Saying many middle-class families throughout New Jersey are on the brink of financial collapse due to COVID-19, Gov. Phil Murphy announced a millionaire’s tax Thursday that he said is aimed at helping those burdened financially by the pandemic.
“Through the millionaire’s tax, we are restoring the principle of fairness to our tax code,” Murphy said at his COVID-19 briefing Friday. “No middle-class family should pay a higher percentage of their income in taxes than the wealthiest among us, and now we’re in a position to greatly reduce, if not eliminate, that disparity.”
The tax will lower the income requirement for residents who have to pay the state’s top marginal tax rate of 10.75% from $5 million to $1 million per year. Previously, residents earning between $1 million and $4 million a year were paying at a rate of 8.97%.
The legislation also will include tax rebates of up to $500 each for two-parent families with at least one child and a household income below $150,000. Single parents who earn less than $75,000 will also be eligible for these rebate checks.
Murphy believes this tax can help create consistent income for the state that can be reallocated to help other areas of need.
“The notion has always been to ask those who can afford it the most to allow us to get the repeatable year-in and year-out revenue to make the investments that we need to make into the middle class,” Murphy said. “It’s not just the $500, it’s funding schools … it’s funding health care, it’s funding affordable housing, whatever it might be. That’s always been the mindset surrounding it.”
Other notes from Friday’s COVID-19 briefing:
An additional 519 positive COVID-19 test results have now been confirmed, pushing the statewide cumulative total to 198,848 cases.
There were five additional fatalities reported Friday, which brings the confirmed death total in the state since March to 14,270. The number of probable deaths has not changed since the last update and remains at 1,791.
All fatalities reported Friday were from the past five days — two from Tuesday, and one each from Sunday, Monday and Wednesday. Another seven deaths were reported at hospitals across the state Thursday, but they are not yet lab-confirmed, so they are not included in total.
Other hospital numbers:
- In hospital: 413 (221 confirmed cases, 192 under investigation);
- In ICU: 73;
- On ventilators: 36;
- Rate of transmission: 08;
- Positivity rate: 19% (from Sept. 13).
Environmental justice reform
Murphy provided further clarification on the environmental justice reform bill that he signed into law Friday morning.
“(The bill is) a much-needed and long-overdue reform that will ensure that long-overlooked communities that had been previously condemned to life with polluted air and water are given a voice in the development proposed for their neighborhoods,” he said. “It will ensure that doing right by our communities is in balance with doing right by our economy.”
The bill, which has been fought for in the state Senate for the past few years, was passed to help limit the environmental health impacts faced by residents in lower-income communities. Companies that are looking to build facilities like factories or power plants in these communities will now face heavier scrutiny. The bill also stated that companies must submit an impact statement that assesses the projects potential impact on a number of diseases and conditions, such as asthma or cancer.
Murphy believes that this will help low-income and minority communities that have been disproportionately affected by these issues in the past.
“Ensuring environmental justice is a critical part of our ability to become stronger, fairer, and more resilient,” he said. “Our Black and Brown communities have borne and outsized impact, and in our urban areas, that impact is reflected in the longstanding health problems that have been exacerbated by years of dirty air and water.”
Murphy expressed optimism about reports of residents cooperating with the tracers.
“This past week, we did see a downtick in the percentage of contacts who refused to cooperate with our contact tracers,” he said. “While more than half of those our contact tracers get in touch with still refuse to work with them, this is, at the least, an encouraging sign after the past several weeks.”
The governor announced the addition of 29 contact tracers over the past week to put the on-the-ground total at 1,864 tracers. There is now a statewide average of 21 tracers for every 100,000 residents. Passaic and Salem counties met the governor’s second benchmark of 30 tracers per 100,000, while Cape May, Cumberland and Mercer counties are all at or above 25 tracers per 100,00 residents.
The final word
Murphy on the attack on two Camden police officers in their homes:
“Thankfully, no one in the family was hurt. But now we need to find those responsible for this heinous act and bring them to justice. Our police are not just the men and women who protect our communities, in many cases, they are members of the very communities where they serve. They are our friends and neighbors.”