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October 30, 2017

Superstorm Sandy blew through New Jersey five years ago, leaving unprecedented destruction in its wake. As recovery efforts got underway, Monmouth University launched a survey of the state’s hardest-hit survivors to determine how satisfied they were with those efforts. A new Monmouth University Poll revisited some of those participants. Here’s what they found:

Some 55 percent remain unhappy with the state (down from 67 percent in 2013). Specifically, 29 percent of hard-hit residents are very dissatisfied and 26 percent are somewhat dissatisfied. Only 9 percent are very satisfied with the recovery effort and another 35 percent are somewhat satisfied. Among those who have been able to move back to their Sandy-damaged properties, 50 percent are satisfied with the state’s efforts. Among those who have permanently relocated or are still waiting to move back, just 29 percent are satisfied with the state.

Just under half of the survey’s participants (44 percent) say the state’s recovery efforts are focused on helping people like them, (up from 24 percent in 2013). But a majority (56 percent) says that people like them have been forgotten in the recovery effort.

October 27, 2017

According to an economic impact study just released by the New York Shipping Association, the port industry of New Jersey and New York accounted for nearly $8.5 billion in federal, state, and local tax revenue last year and supported more than 400,000 jobs.

In addition, the port industry was responsible for $25.7 billion in personal income and $64.8 billion in business income, according to the study conducted by the New Jersey Transportation Planning Authority.

The study also reports that the port industry currently employs 229,000 workers and supports another 171,000 indirect jobs. That number is up nearly 20 percent since 2014.

October 26, 2017

A towering lead among women propels Democrat Phil Murphy to a 57 percent to 37 percent lead over Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno among likely voters in the race for New Jersey governor, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released yesterday.

Women back the Democrat 65 percent to 29 percent, while men are divided with 49 percent for Murphy and 45 percent for Guadagno.

Murphy leads 92 percent to 4 percent among Democrats and 52 percent to 39 percent among independent voters. Republicans go to Guadagno 89 percent to 8 percent.

With 13 days until the election, 83 percent of likely voters who name a candidate say their mind is made up.

October 25, 2017

Patient-centered practices are steadily growing in American healthcare. Yesterday, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey (Horizon BCBSNJ) announced they helped Horizon members avoid more than 2,000 emergency room visits and more than 600 inpatient stays in 2016.

Patient-centered practices actively coordinate the work of specialists and other health professionals and try to focus on wellness and preventive care. The idea is to help patients get and stay healthy and avoid more costly and complicated health conditions.

Horizon says that in 2016, members engaged with a patient-centered practice — compared to those with traditional practices — had a 3 percent lower total cost of care, 3 percent lower rate of emergency-room visits, 3 percent lower rate of hospital inpatient admissions, 3 percent higher rate of breast cancer screenings, and 4 percent improved control of diabetes costs.

Horizon says that 1.5 million members participated in its patient-centered programs in 2016, an increase of 50 percent over the previous year. And the number of primary-care physicians participating in such programs grew by nearly 10 percent.

October 24, 2017

Gov. Chris Christie yesterday announced an additional $75 million for the Blue Acres program to protect homeowners affected by repeated flooding.  

The program enables the state to purchase the properties of willing sellers in disaster-prone areas at pre-flood market values, providing them the resources to move to safer locations. This federal- and state-funded initiative also is used to demolish existing homes in danger zones and convert that land into open space to mitigate the impact of flooding from the ocean, bays, rivers, and creeks.

Of the nearly 900 offers made by the Blue Acres Program as of October 23, 689 have been accepted; 610 acquisitions have closed; and 475 homes have been demolished. The program also has successfully facilitated short sales or payoff approvals with lenders for 66 properties for which owners owed more on their mortgages than the appraised value of the home. That resulted in debt forgiveness of more than $5.1 million, enabling more families to move out of harm’s way.

October 23, 2017

Preliminary data from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics for September shows that New Jersey lost a total of 6,300 jobs in the public and private sector. The September unemployment rate climbed to 4.7 percent, up from 4.5 percent in August — according to BLS estimates.

September job gains were posted in two of nine major private-industry sectors: education and health services (+4,200) and professional and business services (+800).The sectors reporting a dip in employment are leisure and hospitality (-5,500); trade, transportation and utilities (-2,400); information (-1,400); financial activities (-800); construction (-400); manufacturing (-200), and other services (-200).

Over the month, public-sector employment dropped by 400 jobs.

October 20, 2017

Breast cancer is the leading cancer diagnosed among women in New Jersey and it’s the second leading cause of cancer deaths. White women in the state had the highest rates of breast cancer between 2009 and 2013, while black women had the highest breast cancer mortality rates. The lowest incidence of breast cancer and the lowest mortality rates were among New Jersey Asian and Pacific Islanders.

As this is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, several agencies in the state Department of Health are driving efforts to raise awareness of the disease and to educate New Jerseyans about the importance of early screening. “Regular screenings are important in detecting cancer early and getting the most effective treatment,” New Jersey Health Commissioner Cathleen D. Bennett said, adding that the state’s cancer survival rates continue to improve.

October 19, 2017

New Jersey's business-tax climate has once again been ranked 50th out of 50 states in the annual state-by-state rankings compiled by the Washington, D.C.-based Tax Foundation.

Unsurprisingly, no other state scored worse than New Jersey when it came to property taxes, which now average $8,549. But New Jersey also came in 48th on individual taxes, 46th on sales taxes, and 42nd on business taxes. The state's best showing was in the category of unemployment-insurance taxes, where it ranked 36th.

But the Tax Foundation's analysis also highlighted some tax-policy changes that have been adopted in recent years, including a slight reduction of the sales tax and a phase-out of the estate tax. Still, since New Jersey taxes large estates and some inheritances, the changes didn't improve this year's overall score.

October 18, 2017

Phil Murphy, the Democratic candidate for governor, has opened up a 15-point lead over his Republican rival, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, according to the findings of the new Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind poll. Murphy leads Guadagno 47 percent to 32 percent among likely voters. Both candidates get about a quarter of the support among independents: Murphy 26 percent, Guadagno 25 percent, undecided 26 percent.

Two-term Gov. Chris Christie seems to be affecting Guadagno’s chances in a negative way. He is deeply unpopular among likely voters, with only 16 percent approving of his job performance. And 43 percent say he is a factor in the gubernatorial election, with a full third (34 percent) indicating he is a major factor. Fifty-six percent say Christie is not a factor in their choice to replace him.

Voters are also deeply cynical about the ability of the system to change things for the better. An overwhelming majority (69 percent) say the system is broken. Barely a fifth (22 percent) have faith in its ability to find leaders who can address the state’s problems.

October 17, 2017

The median weekly earnings of women in New Jersey in full-time jobs in 2016 was 80.3 percent of the median earned by their male counterparts. That translated to $894 for women compared to $1,113 for men. Nationwide, the corresponding figures were $749 (81.9 percent) for women and $915 for men, according to a new report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Chief regional economist Martin Kohli says that in 2016 women’s-to-men’s earnings ratio in New Jersey declined 2.9 percentage points from the previous year. The ratio of women’s to men’s earnings in the Garden State ranged from a low of 74.3 percent in 2004 to a high of 84.8 percent in 2010.

Among the states, Vermont had the highest women’s-to-men’s earnings ratio (90.2 percent), while Utah had the lowest (69.9 percent) in 2016. In that year, women’s median weekly earnings went from $624 in Mississippi to $932 in Massachusetts. (The figure for women in the District of Columbia was $1,117.) The report notes that state-by-state differences can reflect variations in the occupations and industries in the states as well as differences in the demographic composition of each state’s labor force.

October 16, 2017

The state’s regulated online casinos combined to generate $20.4 million in September, according to the New Jersey Monthly Internet Gross Revenue Report, released last week by the state’s Division of Gaming Enforcement.

That’s the seventh straight month revenue crossed the $20-million mark.

““Online gambling now accounts for some 10 percent of all casino revenue generated by Atlantic City casinos,” said Steve Ruddock, lead analyst for PlayNJ.com a promotional site for New Jersey’s gaming industry.

The September total is down slightly from the $21.3 million generated in August, but up 26 percent from $16.2 million in September 2016. Online casinos generated $657,799 per day during the 31 days in September, compared with $709,296 per day during the 30 days in August.

New Jersey’s online casinos have generated $183.7 million in gross revenue through September 31, putting the industry on pace to reach a quarter of a billion dollars in gross revenue for the year. That would shatter the $196.7 million that the industry generated in 2016.

October 13, 2017

New Jersey has one of the worst incarceration disparity rates for Latino youth in the country, according to The Sentencing Project’s new fact sheet. Latino youth in the Garden State are five times more likely than white youth to be incarcerated. This research comes just a few weeks after The Sentencing Project released a report showing that black youth in New Jersey are more than 30 times more likely to be incarcerated than their white peers — the worst disparity rate in the country.

October 12, 2017

Newark’s new Inclusionary Zoning for Affordable Housing ordinance requires developers to set aside 20 percent of their residential units for affordable housing in projects that consist of 30 or more new or substantially rehabilitated units. It is part of Newark’s attempt to prevent the kind of gentrification that has driven longtime residents out of Hoboken and Brooklyn.   The ordinance mandates housing affordable to those in different income levels, ranging from 40 percent of the area’s median income to 80 percent. The marketing of the affordable units must give priority to Newark residents. The ordinance applies to all new residential development throughout the city, not just in designated areas. Further, affordable units must be spread throughout a building and not clustered together.

October 11, 2017

In 2016, there were over 2,100 drug-related deaths in New Jersey, mostly due to heroin. There have been two significant spikes in heroin deaths in the past few years, according to the “Report of The Governor’s Task Force on Drug Abuse Control.” The first came in 2015, when deaths jumped to 1,600 (they had been holding steady at about 1,200); the second spike was in 2016.

Fentanyl deaths also spiked during this period, climbing from 100 in 2014 to 400 in 2015 to more than 800 in 2016.

The Task Force, authorized when Gov. Chris Christie declared opioid addiction a public health crisis in February, made 40 recommendations involving education, prevention, intervention, treatment, recovery, and reentry.

October 10, 2017

About 62 percent of all violent deaths in New Jersey are due to suicide, according to an in-depth report. During the period covered by the report, 1999-2014, there were nearly twice the number of suicides than homicides. In 2014, there were 786 suicides in New Jersey. In 2015, the last year in which there is public data, there were 789 suicides.

The most common method of suicide is hanging/strangulation/suffocation (43 percent), followed by firearms (26 percent), and poisoning (17 percent.) Hanging and strangulation were the most common method for both males and females, although firearms were the method of choice for males older than 65.

Males accounted for 76 percent of suicide victims with 78 percent of all victims being white. A suicide note was left in 35 percent of cases.

The most common circumstances cited for suicides are mental health problems or history (48 percent). Education level and marital status seemed to have little impact on the rate of suicide. The only good news in the report is that New Jersey’s suicide rate is much lower (36 percent) than the national average.

October 6, 2017

Two new senators were sworn in yesterday in Trenton. Colin Bell (D-2), a former Atlantic County freeholder and prosecutor, succeeds Jim Whelan, who died in August. Kristin Corrado (R-40), takes over from Kevin O’Toole, who recently left the Senate to become chairman of the Port Authority. Corrado, an attorney, is the clerk of Passaic County. Both new legislators are running in November’s election.

October 5, 2017

The “tax reform framework” proposed by the Trump administration and Congressional Republican leaders would cost one in four New Jersey taxpayers an average $2,400 more a year in federal taxes, according to new analysis by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. And it would give the Garden State’s wealthiest 1 percent of taxpayers an average $74,000 tax break each year.

The ITEP report concludes that New Jersey will be one of the hardest hit states in the nation if the tax plan goes through. Under the plan, the state would have the second highest share (26.4 percent) of taxpayers facing a tax hike; Maryland would be hardest hit of all the states, with 30.5 percent of its taxpayers having to pay more, while North Dakota would suffer the least, with just 4.2 percent of its taxpayers on the hook for higher federal taxes. Nationally, 16.7 percent of taxpayers would see a tax increase.

New Jerseyans would be so hard-hit under the Trump-GOP plan because of its elimination of the state and local tax deduction, which disproportionately benefits high-service, high-tax states like the Garden State.

October 4, 2017

The most interesting news in yesterday’s Monmouth University Poll isn’t the sizable lead that Democrat Phil Murphy has put between himself and Republican Kim Guadagno, it’s the fact that both candidates have shockingly low name recognition. With just five weeks to go before Election Day, 44 percent of likely voters have no opinion about Murphy, with 45 percent holding no opinion about Guadagno.

“Low name recognition of New Jersey gubernatorial candidates this late in the game is not unprecedented because the state lacks its own media market. However, it is unusually low this year. The campaigns simply can’t break through with the political noise coming out of Washington,” commented Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.

Now about that sizable lead. The poll shows Murphy 14 points ahead of his rival, which gives Guadagno a lot of ground to cover by November.

“The double whammy of Trump and Christie has not helped the Republican brand in New Jersey. While Gaudagno’s current position as Christie’s number two is not a death blow to her chances, it certainly isn’t helping,” said Murray.

October 3, 2017

Since 2007, the NJCEED (the early detection and education program run by the New Jersey Department of Health) has provided more than 130,000 mammograms, resulting in diagnoses of more than 1,000 cases of breast cancer.

October 2, 2017

There are 538 police agencies spread out across the state — Camden, which relies on the county police accounts for one of them — according to the just released report “2015 Crime in the United States” from the FBI. That’s more than New York (418) and Connecticut (104), but just about half of Pennsylvania (1,056).

There are 30,272 male and female police officers serving in those 538 agencies, which works out to 1 for every 220 people, (or 4.5 per 1,000). All told, there are 39,376 police employees, counting clearks and other employees.

September 29, 2017

Millennials are 25 percent more prevalent in New Jersey towns and cities that meet smart growth metrics, according to a new report from New Jersey Future.

The report (“Where Are We Going?”) confirmed that millennials, which it defined as those born between 1980 and 2000, are gravitating to walkable, more urbanized locations with jobs, housing, entertainment, and amenities all within easy reach. It also found that, unlike the rest of the country, the millennial population is shrinking in New Jersey: While the number of millennials grew nationally by 6.8 percent, it declined in New Jersey by 2.4 percent between 2000 and 2013, the report contends.

The new demand for mixed-use, walkable downtowns is being driven largely by the preferences of the millennial generation, who are rejecting in large numbers the car-dependent suburbs of their parents' generation.

Hoboken has the highest concentration of millennials in the state – 45 percent. The proportion of 22- to 34-year olds in neighboring Jersey City was also high, about 28 percent.

The report also found that baby boomers, formerly the largest generation in America, live disproportionately in suburban communities that don’t score well on smart-growth metrics and where residents are dependent on their cars to get around.

September 28, 2017

Saving money is not something Americans are good at — and that’s at the best of times. So it should come as no surprise that some of New Jersey’s most troubled cities have little or nothing to show when it comes to savings, but the findings of a new report from MagnifyMoney.com are especially troubling: Camden ranks at the bottom of the list of worst savers among over 2,000 American cities. (Its actual ranking is 2,437.)

The company used IRS and U.S. Census data to run the numbers: Camden had the lowest activity among savers — only 4 percent of residents reported interest income and an average $8 a year in interest. Five other NJ towns rank among the bottom 10 poorest savers: Paterson, East Orange, Elizabeth Port, Irvington, and Orange.

September 27, 2017

Teaching is a tough job. Anyone who doubts it should spend a few weeks in a classroom, trying to bring the best out in young kids or teens. And in New Jersey, perennial problems with the pension system can add to the everyday stress and strain. So it’s good to have some good news to deliver for a change: New Jersey has been designated the second most-teacher-friendly state in the nation, according to a new study by WalletHub, the personal finances website.

The analysis compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia based on 21 key indicators of teacher-friendliness, using a data set that ranged from teachers’ income growth potential to pupil-teacher ratio to teacher safety.

New Jersey’s total score was 66.43, just below first-ranked New York, which scored 68.2. The Garden State was ranked 18th for opportunity and competition and first for academic and work environment.

New Jersey took the second spot for the quality of its school system and finished third for pupil-teacher ratio. It took sixth place for three categories: average starting salary, public school spending per student, and teacher safety. Average annual salary was ranked 12th; income growth potential, 16th; 10-year change in salaries, 27th.

September 26, 2017

It’s been a challenging year for Rutgers University, according to President Robert Barchi, but a very good one in many respects. The school’s fundraising efforts have raised more than $200 million, a record amount, and President Barack Obama delivered the commencement address to the graduating class of 2016.

As reported in Rutgers Today, the university's news service, Rutgers has granted more than 585,000 academic degrees since its founding, including those granted to the largest class in the university’s history in 2017.

This year, the university was listed among the top 25 public universities in the U.S. News and World Report and Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education rankings. Military Times also ranked Rutgers No. 2 in the country among four-year colleges, while Rutgers University–Camden was named New Jersey’s first Purple Heart University for its services to veterans.

September 25, 2017

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, construction workers in New Jersey pull down $24.05 an hour, which works out to $50,030 a year — bearing in mind that many jobs in the construction industry are seasonal. Still, construction workers in the Garden State earn the fourth-highest pay in the nation, behind Illinois and Hawaii (both ($27.01 an hour) and Massachusetts ($25.84). Construction jobs in New York State pay $23.11; data was not available for Pennsylvania. Arkansas ($12.38) and North Carolina ($13.50) pay construction workers the lowest per-hour rate.

September 22, 2017

Some 31 percent of the 1,031 New Jersey Society of CPAs members who were surveyed in August and September said the state's next governor should make reducing property taxes the No. 1 priority. More than 70 percent of the respondents said reducing property taxes was a top-five priority.

The remaining top-five priorities in order were improving the state’s infrastructure; converting public pensions to 401(k)s; auditing state agencies and programs for overspending and waste; and combining municipalities or increasing the use of shared services.    

Other priorities for the next governor by order of importance included modifying the school-funding formula; increasing tax exemptions and incentives for retirees to keep them in the state; eliminating the inheritance tax or increasing the exemption amount; and evaluating corporate tax levels.

September 21, 2017

President Donald Trump’s decision to dump the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is particularly bad news for the roughly 22,000 young New Jersey immigrants who are living and working in the state thanks to the act.

About 2,700 immigrants — or about 12 percent of all DACA beneficiaries in the state — will be able to renew their permits for two more years, according to a new Fast Facts report released by New Jersey Policy Perspective. That is much lower than the estimated 25 percent renewals expected nationwide. Those who can renew will have their DACA status extended through late 2019 or early 2020.

An estimated 61 percent of New Jersey’s entire population of DACA beneficiaries will lose their eligibility for a work permit and deferred action for deportation between October 2018 and June 2019.

September 20, 2017

Some 99 percent of New Jersey schools offered arts programs to their students in 2015-2016, according to new census report, “Arts Ed Now: Every Child, Every School.” The report also indicates that the state is on the way to achieving “universal access” to arts education, with 99.4 percent of all students given the opportunity to take an arts class. Roughly 76 percent of those students (about 1 million) availed themselves of that opportunity.

How close is New Jersey to universal access? The census showed that only 26 schools statewide (serving 9,160 students) reported offering no arts instruction, a dramatic reduction from a decade ago when more than 77,000 students did not have access.

September 19, 2017

According to a new fact sheet from The Sentencing Project, African-American youth are over 30 times more likely to be detained or incarcerated by the police in New Jersey than their white counterparts.

New Jersey has the highest black/white disparity rate in the country, twice that of Wisconsin, which is in second place. It is a distinction that we would be better off without.

An earlier report from the project indicates that New Jersey also has the worst black/white disparity rate for adult incarceration in state prisons in the country. A black adult is 12 times more likely to be incarcerated than a white adult.

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