate with Dr. Kevorkian

Over the past years we have trekked through infested budgetary waters where our financial needs exceeded our grasp. Complying with the requirements for pen/ben contributions, infrastructure, school funding, and more has been like wading through murky waters that can only do us harm. And it’s not getting any easier. The budget process should begin with a more realistic revenue projection – one achieved through consensus.

It is time that Dr. Feel Good (a.k.a. Gov. Christie) work with Dr.Kevorkian (the unpleasant moniker Christie conferred on the legislature’s Budget Director David Rosen.) Dr. Feel Good’s revenue projections in the past several years may have made him and us feel good, but six or eight months into the budget year he has had to say “oops,” slash items he never particularly liked, and face credit agencies which lowered our rating and increased our cost of borrowing.  

March NJ jobless numbers – NJ lagging behind

You remember this guy, right? The headstrong governor here in the land of make-believe who propagandized the happy-talk of Jersey Comeback with banners, theme music and videos and jacked-up Republican campaign rallies passed off to the taxpayers public town halls in their best interest. How’s that working for ya? Christie quietly retired the banners a couple years ago, and knew better than to utter that phrase in his Republican National Convention speech that same year. Christie’s trying to make a case for himself as viable on the national scene beyond the RGA, tougher now because of the scandals. But we’re still left with the impact of some piss-poor state economic decisions over recent years, many of them his.

Unemployment is up here, though the state is using terms like “flat” and “small dips” to describe it. New Jersey lost about 1,300 jobs in March, bringing NJ’s unemployment to 7.2%. That’s up from 7.1% this time last year, and lagging half a point behind the national rate of 6.7%.

Our Governor’s Begrudging, Half-hearted Support for Obamacare

Our governor’s response to the U. S. Affordable Care Act (ACA) has created a quagmire. He did decide to support the Medicaid Expansion provision to be funded for several years entirely by the federal government. However, he refused to adopt a New Jersey operated Health Exchange. Such will result in us having a federally operated program less attuned to the needs of our state and less consumer friendly.

More importantly in rejecting a NJ operated Health Exchange he surrendered millions of dollars that could be used for outreach to enroll patients. As NJ Policy Perspective (NJPP) points out, “Maryland, which will operate a state based exchange, plans on spending $16 million in federal funds and $8.8 million in state funds for outreach.” Because our governor opted against creating our own exchange the federal government has  allocated only $1.5 million to NJ for outreach, and so far the state has not added any of its own dollars.

This lack of funding will affect participation in both our forthcoming Health Exchange and our Medicaid Expansion. As Seton Hall law Professor John Jacobi says, “People who are uninsured are typically very busy people who struggle to make their rent and put food on the table, and they are not engaged in the rollout of the ACA.” In the case of Medicaid expansion the new program will now be open particularly to more childless adults who will have to apply first for General Assistance. NJPP explains, “These individuals have many barriers to enrollment including mental illness, substance abuse, physical disabilities, homelessness, and an inability to speak English.”

As an essential starting point, Senate Bill S2644 increases the Medicaid income eligibility limit to 133 percent of the federal poverty level, consistent with the ACA. In committee, where the majority supported the bill, Diane Allen (R-7) did not vote, Dawn Addiego (R-8) abstained and Sam Thompson (R-12) voted no. To his credit Robert Singer (R-30) voted yes. It is important that this bill pass and that the Assembly act on it as well. The bill however, does not add state funding for outreach.

So our governor in a begrudging, half-hearted way has allowed the construction of a foundation for better health care opportunities for many in our state, but he has left us without the tools to complete the task. NJPP estimates that without outreach “New Jersey will lose $690 million in federal funds each year, and 186,000 fewer New Jerseyans will likely benefit from health care reform.” More funding for outreach is essential.

Deborah Howlett on the Minimum Wage

The Senate Labor Committee held a hearing today on legislation to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $8.50. The minimum wage has not been increased in three years, and full time workers being paid at that rate earns only about $15,000 a year in one of the highest cost-of-living states in the nation. The bill being considered addresses this issue by tying the minimum wage to the consumer price index so that the impact of cost-of-living increases is reduced.

I spoke with Deborah Howlett, President of New Jersey Policy Perspective, after she testified before the committee. In this video, Howlett talks about why we need this increase and how it will benefit the entire state, not just those covered by the proposed law.

S2664, Verizon’s anti-consumer telecom bill – on hold

Blue Jersey heard from Senator Loretta Weinberg from the State House about an hour ago that the telecom bill pushed by Verizon – S2664 – is being held up and may not be voted on today – and that the bill may in fact undergo substantive changes. We’re hearing from elsewhere that Sen. Sweeney has pulled the bill from consideration for today.

There’s been a howl of protest against this bill and its Assembly companion over the last few weeks, particularly following a combined efforts watchdog report from New Jersey Policy Perspective (NJPP) and Demos that found the bill would result in hikes in the average phone bill, the elimination of key consumer protections.

Sen. Weinberg told Blue Jersey this morning that her offices were blitzed with calls on this bill – encouraged by the coalition led by NJ Citizen Action (NJCA) and AARP- urging a NO vote. The NJ League of Municipalities has also been messaging mayors to oppose the bill. Sen. Weinberg also told us that she got calls from the pro-S2664 forces, a Grover Norquist group that seemed to confuse their own members about the bill.

Quite a few NJ newspapers have had no trouble seeing through the haze:

  • Herald News called the bill, “ill-considered legislation goes too far too quickly and could leave citizens choking in the dust.”

  • Star-Ledger: “legislators shouldn’t strip customers of protections, or a cheap and basic phone service.”

  • Home News Tribune/Courier News: “Does anyone really believe that a Verizon or Comcast, their hands freed by fewer controls, would then offer the same services, or even more, for lower rates? We don’t. The vast majority of consumers don’t. But they’re not the ones pulling the strings in Trenton.”

  • APP urges NJ Senate: “Jam the signal on the telecom ‘choice act.'”

    Full disclosure: Blue Jersey’s running an ad from the coalition opposing this bill; we’d be opposing it even if we weren’t. The coalition is broad; you can read the partners here.

    Reaction from NJCA & more, after the jump …