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February 17, 2017

The now-famous injunction to “follow the money” wasn’t uttered about New Jersey real estate, but it could have been, given a new list of the Garden State’s 50 most expensive ZIP codes from PropertyShark.

At the peak of the pyramid — Alpine’s 07620, home and haven to superstar musicians Stevie Wonder, Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, and Alicia Keys, as well as more anonymous residents. In case you’re thinking of buying in, the median home price is $2,050,000.

If that’s a bit steep, you may want to settle for Short Hills’ 07078, with a median home price of $1,430,000. The community landed the top spot on “Time” magazine’s list of the 10 Richest Towns in America in 2014.

Too rich for your blood? Then try Stone Harbor’s 08247, with a median home price of $1,110,000. “The New York Times” described it as featuring “block after block of gleaming McMansions and elegant shops.”

February 16, 2017

New Jersey teachers — at least in some circles — have the reputation for being overpaid. But a new report from the Economic Policy Institute argues that the opposite is true: Teachers, according to the institute, earn 16.8 percent less in weekly wages than other full-time workers in the Garden State — 12.5 percent less total weekly compensation (wages and benefits).

The institute also projects its estimates against annual salaries: Teachers earn $68,301 vs. $82,223 for full-time employees. The numbers are $95,703 vs. $106,912 for total annual compensation.

The EPI defines itself, at least in part, as “a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank created in 1986 to include the needs of low- and middle-income workers in economic policy discussions.”

February 15, 2017

President Donald Trump might keep this in mind before he signs another executive order: New Jersey is ranked second among all states and the District of Columbia in terms of the economic impact of immigrants on its overall economy. That’s according to a new study from WalletHub, the personal finance website.

A quick look at the top-level findings makes clear just how much immigrants contribute to New Jersey’s economic well-being:

  • The state is ranked second for the percentage of jobs generated by immigrant-owned businesses.

  • It takes the third spot for median household income of foreign-born population.

  • New Jersey is first for the percentage of immigrant STEM workers out of the total number of STEM workers.

  • The state ranks 12th for the percentage of immigrants age 25 or older who hold a bachelor’s degree or higher.

  • The Garden State comes in 21st for the percentage of Fortune 500 companies founded by immigrants or their children.

In order to determine the states in which immigration has the most positive economic impact, WalletHub’s analysts compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across four key dimensions: immigrant workforce, socioeconomic contribution, “brain gain” and innovators, international students — using 18 key metrics.

February 14, 2017

There are 26 Planned Parenthood clinics currently open in New Jersey, delivering reproductive healthcare services and sex education to approximately 100,000 clients annually. Six clinics, though not all Planned Parenthood facilities, have closed since Gov. Chris Christie cut $7.5 million in family-planning funding from the budget in 2010.

The majority of federal funding comes in the form of Medicaid reimbursement for services rendered, just like any other doctor’s office that accepts Medicaid.  Planned Parenthood is also funded through Title X, the federal family-planning program, which only goes to preventive reproductive health services like cancer screenings, STD testing, and birth control — not abortion.

February 13, 2017

Knowing the causes of mortality in a state or a country is a key step in developing effective preventive measures — and the latest release of the New Jersey State Health Assessment Data (NJSHAD) does both. The leading cause of death in the United States in 2014 was heart disease, which killed 614,348 Americans. It also was the leading cause of death in the Garden State, taking 18,023 lives. Cancer was next: 591,699 (U.S.) and 16,393 (NJ), followed by stroke: 133,103 (nationally) and 3,363 (Garden State). A quarter of the deaths in New Jersey (18,234) were attributed to “all other causes.”

February 10, 2017

It’s a long way to Election Day, a truism that candidates know better anybody else. In fact, according to the latest Fairleigh Dickinson PublicMind poll, most New Jersey voters have no idea who they plan on supporting in the gubernatorial primaries — although a few frontrunners are emerging. Phil Murphy is out front among Democrats and Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno is at the top among Republicans.

Murphy’s 17 percent support among Democrats is the same as that “someone else.” State Sen.Raymond Lesniak was named by seven percent; Assemblyman John Wisniewski garners six percent; and former Treasury official Jim Johnson comes in with two percent. But these names and numbers are overshadowed by uncertainty: 50 percent of Democratic voters say they don’t know who they like at this point.

On the Republican side, two-term Lt. Gov. Guadagno comes in first with 18 percent. Former Saturday Night Live cast member Joe Piscopo is close behind her with 12 percent. “Someone else” is preferred by 13 percent, and lesser knowns Steve Rogers and Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli each garner two percent. A total of 52 percent say they don’t know who among the named candidates they currently support.

February 9, 2017

The New Jersey Department of Corrections recently published its “Offender Characteristics Report,” a guide to the crimes, sentences, ethnicities, and holding facilities for the 19,619 inmates in the prison system. (The department does not break out statistics for the entire system — which includes halfway houses, county jails, and medical units — according to sex.)

Still, it makes for disquieting reading.

Sixty-one percent of all inmates (11,923) are serving time for violent crimes: homicide, sexual assault, aggravated/simple assault, robbery, kidnapping, other sex offenses, and other person offenses (including coercion and “terroristic threats”). Fifteen percent are behind bars for narcotics violations; 83 percent for sale/distribution.

Sixty-one percent of inmates are black; 22 percent, white; 16 percent, Hispanic; and 1 percent, Asian.

Thirty-four percent of all prisoners are 30 years of age or younger. The median age for inmates in all facilities is 35.

A total of 80 inmates are serving life without parole.

February 8, 2017

Some reassuring news for Garden State residents: New Jersey has been ranked No. 7 on a list of the 10 states with the fewest break-ins, according to A Secure Life. To compile this report, ASL safety experts collected data from the FBI and determined the seven states with the lowest numbers of recorded break-ins per 100,000 inhabitants. New Jersey has a burglary rate of 312.1 break-ins per 100,000 inhabitants.

The safest state? Surprisingly, the answer is New York, with 223.7 burglaries per 100,000 residents. Pennsylvania finished in the sixth spot; Connecticut came in fourth.

When all 50 states and the District of Columbia are ranked, Mississippi finishes at the bottom of the stack, with 828.8 burglaries per 100,000 residents.

A Secure Life delivers home-security reviews, identity-theft evaluations, financial tips, and safety- and security-oriented resources.

February 7, 2017

Today is National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, and while undeniable progress has been made nationally and in New Jersey preventing and controlling the virus, statistics indicate just how much needs to be done.

Of the 37,000 people with HIV living in New Jersey, 79 percent are minorities, according to the New Jersey Human Development Corp. (NJHDC). Eighty-eight percent of pediatric HIV/AIDS cases in the state are minorities.

“Although we have made great progress in reducing transmissions of HIV, residents are still becoming infected with a preventable disease,” New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Cathleen D. Bennett. “Minority communities are disproportionately affected, and African American residents represent 50 percent of those currently living with HIV/AIDS in the state."

The National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day commemoration event will take place at the Great Hall and Community Center at Greater Mt. Zion AME Church, 42 Pennington Avenue in Trenton. Commissioner Bennett will speak at 10 a.m.

The NJHDC is a nonprofit organization of the African Methodist Episcopal Church that provides communities with knowledge, skills, and services to help prevent and control HIV.

Follow this link for information about HIV/AIDS counseling and testing, or call 1-800-624-2377.

February 6, 2017

There’s plenty of room for improvement, but things could be a lot worse: That’s one way to read New Jersey’s taking the 25th spot in the most recent Well-Being Index, part of the Gallup-Healthways State of American Well-Being series.

The rankings are based on five elements:

  • Purpose: liking what you do each day and being motivated to achieve your goals 

  • Social: having supportive relationships and love in your life 

  • Financial: managing your economic life to reduce stress and increase security 

  • Community: liking where you live, feeling safe and having pride in your community 

  • Physical: having good health and enough energy to get things done daily 

How did the Garden State do?

Its overall well-being index was 62.5. Individual scores were as follows: purpose (29); social (4); financial (21); community (40); and physical (7).

Hawaii had the highest well-being index: 65.2; West Virginia, the lowest: 58.9.

February 3, 2017

Just when it seemed that Democrats and Republicans couldn’t be more at odds, another indicator of their differences has surfaced: traffic fatalities. Using 2015 census data (the most recent available), the number crunchers at nonprofit investigative news organization FairWarning have determined that red states have significantly higher traffic-death rates than blue states.

All told, the 14 states with the highest fatality rates came out for Trump, while the 12 states with the lowest fatality rates were Clinton country. (Death rates were calculated by counting the number of 2015 road deaths per 100,000 people.)

How did New Jersey do? At 6.27 deaths per 100,000, it was fourth from the bottom of the list, as befits its bluer-than-blue politics. Only New York (5.66), Massachusetts (4.5), and Rhode Island (4.26) had lower death rates. Wyoming (24.74), Mississippi (22.62), Montana (21.69), and South Carolina (19.95) were at the top of the chart.

Explanations for the nonintuitive findings range from state speed limits, number of single-lane highways, and being too broke to keep a car in top condition, among others.

February 2, 2017

Just a month into New Jersey’s Criminal Justice Reform (which went into effect on January 1, 2017), and the new program is already meeting its goals, according to Judge Glenn A. Grant, acting administrative director of the courts. And the court system has the data to back up that assertion.

The bail-reform program has a number of objectives. These include: 1) preventing people accused of minor offenses from languishing in jail — sometimes for months — because they can’t make bail, even when it is set very low; 2) preventing dangerous criminals who can afford to pay bail from buying their way to freedom, where they can intimidate witnesses and commit violent crimes.

According to court records, as of January 28, the state had made successful motions for detention without bail in 283 of 506 cases (56 percent). In the remaining 223 cases, the defendants were released under the supervision of a pretrial services program with conditions imposed based on their level of risk.

“The new law eliminates the discrimination against poor people inherent in a money bail system on one hand and allows for an intellectually honest determination by judges that certain individuals accused of crimes pose too great a risk to public safety to be released on the other,” said New Jersey Public Defender Joseph Krakora.

As of January 30, 2,059 defendants were under the supervision of the Judiciary’s Pretrial Services program. Of those:

  • 40 percent were being monitored at the highest level of supervision, which ranges from weekly in-person visits to electronic monitoring and house arrest;

  • 45.5 percent were being monitored at lower levels of supervision, ranging from monthly in-person visits to contact by phone; and

  • 14.5 percent were released on their own recognizance.

February 1, 2017

Gov. Chris Christie’s standing among Garden State voters continues to show no sign of bottoming out; a dismal 17 percent approve of the job he’s doing, according to the latest Quinnipiac University poll. That’s the lowest ranking of any New Jersey governor for the past 20 years of Quinnipiac polls.

“It’s interesting, in an unfriendly way, to wonder how low Christie’s job-approval numbers might drop,” said Mickey Carroll, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll. 

It’s virtually the same story at Fairleigh Dickinson University's PublicMind: The governor garnered an 18 percent approval rating. He even polled poorly among Republicans: less than half (37 percent) say they approve of his leadership.

And the governor’s recent State of the State, in which he sketched out his vision for fighting New Jersey's opioid epidemic, didn’t do anything to bolster his popularity.

Unfortunately, New Jersey voters still think he’s doing a lousy job,” said Krista Jenkins, director of PublicMind and professor of political science.

Christie isn’t the only Republican to take a beating. The Quinnipiac Poll reveals “yawning gender and racial gaps,” with New Jersey voters disapproving 55 percent – 36 percent of the job President Donald Trump is doing. Among men, 44 percent approve and 47 percent disapprove. Women disapprove 63 percent – 29 percent. White voters disapprove 49 percent – 43 percent, while nonwhite voters disapprove 70 percent – 20 percent.

January 31, 2017

This is more than just another fish story: DEP Commissioner Bob Martin has taken to the streets — make that the docks — to help protest proposed recreational harvest reductions for summer flounder that could go as deep as 50 percent.

“Such a draconian reduction in the recreational harvest limit would be tantamount to a moratorium on one of the most popular fish sought after by recreational anglers in New Jersey, making it nearly impossible for them to keep any of the flounder they catch,” Martin said during the rally at the Fishermen’s Supply Company in Point Pleasant Beach.

Summer flounder is one of the most popular game fish in the state among recreational anglers and is very important to commercial fishing operations. 

Martin joined federal and state lawmakers, leaders of the state’s recreational and commercial fishing industries, anglers, and people whose livelihoods rely on fishing to argue that the changes could devastate the state’s fishing industry and have far-reaching economic impacts on shore tourism.

Last month the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) and the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (MAFMC) voted to allow anglers to catch and keep larger fish, reduced the total number that can be kept each day, and reduced the season length.

“This will cripple marinas, charter boat operators, and owners of bait-and-tackle shops, and would have severe consequences on the hotels, restaurants, and other tourism-related businesses that support anglers and their families,” Martin said.

January 30, 2017

It’s not just the nearly 800,000 people in New Jersey who get their health coverage through the Affordable Care Act who would be hurt if the law is repealed without being replaced. Hospitals and health systems across the state would also take a beating, according to data just released by the New Jersey Hospital Association. The NJHA projects that hospitals would lose $1.1 billion through 2019, while post acute-care providers would sustain $325 million in cuts.

The effect on the 249,395 folks in New Jersey covered by marketplace plans and the 546,896 enrolled under Medicaid expansion would be felt across the state.

The NJHA also points out that it would be devastating, and lists a number of potential outcomes, including:

  • A dramatic increase in the demand for charity care; that would be a double blow to hospitals that have seen charity-care funding cut by $350 million in the past two state budgets.

  • An increased reliance on emergency departments to access medical care, which would boost wait times and healthcare costs.

  • The loss of some $4.4 billion in federal matching funds provided under Medicaid expansion.

  • The loss of as much as $795 million in federal subsidies that now help New Jerseyans pay for insurance premiums.

The NJHA also notes that any cuts that come as a result of repealing Obamacare without replacing it would be in addition to the $1.5 billion in funding cuts that Garden State hospitals and health systems have seen since the ACA was established in 2010.

January 27, 2017

With Valentine’s Day just a couple weeks away, some New Jerseyans are still hoping to meet that special someone with whom to share chocolate, roses, and champagne (OK, we’ll admit it; we’re romantics). Finding that certain someone on the web could be a particularly promising approach, given that New Jersey has just been ranked the 10th-safest state for online dating, according to a new survey from highspeedinternet.com (HSI) and SafeWise.

To come up with their ratings, the two outfits analyzed the FBI’s cybercrime and violent crime rates per capita for each state, as well as the CDC’s reported cases of chlamydia and gonorrhea, which are the most common STDs in America. (Hey, we’re talking safe here.) Data was adjusted to account for population, and stats were then correlated with various demographic information from Gallup and other sources.

Near-neighbor Connecticut came in No. 8; Vermont was determined to be the safest state. Washington, D.C. (not a state, true) was ranked the most dangerous state for online dating. To quote the report’s compilers, “Don’t online date in D.C. Just don’t.”

January 26, 2017

There’s no good news in the Trump administration’s ongoing push to roll back the Affordable Care Act — though little has been said about a replacement — so this is a case of the bad news not being worse. New Jersey has been ranked 15th when it comes to states most likely to be adversely affected by the repeal, according to a new study by WalletHub, the personal finances website.

New Jersey’s overall score of 50.95 puts it right between the District of Columbia (50.99) and California (50.50). The total score was calculated using a number of weighted factors, including growth in uninsured population by 2019 and 2021; presence of Planned Parenthood funding; potential job loss and economic impact of repeal; growth in uncompensated care costs; and share of young adults with health insurance coverage.

Massachusetts finished first in the ranking and was projected to have the highest growth in uninsured population in 2019 and 2021, as well as the fourth-highest growth in uncompensated care costs. Pennsylvania was ranked 12th; New York, 33rd.

January 25, 2017

When the talk turns to population density, it doesn’t take long before New Jersey is cited as the state most likely to be bulging at the seams — with good reason. The Garden State’s 8,938,175 men, women, and children — according to the 2014 census — are squeezed into 7,354 square miles.

A quick Google query can verify the basic facts. But how many Empire State Buildings would be needed to accommodate all those people? You may never have considered the question (understandably), but the folks at SpareFoot, a storage-supply website have, and they’ve got the answer: 5.6. (In case you’re wondering, it would take 68,333 10-foot-by-20-foot-by-8-foot storage units to do the trick — even more than are stacked along the Turnpike in Port Newark.)

SpareFoot isn’t satisfied with a rough estimate. It’s taken into consideration that men, women, and children are all different sizes — and it’s factored in the 26.9 percent of New Jersey’s population that’s obese.

If you’re more interested in area than volume, SpareFoot has calculated that the entire population of the state could be packed into 1.41 square miles in Jersey City. The number crunchers at the website did not indicate why they chose that venue.

January 24, 2017

The median hourly wage for the most widespread occupation in New Jersey in 2014 was $10.70 per hour, according to the United Way of Northern New Jersey’s ALICE Report – 2016 Update for New Jersey. Retail salespeople numbered 138,020 and typically made just $2.45 more than the minimum wage at the time.

The UWNNJ report on 1.2 million New Jersey households in poverty or unable to afford the basic necessities cites the prevalence of low-wage jobs as a major problem that has put more than a quarter of households in the category of ALICE: asset limited, income constrained, employed.

On average, in order to afford a basic living budget that includes housing, childcare, food and other expenses, a family of four with young children would need to earn at least $32.10 per hour. But 52 percent of jobs in New Jersey were paying less than $20 an hour in 2014.

The report found some positive signs: the number of jobs paying lower wages — less than $30 an hour — declined between 2007 and 2014, while the number paying more than $30 increased, with jobs paying more than $60 an hour doubling.

Still, 13 of the 15 most prevalent occupations in 2014 paid a median hourly wage of less than $20. Three paid less than $10 an hour: cashiers, number 2 with 95,910 employed; combined food prep, number 10 with 57,890 employed; and wait staff, number 11 with 57,040 employed. Of the top 15, only two paid more than $20 per hour: registered nurses, ranked fourth, numbering 76,790 and paying $37.52 an hour, and business operations specialists, ranked 15th, numbering 46,930 and paying $33.83 an hour.

And the future jobs outlook does not bode well for helping to move households out of poverty or the category of ALICE. The report cites job projections from the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development that show 82 percent of new jobs created between 2014 and 2024 will pay less than $20 an hour.

“More than any other factor, jobs define ALICE,” the report states. “The current employment outlook, especially the increase in low-wage jobs, suggests that the number of ALICE households will increase, as will demand for government and nonprofit assistance to fill the gap to financial stability. Technology innovation has the potential to change the jobs landscape. But the timing and the extent depend on a host of economic factors, and the implications for ALICE families are not yet clear.”

January 23, 2017

It’s no secret that medical bills in New Jersey can be sky high. Now it turns out that the Garden State is close to the top of the heap for another healthcare-related expense: Medicare overpayments. According to a new report from the Council for Medicare Integrity, New Jersey has the fourth-highest Medicare waste per beneficiary in the country.

The state overpaid $18.09 per Medicare beneficiary in 2015, the most recent year for which data is available. Given that 1,252,414 folks were signed up for the program, New Jersey shelled out $22,656,610 in total overpayments.

Medicare overpayments are generally made when a provider misbills the program for the services it provided to a patient, most often billing to a code that pays out at a higher rate than what’s approved.

“Medicare loses more money to improper payments than any other program government wide — more than $43 billion was lost from the program this way in FY2015 alone,” said Kristin Walter, spokesperson for the council.

Medicare trustees estimate that at current spending levels and with the expected influx of recipients, the program will be bankrupt by 2028.

CMI found that for the second year in a row, the District of Columbia ranked highest for Medicare overpayments per beneficiary, at $30.90. This is especially surprising because the District of Columbia has the nation’s smallest number of Medicare beneficiaries, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

January 20, 2017

New figures released yesterday by the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development showed New Jersey’s unemployment rate dropped to 4.7 percent in December as the state added an estimated 3,100 new jobs.

Revisions made to initial estimates from November also showed more than 1,000 new jobs were added to the nearly 4,000 total that was initially reported by the state last month, meaning New Jersey closed out 2016 with a net gain of 13,600 jobs. Those additions helped to push the state’s current streak of consecutive years with private-sector job growth to seven.

Still, despite the positive economic news from December, the year-end job figures also reveal a less-rosy long-term trend. The 13,600 jobs that were added in 2016 significantly trailed the average annual growth rate of 42,000 jobs that the state has enjoyed since the end of the Great Recession. The 4.7 percent unemployment rate measured in December also marks an increase from the beginning of the year, when the state’s jobless average was at 4.5 percent. And the 2016 figures also showed that last year officially marked a major dropoff from the banner year for job growth that New Jersey enjoyed in 2015, when it added more than 80,000 jobs.

January 19, 2017

There were 613 organ transplants in New Jersey in 2016, 16 percent more than in the previous year. Tissue donation also increased significantly — up 10 percent on 2015. The recovery and placement of donated organs and tissue for New Jersey residents in need of lifesaving transplants are the responsibility of the NJ Sharing Network, a nonprofit federally designated organization. Five thousand New Jerseyans are currently awaiting transplants.

January 18, 2017

Today is a “day of action” for several groups that oppose the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. It begins with a noon press conference at the State House, with Citizen’s Action, Main Street Alliance, Planned Parenthood, the Unitarian church, and a number of unions and others.

The groups are urging activists to join them at a series of vigils at the offices of the state’s Republican congressmen from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. The gatherings will be held in Morristown, Westfield, Flemington, May’s Landing, Marlton, Toms River, and Freehold.

Tom MacArthur is the only one of the five Republican members of New Jersey’s delegation to the House of Representatives to vote against the initial repeal of Obamacare. He represents the state’s 3rd District, which spans parts of Ocean and Burlington counties and is considered a swing district, with more registered Democrats than Republicans. MacArthur said he wanted to see a replacement for the bill before he voted to repeal the ACA. Citizen’s Action is also encouraging those who support the ACA to send messages to all of New Jersey’s Republican congressmen.

January 17, 2017

The number of New Jersey households that do not earn enough money to afford the basic necessities in 2014 was virtually unchanged from two years earlier, despite some improvement in the state’s economy, according to the latest ALICE report from the United Way of Northern New Jersey. Those 1.2 million families include 11 percent with incomes below the federal poverty level — $23,850 — and another 26 percent not technically in poverty but still unable to afford the annual Household Survival Budget of $64,176 calculated by UWNNJ for a family of four with two young children. UWNNJ calls the latter group ALICE: Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed.

The basic budget, which includes housing, childcare, food, transportation, healthcare, taxes, and miscellaneous expenses, increased by 23 percent from 2007 to 2014, while inflation rose 14 percent. To afford that, a householder would need to earn at least $32.10 an hour. According to the ALICE report, just over half of New Jersey jobs paid less than $20 an hour in 2014.

The then-United Way of Morris County issued its first ALICE report in 2009 as a way to try to quantify and draw attention to the plight of those too wealthy to fall below the federal poverty level and receive some governmental assistance but not wealthy enough to live comfortably in a high-cost state like New Jersey.

“ALICE is a very important part of our society,” said John Franklin, CEO of the United Way of Northern New Jersey. “About a third of our society works, pays taxes but [is] not able to afford where they live. ALICE is disenfranchised from participating in many societal opportunities.”

UWNNJ has so far done ALICE reports for 13 states and of those, New Jersey households fare comparatively better than average, with typically 40 percent of those in the 13 states falling below the ALICE threshold in their individual states. Iowa, Washington, Maryland, and Indiana all had smaller percentages of households either living in poverty or ALICE. New York has the highest proportion – 44 percent unable to meet basic living expenses in 2014.

While New Jersey had an average 37 percent below the ALICE threshold, conditions varied widely across the counties, ranging from a low of 24 percent in Hunterdon to a high of 59 percent in Cumberland County either living in poverty or ALICE.

January 13, 2017

New Jersey ranks third among the states when it comes to how easy it makes it for companies to buy renewable energy. The Corporate Clean Energy Index, devised by Greentech Media, a renewable energy website and consultancy, looks at 15 indicators of how companies can procure renewable energies, such as solar or wind.

New Jersey’s strength is in the fact that companies here can easily build onsite solar capacity. Indeed, the state is second in the country for corporate onsite solar, trailing only California. And on a weighted basis – the percentage of renewable energies a state generates – New Jersey far outpaces the Golden State.

Iowa and Illinois are first and second in overall ranking. New Jersey ranks just ahead of California and Texas.

January 12, 2017

New Jersey needs to add 120,000 jobs a year over the next three years just to get back to pre-recession levels and to keep up with population growth. This is according to New Jersey Policy Perspective, a liberal-leaning think tank. In fact, New Jersey had 1,800 fewer jobs in November 2016 than it did at the start of the Great Recession in December 2007.

The number of jobs added in the Garden State during the past 12 months came nowhere near 120,000, with only 21,400 being created. Amplifying concerns about the state’s economic well-being is that its rate of job growth since December 2007 measures -0.04 percent. The corresponding national rate is 4.9 percent and the rate for the northeast region is 3.8 percent.

January 11, 2017

New Jersey residents can stand a bit taller on next Monday’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day: The state was ranked No. 2 for racial progress in a survey recently completed by WalletHub, the personal finances website. The assessment measured the shrinking gap between blacks and whites over time, using the earliest and most recent data available.

Besides finishing second overall (Georgia took the top spot), New Jersey was ranked fourth both in employment and wealth and for education and civic engagement. The state came in 19th for health. New York was ranked 11th; Pennsylvania, 28th.

January 10, 2017

Gov. Chris Christie signed a bill yesterday adding 20 Superior Court judges to the state’s judicial roster, bringing the total for that court to 463.

At the moment, 417 judgeships are filled, and 12 new judicial appointees have just been advanced by the Senate Judiciary Committee. If they are approved by the full Senate, that would leave 34 vacant positions (including the 20 just added by the governor).

The full complement of judges is likely to be needed ASAP.

Under changes first authorized in a 2014 law, bail is now determined using risk assessment to prevent lengthy jail terms for nonviolent criminals who can’t post bail. Hearings must also be held within 48 hours to go over the results of a six-point assessment system. A constitutional amendment that was approved by voters in 2014 also allows judges to deny pretrial bail to prisoners accused of serious crimes or considered to be flight risks.

Christie highlighted those changes during the bill-signing ceremony in Trenton, saying Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner, who also attended the event, would determine where the new justices will be assigned based on caseloads.

“We want the chief justice to decide where these judges should go, not politics,” Christie said. The additional judges will come with a $9.3 million price tag in fiscal 2018, which begins on July 1, the governor said.

The governor credited Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) and other lawmakers from both parties for working together to address judicial vacancies that had disrupted work at some courthouses in recent years. The bill boosting the judicial roster was introduced on December 12 and it cleared both houses a week later.

“This isn’t about politics, it’s about people,” Sweeney said.

January 9, 2017

Sometimes it seems as if everyone in New Jersey has something to say about high property taxes, but no one knows what to do about them. Courage to Connect NJ (CtoCNJ) wants to set that situation right: It’s offering five grants of $1,000 each for out-of-the-box ideas about how to take a bite out of property taxes. Appropriately enough, the deadline to apply for a grant is April 15, 2017.

A nonprofit, nonpartisan organization whose purpose is to educate the public about ways to create more effective and efficient local government, Courage to Connect NJ, which was founded in 2009, supports fire districts, school districts, and county and municipal governments to find more efficient ways to deliver services to residents.

CtoCNJ’s founding Executive Director Gina Genovese said that she was inspired to go forward with this effort in response to dozens of comments reported to her organization in the past year that convey desperation about property taxes.

Individuals and groups are encouraged to apply for a grant.

January 6, 2017

Being rated No. 1 isn’t always a good thing. That’s definitely true of United Van Lines 40th Annual National Movers Study, which awards New Jersey the top spot when it comes to people moving out of state. In 2016, according to the survey, 63 percent more folks moved out of state than moved in. Nearly 40 percent of those outbound cited employment as their reason; 31 percent said retirement; 20 percent said family; and 18 percent said lifestyle. Nearly half (45.03 percent) of those on the way out earned $150,000 or more a year.

United has tracked migration patterns annually on a state-by-state basis since 1977. For 2016, the study is based on household moves handled by United within the 48 contiguous states and Washington, D.C.

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