Report: Wealth increases among N.J.’s billionaires, corporations during COVID-19

As the state deals with the public health crisis of COVID-19, including lost jobs and key budget cuts, billionaires and corporations across New Jersey have experienced a surge of wealth during that time, according to a new report by Americans for Tax Fairness.

Pandemic Profiteers: New Jersey’s Corporations and Wealthiest Individuals Reap Billions While Local Communities Suffer analyzed wealth accumulation and profits generated by New Jersey’s wealthiest residents and corporations headquartered or doing business in the state.

The report found the combined net worth of the state’s billionaires jumped $1.77 billion from mid-March to early August 2020.

Here’s are the Top 6 billionaires in New Jersey and their net worth growth from March 18 to Aug. 5:

  • John Overdeck, up $345 million to $6.46 billion;
  • Rocco Commisso, up $926 million to $5.46 billion;
  • Peter Kellogg, up $300 million to $3 billion;
  • Larry Robbins, up $10 million to $1.91 billion;
  • Duncan MacMillan, up $83 million to $1.38 billion;
  • Michael Price, up $53 million to $1.15 billion.

For many corporations based in or operating in the state, the pandemic also treated them well. Here’s a closer look:

  • Amazon, which has a major presence in New Jersey, had sales up 40% in the Q2 2020. Profits have also doubled year-over-year to $5.2 billion in Q2;
  • Walmart, which also has a major presence in the state, had total revenues up by $10.7 billion year-over-year to $134.6 billion in Q1, and its U.S. sales increased by 10% during COVID;
  • Freedom Mortgage, based in Mount Laurel, generated $8 billion in originations in May and over $11 billion in June;
  • NRG Energy, based in Princeton, had its income from continuing operations increase to $434 billion in June 2020, compared to $284 million in June 2019, a 53% increase. Adjusted earnings also rose to $922 million in June 2020 compared to June 2019’s $801 million;
  • Public Service Enterprise Group, based in Newark, had a net income of $451 million in Q2 2020, up from $153 million in Q2 2019, a 195% increase;
  • American Water Works, based in Camden, had Q2 2020 revenues of $931 million, compared to Q2 2019’s $882 million;
  • Campbell Soup, based in Camden, had net sales increase 15% and earnings before interest was $273 million in Q1 2020, compared to $245 million during the same period last year.

Although billionaire wealth and corporations are surging, the state’s communities of color and immigrants are facing high unemployment rates, an eviction crisis, severe financial hardships.

The report suggested actions the state could take for these communities to thrive, such as taxing corporations and the ultra-rich by reforming the tax code to reflect the income gains made by the highest earning households while also maintaining the 2.5% corporate tax surge and restoring the sales tax to 7% as well as strengthening the inheritance tax.

“These vital reforms, among others, could generate billions in new revenue for the state,” the report said.

By some estimates, the report said, it will take at least $2.8 billion in 2020 and $7.3 billion in 2021 to fill New Jersey’s general fund revenue gap. Gov. Phil Murphy’s preliminary estimate has put the overall budget at a shortfall of $10 billion, the report said. If these gaps aren’t filled, it’s anticipated there will be a spike in private unemployment and cuts to essential public services, like public schools, health care and housing.