January 31, 2020 | Number of The Day
NJ’s total state and local direct general expenditures in fiscal year 2017

State budgets aren’t just about the numbers. “They reflect priorities, challenges, and history.” So notes the Urban Institute, the nonprofit research organization in introducing its latest State Fiscal Briefs. It also observes that each state faces unique economic, political, cultural and historic pressures “that affect how fiscal issues emerge and how problems are resolved.”

And, so to the Urban Institute’s latest fiscal brief for New Jersey — essentially a snapshot of its ledger. A few numbers that caught our eye in the blizzard of data were that New Jersey’s combined state and local direct general expenditures in fiscal year 2017 were $91.9 billion (the most recent year for which census data were available), or $10,344 per capita. That compares with national per capita direct general expenditures of $9,449. Direct expenditures include things like public welfare, education, health and hospitals, police and corrections, and highways and roads. New Jersey’s largest spending areas per capita were elementary and secondary education ($3,068) and public welfare ($2,003).