Each smoker in New Jersey spends $1.38 million on cigarettes, at today’s prices, ranking the state among the highest in the country when it comes to cost per smoker, according to a recent study by Wallethub, a financial web site.
The total cost per New Jersey smoker is pegged at $1.87 million, when healthcare ($193,312), income loss due to health reasons ($286,922), and other costs are included.
Has New Jersey finally turned the corner with its economy? The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released new job numbers for the month of December that showed a drop in the state’s unemployment rate to 6.2 percent -- 0.2 percent lower than in November. The unemployment rate still lags behind neighboring states New York and Pennsylvania, but it’s catching up.
Nationally, the unemployment rate is 5.6 percent.
The Christie administration is understandably pleased with the announcement, noting that the rate has dropped by 3.5 percentage points since the governor took office. It also says the labor-force participation rate (the total number of people in the workforce actively looking for work) remains higher than the national average.
New Jersey Policy Perspective, a liberal think tank, had a different take on the numbers. It said that the nation as a whole has restored 123 percent of the jobs it lost during the Great Recession; New York has rebounded with almost 200 percent of the jobs, and Pennsylvania has regained almost 100 percent of its jobs. New Jersey, however, has only regained 50 percent of its jobs, and the recovery continues to be slow. In the past year, according to NJPP, the state has only added 2,417 jobs per month. “At that rate, even Christmas 2019 looks unpromising,” said president Gordon MacInnes, in a written statement.
Are millionaires fleeing the state because of high taxes or are there fewer of them due to a dragging economy and poor real estate market? That may depend on your point of view after reading a report by Phoenix Marketing International, which showed that
232,514 households in New Jersey, or more than 7 percent, have investable assets of more than $1 million.
The state was ranked third in the country, behind Maryland and Connecticut and just ahead of Hawaii and Alaska, with the highest ratio of millionaires.
Assembly Republican leader Jon Bramnick (R-Morris, Somerset and Union) seized on the study to issue a statement that it proved “10,000 top earners” were fleeing the state. “For years, Republicans have said that raising taxes hurts job creation and our economy. Today’s report supports that claim.”
New Jersey’s number of millionaires did dip slightly this year but has remained fairly stable since 2011 when there were 231,456 millionaires. In 2010, the entire country was in the doldrums and the number was 212,396. At that time, New Jersey, as in 2014, was ranked third in the country in terms of wealthy residents.
For the second year in a row, Politico magazine has ranked states in terms of overall “strength” based on the idea that education, health, and wealth make a state strong, while crime, unemployment, and death do not. The Garden State came in No. 10, jumping up two spots from 12, presumably because the unemployment rate has vastly improved from 7.8 percent to this year’s 6.4 percent.
The ranking is based on a 1931 H.L. Mencken magazine series called the “Worst American State” and takes the ideas embodied in judging a state’s wellbeing and uses today’s data to conduct a ranking. (In 1931, New Jersey was ranked fourth by Mencken.)
New Jersey performs best when it comes to per capita income ($36,027) and eighth-grade reading and math scores. It also does well -- but not superlatively -- in the percent employed in computing, engineering, and science; percent living below the federal poverty level; and lack of obesity. And it’s got some work to do when it comes to percent of home ownership, life expectancy, high school graduates, violent crime rate, and income inequality.
Minnesota and New Hampshire were tied for first in this year’s rankings. Mississippi came in at the bottom as it did last year and also in 1931.
Only 25 percent of New Jersey’s teachers are involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their work, according to the Gallup Daily tracking survey of the teachers in the most populous U.S. states.
Engaged teachers know the scope of their jobs and look for new and better ways to achieve outcomes.
Indeed, New Jersey teachers seem to be pretty unhappy; 16 percent of them are considered “actively disengaged,” which Gallup defines as not only unhappy but also acting out their unhappiness in ways that undermine what their coworkers accomplish. New Jersey ranked second-highest for “actively disengaged” after Florida.
The third category that teachers were placed in, after being asked a variety of questions about the workplace, is “not engaged.” Gallup defined that category, in which the majority of New Jersey teachers fell, as possibly satisfied with their jobs but not emotionally connected to their work and unlikely to devote much discretionary effort to it.
Nationally, 31 percent of all U.S. teachers were identified as being engaged and 12 percent were actively disengaged.
Engagement is associated directly with outcomes, according to Gallup, including absenteeism and school leadership. Engaged teachers are more likely to produce engaged students with greater achievement.
Bald eagles are coming back to New Jersey. This winter, 25 new eagle pairs were found. And for the first time in 100 years, eagles are nesting along the Palisades Interstate Park.
The Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey reports that the statewide population of bald eagles increased to 156 pairs, and that a total of 146 nest sites were active with eggs.
Biologists from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s Fish and Wildlife division track bald eagles with a telemetry system. Nests are also monitored, which showed that 115 of them produced 201 young eagles.
The Delaware Bay region is the state’s eagle stronghold, with 43 percent of all nests located in Cumberland and Salem counties. However, an
eagle cam is hosted at Duke Farms in Hillsborough and it’s expected the next incubation period will begin mid-February.
It will come as little surprise to most New Jerseyans that our fellow citizens are among the most boastful when they post on Facebook, according to a survey by HeyLets, a social media application.
About 60 percent of New Jersey respondents surveyed said they frequently engaged in self-promotion. The most braggadocious state was California, with 77 percent admitting to the practice, followed closely by Washington (76 percent) and Nevada (72 percent). The most humble states were Utah (22 percent), Oregon (26 percent), and South Carolina (33 percent). Pennsylvanians were considered among the most humble, with 39 percent saying they frequently bragged, and New York came in just behind New Jersey at number 10, with 58 percent admitting to the practice.
HeyLets says many people do not favor those who frequently engage in boasting about trips, attending events, meeting noteworthy people, bragging about your significant other, or getting work-related good news. (Those were considered the five most frequent subjects for boasting.)
Gov. Chris Christie’s popularity in New Jersey continues to slide among the people who know him best as it is all but clear that he plans to launch a presidential campaign in the near future. The most recent poll by FDU Public Mind showed that only 39 percent of New Jerseyans approve of the job he is doing as governor, a major drop from the nearly 80 percent approval rating he had two years ago at this time, shortly after Sandy.
In fact, the polling group put out a statement on Tuesday that said his “approval rating remains low, he’s lost the approval of female voters, and New Jerseyans feel he is focused on becoming president and shirking his gubernatorial duties.”
The poll showed that New Jerseyans believe the state is headed in the wrong direction by an even wider margin (49 percent). Women, in particular, have soured on the governor, with only 34 percent approving of the job he is doing. His ratings with millenials are also poor; 49 percent of those 18-34 years old disapprove of his performance, with only 36 percent approving.
A majority (53 percent) of respondents thinks he is more concerned with running for president than being governor. Indeed, 41 percent of all respondents said they think that some of his decisions are influenced by his desire to be president. Even 48 percent of Republicans said that happens some of the time, with 42 percent of Democrats saying that it happens most of the time.
In a national study conducted by Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, New Jersey ranked among the eighth worst states in the country when it comes to health outbreak preparedness and response. Only Arkansas fared worse, with New Jersey tied with Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Ohio, and Wyoming.
New Jersey met only three criteria the study cited as necessary to prevent, detect, diagnose, and respond to health outbreaks like Ebola, enterovirus 68, and antibiotic-resistant superbugs.
The three indicators that New Jersey did get credit for were sufficient funding for public health services; preparing for emerging health threats by scoring well on the national health security preparedness index; and having 90 percent of infants and toddlers vaccinated with the HBV vaccine.
New Jersey failed seven other criteria, however: vaccinating at least half of the population for seasonal flu this year; creating an adaption plan for climate change that includes human health; reducing the number of healthcare-acquired infections; overall performance when it came to healthcare-acquired infections as compared with the rest of the country; creating test labs in preparation for emerging threats; reporting all HIV/AIDS viral load data to the state HIV surveillance program; and meeting the national performance target of testing 90 percent of E. coli reports within four days.
A large number of New Jerseyans are no strangers to marijuana, but according to a recent federal survey
10 percent of adults in the Garden State said they’ve used marijuana in the past year.
The 2013 survey, conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, indicated that the highest rate of marijuana use was for adults between the ages of 18 and 25. It also reported that 12 percent of children between the ages of 12 and 17 said they used marijuana in the past year.
The same study showed Rhode Island having the highest rate of school-age children using marijuana, at 15 percent, followed by Colorado, at 14 percent.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has fined E.I. DuPont de Nours and Co. $531,000 for alleged violations of the Clean Air Act at its 1,455-acre DuPont Chambers Works Complex. The plant is along the Delaware River in Deepwater.
The EPA fined DuPont charging it improperly maintained and repaired two large refrigeration units designed to minimize chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) from leaking into the atmosphere. The two units have a capacity of 3,000 pounds of CFCs.
CFCs damage the ozone layer, which shields the earth from harmful radiation. The EPA also said the company failed to accurately submit reports under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act.
New Jerseyans are used to thinking that they have better healthcare than much of the country. They should think again. The rates for preventable hospitalizations for adults with chronic conditions and for preventable hospitalizations for pediatrics were higher than the national average, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation data hub.
The rate for potentially preventable hospitalizations for adults with chronic conditions such as diabetes, congestive heart failure, angina, asthma, and the like was 1,046 per 100,000 versus the national average of 1,010.
The rate of preventable hospitalizations for pediatrics was also higher than the national average -- 180 per 100,000 versus 169 per 100,000.
The one area in which New Jerseyans surpassed the national average -- and by a significant margin -- was preventable hospitalizations for acute conditions (such as infections, pneumonia, dehydration). That rate was 568 per 100,000 versus the national average of 653 per 100,000.
New Jersey has 1,634 heritage-tourism sites, which generated $2.8 billion in visitor spending in 2012, according to a report by Tourism Economics, an international consulting firm based in Philadelphia.
Direct visitor spending accounted for about $1.3 billion. There were roughly 11 million visits to the sites that year, 46 percent of which were from people outside of the municipality.
The sites are spread throughout New Jersey, with about 38 percent of them owned by state government, 22 percent by county government, and 16 percent by nonprofits. The federal government owns and operates 6 percent of the sites, with cities running about 4 percent.
Essex County had the largest number of visitors, with more than 1 million, or 9.7 percent. Essex was followed closely by Bergen, with 9 percent of visitors; Cape May, with 9.7 percent; Morris, with 8.6 percent; and Mercer, with 8.3 percent. The counties with the lowest number of visitors were Warren (1.3 percent), Sussex (1.4 percent), Salem (1.7 percent), and Passaic (2.2 percent).
A senior engineer at the Department of Transportation, Guadner Metellus, has pled guilty to the charge of official misconduct, admitting that he and an alleged accomplice solicited a company that operates a shoreline freight railroad to fraudulently inflate the cost of the Roseland bridge rehabilitation project by $700,000.
According to Metellus, he expected the company would agree to pay him and his accomplice $325,000 in bribes. Instead, Morristown and Erie Railway Inc. contacted New Jersey’s Division of Criminal Justice and cooperated with the investigation.
Metellus’ alleged accomplice, Ernest J. Dubrose, is fighting the charges and is expected to go on trial in March. The two were arrested and charged with the scheme on September 23, 2010.
Under the plea agreement, the state will recommend that Metellus be sentenced to three years in prison, two of which are ineligible for parole. He will forfeit his state pension and retirement rights and be permanently barred from public employment.
It’s another dubious distinction, but the Garden State ranked [link:http://www.unitedvanlines.com/about-united/news/movers-study-2014|first] when it came to residents leaving the state in 2014, versus those who moved, according to a national movers study. In New Jersey, 65 percent of those that hired United Van Lines to move household goods were leaving the state -- ranking it first in the country.
United Van Lines has been tracking migration patterns state by state since 1977, and for the third year in a row showed the Northeast losing the highest number of people -- primarily through retirement. New York, with 64 percent of people leaving the state, and Connecticut, with 57 percent, were also in the Top 10 outbound migration states.
Where are they moving to? Oregon ranked first for inbound migration, followed by South Carolina, North Carolina, Vermont, and Florida.
At this time of year, most would agree, it is important to remember those among us who are less fortunate. A new study by the Legal Services of New Jersey shows that only the top 20 percent of earners in the state have increased their income since 2009, considered the end of the Great Recession.
All others have not participated in the financial recovery; in fact, they have seen their incomes drop since 2009. On average, the dip has been more than 5 percent.
This income disparity, according to the report, has been widening steadily. The decline has been disproportionately larger for African-Americans and Hispanics.
The report raises the possibility that this growing income inequality and its subsequent frustrations may have social consequences that are fueling demonstrations and unrest in the aftermath of shootings and police incidents in Ferguson, MO, and New York City.
Looking to get out of holiday debt by selling some gold jewelry? Better beware: the state Division of Consumer Affairs Office of Weights and Measures recently conducted a sweep of jewelry stores, pawn shops, and other retailers who advertise “cash for gold” and found nearly 10,000 (9,967) violations of state consumer protection laws at 71 locations. They also confiscated 35 scales that had not been approved by the state Office of Weights and Measures.
The crackdown was a sweep of shops in six urban areas: Newark, Paterson, Camden, Irvington, Trenton, and Teaneck.
Newark had the highest number of violations, with 5,436 at 29 stores, followed by Paterson, with 2,459 violations at 21 stores.
New Jersey law requires that when precious metals are being purchased, they must be weighed and tested for fineness in clear sight of the seller. The buyer must use a scale certified by the Office of Weights and Measures. The buyer also must post a sign clearly showing prices paid by weight and fineness.
More information about selling precious metals is available online.
New Jerseyans are certainly divided when it comes to their governor. A new Rutgers Eagleton poll shows Christie with a 48 percent - 47 percent overall job approval.
When asked if they feel favorable regarding Christie, the numbers basically flip: 46 percent feel unfavorable with 44 percent feeling favorable.
The lack of favorability rating is a continuation of a downward trend that began sometime during the summer of 2013 -- even before the Bridgegate scandal broke.
When voters are asked to get down to specifics regarding Christie’s performance on issues they say are most important, the governor gets poor marks. Indeed, he gets poor grades when it comes to any of the major fiscal issues facing the state.
Voters disapprove of his handling of the economy and jobs (54 percent vs. 35 percent); taxes (60 percent vs. 31 percent); and the state budget (53 percent vs. 32 percent.) When it comes to education and schools, Christie gets a disapproval rating of 49 percent to 42 percent. Nevertheless, he still gets positive ratings on the Sandy recovery (53 percent vs. 39 percent), as well as crime and drugs (46 percent to 34 percent).
A new survey by the U.S. Census Bureau shows that in 2012 New Jersey spent $31.4 billion on education -- $24 billion for elementary and secondary education.
Of that $24 billion, $2.3 billion was funded by the state and $21.6 billion was funded by local governments.
The remaining sums were spent on higher education ($5.9 billion, of which $4.6 billion was provided by the state), as well as capital outlays, other education services, and libraries.
Business leaders, most legislators, and transportation advocates may be unhappy to learn that despite their recent campaign to fix our transportation infrastructure, most New Jerseyans are still against a hike in the gas tax, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton poll.
Only 41 percent said they would favor a gas-tax hike even after being told the state’s gas tax is among the lowest in the country.
Nevertheless, the campaign, which has targeted the gas tax as one of the few solutions available to fix the state’s crumbling infrastructure, appears to have moved the needle somewhat. In October, only 38 percent of poll respondents were in favor of the tax hike. But David Redlawsk, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling called the uptick “not statistically significant.”
One reason for the opposition, according to the poll’s analysis, is that New Jersey drivers don’t seem to think the roads are that bad. Fifty-four percent replied that state roads -- not including the Turnpike or Garden State Parkway -- are in either good (48 percent) or excellent (6 percent) shape.
President Barack Obama is scheduled to visit the country’s only triservice (U.S. Army, Navy, and Air Force) defense base this afternoon. Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst is home to 38,000 active-duty, reserve, and guard service, as well as civilians and family. It contributes at least $4.2 billion to the state’s gross domestic product, according to a 2013 report by the Rutgers Economic Advisory Service of the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy.
The White House is billing the trip as an opportunity for the president to thank members of the base for their service, but at least one local politician sees it as a possible sign that the base will not be affected by the next round of closures. “I hope the President’s visit is a sign that he will join me in doing whatever is needed to preserve the Joint Base and enhance its operations as our military continues to evolve,” said Sen. Diane Allen (R-Burlington) in a statement.
It may be two years away, but if Gov. Chris Christie thinks he can carry New Jersey in a presidential election, he has a lot of work to do. According to a new Quinnipiac poll, 53 percent of New Jersey voters said Christie would not make a good president, with only 40 percent saying he would. And 50 percent said they would not like to see him run in 2016.
Only Republicans said Christie would make a good president -- Democrats, independents, whether they were male or female of any age, said he would not.
What’s more, 62 percent of those polled said that if he does run for president he should resign as governor because he cannot serve effectively while mounting a presidential bid. Only 32 percent of voters said he should stay in office.
Who do Garden State voters like? Hillary Clinton. She not only beats Christie 50 percent to 39 percent, if an election were held today, but also she beats the rest of the Republican field by even larger margins
Black bears and their habitat have become a controversial issue in New Jersey, with animal-rights advocates once again complaining about the state’s annual bear hunt, which takes place this week.
The hunt, which is expected to bag about 250 black bears, is deemed necessary by the state Department of Environmental Protection in order to cull the population. Although black bears have been sighted in all 21 counties, about 2,500 bears are estimated to live in the Northwest corner of the state – north of Route 78 and west of Route 287.
The annual bear hunt remains controversial, even after a Rutgers student was mauled by a black bear while hiking and died.
Animal advocates argue that the hunt encourages bears to forage for garbage, since human food is used to attract them to hunters. Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, says the death of the student proves that the hunts don’t work -- since it is the first such death in New Jersey history. Aggressive bear incidents have gone up since the bear hunts began five years ago, with the harvesting of 1,600 bears.
“This is not a sustainable hunt,” said Tittel in a statement. “This is a trophy hunt.” He notes that the hunts take place in the deep woods, not on the outer perimeter closer to the population.
A new report by the Justice Policy Institute pegs the true cost of incarcerating a juvenile in New Jersey at $535.36 a day, or $196,133 a year. Although it is one of the more expensive states in the country for juvenile jailing -- Louisiana spends only $127.89 a day or $46,662 annually -- New Jersey does pay out less than many other states. The most expensive is New York, where it costs $966.20 per diem or $352,663 per juvenile per year.
The report concluded that these confinements are, for the most part, inefficient, harmful, and cost the public too much. They also don't reduce the rate of recidivism. Instead, the report recommended that the public shift its emphasis to community-based options. Incarceration should be a last resort.
The report also noted that the juvenile crime rate has dropped significantly in the past 10 years, as has the rate of incarceration of youths being housed in juvenile jails and the crime rate.
Elizabeth elementary school science teacher Tracy Espiritu is one of 40 nationally recognized recipients of the 2014 Milken Educator award, which comes with a $25,000 prize.
Espiritu is a former product engineer who now who teaches at School 29 Dr. Albert Einstein Academy. She has introduced astronomy to hundreds of Elizabeth’s students and families through family astronomy nights and stargazing. And she’s also been recognized due to her contributions to STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering Architecture and Math) curriculum in the city.
Espiritu was instrumental in getting the Einstein Academy, a magnet school, named a NASA Explorer School. She’s also enhanced STEAM instruction through partnerships with the College of New Jersey, the Greater Newark Conservancy, Kean University, New Jersey Institute of Technology, and NASA.
Surmounting economic and other challenges, more than 80 percent of Einstein's students have scored proficient or advanced proficient in math over the past four years, in part due to Espiritu's efforts in her classes and throughout the school, according to the state Department of Education.
Espiritu was surprised by the the award announcement at a school assembly attended by acting Education Commissioner David Hespe and NJ First Lady Mary Pat Christie. A full list of this year’s recipients is available online.
New Jersey commuters to New York will pay $14 in cash to cross the Hudson River using any connecting bridge or tunnel. This includes the George Washington Bridge, Lincoln Tunnel, and Holland Tunnel.
The same rate applies to other New Jersey-to-New York crossings: the Bayonne Bridge, Goethals Bridge, and Outerbridge crossing.
Drivers with E-ZPass get a discount to $11.75.
The new pricing represents at least a $0.75 increase for E-ZPass customers and a $1.00 increase for cash customers in regular cars. The E-ZPass prices are for “peak hours,” which are weekdays 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., as well as Saturday and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
The cost for off-peak hours with E-ZPass is $9.75. There is no charge for returning to New Jersey from New York.
Trucks will find it even more expensive to enter New York, with a cash price ranging from $38 for vehicles with two axles to $114 for trucks with six axles. Trucks with E-ZPass also get a discount, with the lowest cost being $30 for a two-axle vehicles.
The Port Authority does offer discount plans for carpools and low-emission vehicles, but cars must be enrolled ahead of time.
New Jersey jailed a total of 22,452 people in its state prisons in 2013 at a cost of $1.51 billion, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
About 4.8 percent of the state budget’s general fund is devoted to jails and prisons. The cost and large number notwithstanding, that was the lowest number of prisoners being held in New Jersey since 1990.
New Jersey’s rate of 252 people incarcerated per 100,000 population is among the lowest in the country, joining Vermont, Utah, Massachusetts, Maine, Rhode Island, and North Dakota at the bottom of the list.
The rest of the country, however, is experiencing historic highs in the rates of incarceration. Louisiana, which has the highest percentage of prisoners in its jails with 847 per 100,000 spends 8.7 percent of its general fund on prisons. Texas, which also has among the highest rates of incarceration, had 160,295 prisoners in 2013, or 602 people per 100,000. That’s the highest number of prisoners of any state in the country. Texas spent $3.1 billion on its jails or 7.3 percent of its state’s general fund.
To see how the country has changed in terms of prison populations, see the interactive graphic at the CBPP.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is proposing a $7.8 billion spending plan for 2015 on revenues of $4.67 billion -- including an operating budget of $2.9 billion.
The agency boasts that the operating budget has only increased 1.8 percent, which is at or below the rate of inflation for the ninth year in the row. But it also notes that revenues are $250 million higher -- in large part due to higher tolls.
The capital budget is $3.6 billion: 45 percent of which will be devoted to the World Trade Center; 22 percent to tunnels, bridges, and terminals; 21 percent to aviation; and 7 percent to the PATH system.
The $1.6 billion World Trade Center spending includes $632 million in World Trade Center infrastructure other than One World Trade Center; $350 million for the subway/PATH station; $294 in retail development; and $349 million to finish One World Trade Center.
When it comes to interstate transportation (tunnels and bridges and PATH), the authority plans to spend $1 billion. That includes $273 million for raising the Bayonne Bridge; $260 million to improve the access infrastructure to the Lincoln Tunnel; $40 million for the Goethals Bridge; and $35 million for the George Washington Bridge bus station. Another $233 million is planned to upgrade the Harrison St. PATH station, as well as modernize signaling systems under the river. About $6 million will be devoted to extending the PATH line to Newark Penn Station.
Although the report said that part of the aviation improvements will be dedicated to Newark-Liberty airport Terminal A, almost all of the $779 billion in capital aviation improvements will be to La Guardia Airport ($505 million) and reconstruction of a JFK airport runway ($207 million.)
The Port Authority will vote on the proposed budget next Wednesday.
New Jersey doctors, many of whom still work in small offices, have never been known to rapidly embrace technology. But a recent study by the National Center for Health Statistics said that office-based physicians in the Garden State rank last in the country for adoption of electronic health records. Only 21 percent have installed what is considered a “basic” EHR, while the national average is 48 percent, according to the study.
New Jersey also ranked last when it came to office-based physicians using “any” EHR, with 66 percent having implemented one. Nationally, the rate is 78 percent, with Minnesota having a rate of 94 percent.