A Renewed Focus on Working Families By Deborah M. Figart

A Renewed Focus on Working Families By Deborah M. Figart

President Obama addressing the White House Summit 6-23-2014v2A panoply of policies—from raising the minimum wage to paid family leave—to help Americans better balance work and family “shouldn’t be bonuses, they should be part of our bottom lines.” And “twenty-first century families deserve twenty-first century workplaces.” These were two key phrases from President Barak Obama’s address delivered to the White House Summit on Working Families. I had the honor of being invited to attend this event alongside roughly 750 policy makers, business leaders, academic experts, and activists on June 23, 2014, in Washington, DC.

The President made two policy announcements at the event.

First, he would return to the White House and sign a presidential memorandum to require all federal agencies to expand access to flexible work schedules. The federal government is the nation’s largest employer with 2 million workers on the payroll. Only 15 percent of them (300,000) work in the nation’s capital. (Walmart is the nation’s largest private sector employer with 1.4 million workers in the U.S.) The Obama Administration seeks to demonstrate that the federal government can serve as a model employer, just as the President has done with two other recent initiatives: raising the minimum wage for federal contractors and making pay transparent by prohibiting retaliation against workers for discussing their salaries with one another.

Second, President Obama pointed to the difficulty faced by some adults covering child care costs while considering federally-funded job training or retraining programs. Working parents, he argued, should not have to choose between taking care of their children and trying to train for a new career. To make it easier, the President announced that he asked Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez to make available technical training grants to low-income individuals training for in-demand industries.

I was very interested to hear from panelists from a wide variety of businesses in the U.S., including CEOs from accounting firms, a craft brewery, a bookstore, restaurants, technology firms, and entertainment companies. These leaders detailed aspects of their workplace policies and programs to help employees balance work and family. Each one discussed how their policies have helped recruit new talent, lower turnover, increase productivity, reduce absenteeism, and increase profit. One executive said that in her company, when she offered unlimited sick time, the usage of sick time actually declined!

What realized these efforts, according to the business leaders, was not merely the commitment of the top of the organization, like the CEO and the Board, but the middle of the organization. When middle manager performance was tied to how well they were helping employees achieve balance, businesses did better at achieving this goal. A phrase repeated several times was that “employees bring their whole selves to work.” They just don’t shut off their home lives at 9:00 am and pick them up again after work.

As an economist, I wanted more than anecdotes. So I was keen to hear what Betsey Stevenson, member of the President’s Council of Economic Advisors, had to say. She reviewed the empirical evidence on the impact of family-friendly policies on the economy and the business bottom line. The evidence is summarized in a series of new fact sheets and reports published by the Council of Economic Advisors, with titles such as “Work-Life Balance and the Economics of Workplace Flexibility,” “The Economics of Paid and Unpaid Leave,” and “Nine Facts About American Families and Work.”

President Obama is obviously frustrated with the gridlock in Washington. And the President recognizes that turning a bill into a law takes time. The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, signed by Bill Clinton, was first introduced in 1985. He is utilizing tactics to try to move policy along as much as his executive powers allow without the legislative branch. It also seems to me that he employing skills from his early career as a community organizer, acting as “Organizer in Chief.” That’s because his initiatives can only be sustained in the long run if policies discussed at the White House Summit become dinner table conversations around America that lead eventually to legislative action at the state or federal level and/or voluntary changes in how businesses operate.

Dr. Deborah M. Figart is a professor of Education and Economics in the School of Education and a Contributing Policy Analyst for the Hughes Center.

“Washington Redskins”: Time for a Name Change

“Washington Redskins”: Time for a Name Change

By Deborah M. Figart

The sport of football has a lot of things on its plate. Retired players with dementia. College players that want to unionize. And then there is the Washington Redskins, a team whose owner Daniel Snyder refuses to change its name.

In its Blackhorse v. Pro Football, Inc. decision on June 18, 2014, pending any appeal, the United States Patent and Trademark Office cancelled the team’s trademarks on the basis that it is “disparaging to Native Americans.” Royalties from the Redskins name and their maroon-and-gold brand will plummet. Sales of copycat shirts and merchandise will not be prosecuted, and sales revenue will not go to the NFL and therefore be shared across all teams, including the Redskins.

Words matter. They have meaning. They conjure up images. Culture evolves. What was once acceptable in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual identity may no longer be legal and/or tolerated. “Washington Redskins” is a name that is passé—oh-so-twentieth-century, and even eighteenth century. The original pro team was not even named that. They were the Boston Braves in 1932. One year later, the new owner changed the name to the Redskins, and the team moved to Washington in 1937.

Changing a team’s name when it relocates is not unusual. The Tennessee Titans were originally the Houston Oilers. In fact, the original football Titans were the New York Titans, renamed the New York Jets in 1963. Imagine: Joe Namath might have won Super Bowl III, one of the greatest upsets in football history, as quarterback of a team called the Titans!

The Charlotte Hornets NBA team initially took their name with them when they moved to New Orleans. When the New Orleans team became the Pelicans, the Hornets name was available. Charlotte Bobcats team owner Michael Jordan changed his relatively new team’s name back to the Charlotte Hornets.

Professional teams have rebranded themselves for other reasons as well. Names that have evoked guns, violence, and sin were dropped in favor of more positive terms. Baseball’s Houston Astros were once the Colt .45s. And the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and now just the Rays. Basketball’s Washington Wizards were once the Capitol Bullets.

The Redskins have an opportunity to reboot and rebrand. It should be seized and not feared. Doing nothing is not costless, especially with the trademark decision. A name change would instead be profitable for the team and the NFL.

Of course there are legal costs to rebranding any team, such as securing trademarks, ordering new uniforms and equipment, new signage, etc. According to a recent Washington Post article, these costs would amount to less than $5 million for the Redskins. But a reboot could result in millions and millions of dollars of new merchandise sold. The fan base may expand wider than Washington, DC, to fans who would proudly wear a logo whose name was no so offensive. Sports branding experts, like Anthony Fernandez quoted in the Washington Times, agree that new markets and new business would result from a name change.

When the NBA’s first openly gay player, Jason Collins, signed this past season with the Brooklyn Nets, I bought a Jason Collins tee shirt. I was not the only one. Millions were sold on the NBA’s website, making it the #1 or #2 selling jersey for several months during the season.

My Jason Collins shirt is black, the color of the newly branded Brooklyn Nets, who changed uniforms when they moved from New Jersey to New York. Black is cool. Sports teams have been adding black to appeal to their fans. So what new color mix might a newly rebranded Washington team wear in the NFC East, a division with the Giants, the Eagles, and the Cowboys? How about black and orange—which would really be black. After all, “Orange is the New Black.”

Dr. Deborah M. Figart is a professor of Education and Economics in the School of Education and a Contributing Policy Analyst for the Hughes Center.


87% – NJSpotlight


June 13, 2014

While Washington politicians argue whether to provide more access to a college education financially, almost all (90 percent) New Jersey college graduates believe it was worth the cost, according to the Stockton Poll of the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy. Yet, 87 percent of those polled believe change by colleges is needed.

The poll showed that most Jersey college graduates believe that going to college changed their life — primarily (33 percent) that it led to a better job or specific skills (9 percent). But they also said it led to a better understanding of the world (22 percent) or to becoming a better citizen (7 percent).

Yet if colleges want to improve the value of their degrees, they should provide more practical experience like internships (33 percent) or better career counseling (19 percent). Other ideas to increase value include better academic counseling (17 percent) and a more focused education (11 percent).

Opinion: Next Up on the Bridgegate Hearings Agenda – Finding an Exit Strategy

Opinion: Next Up on the Bridgegate Hearings Agenda – Finding an Exit Strategy

Carl Golden | June 13, 2014

Wisniewski & Co. have been fair-minded and diligent, now’s the time for closing arguments

carl golden

Carl Golden

For the select committee investigating last September’s access-lane closings at the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee, the Legislature’s budget break comes at an opportune moment. It affords the committee and its staff several weeks to review what it has learned in the past six months, assess the value of the information gleaned from subpoenaed documents and under oath in personal testimony and, most importantly, devise an exit strategy.

While Assemblyman John Wisniewski, the committee’s cochair, indicated it would reconvene sometime in mid-July to hear additional testimony from as-yet unnamed individuals, the six-week delay will further sap the investigation’s momentum.

There have already been signs of an increasing weariness with the investigation and its cost, and it will be a difficult task to regenerate interest in it in mid-summer when attention is focused on long planned family vacations rather than following a political drama that has lost much of its drama.

Wisniewski has led the committee admirably, maintaining its focus and demonstrating his skill as an interrogator. In the face of concerted attempts by committee Republicans to force a suspension of the panel’s work and defer to the United States Attorney, Wisniewski’s calm demeanor kept the investigation from deteriorating into a partisan political brawl.

The hard reality, however, is that after months of hearings and scrutinizing tens of thousands of pages of memos, emails, and phone logs provided by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the governor’s office, there has not been a shred of credible evidence directly implicating Gov. Chris Christie or his top staff in the madcap plot to close the access lanes.

Each of the administration witnesses has related the same story: They knew nothing in advance about the scheme prior to its implementation, were not involved in any way in its planning or execution, and were shocked by the disclosures. Despite differences in specific dates or timelines, the core of their testimony emerged unshaken.

In point of fact, their testimony cemented the administration’s case that the closures were the brainchild of former Port Authority staffer David Wildstein, that former deputy chief of staff Bridget Anne Kelly was aware of it, and that former Christie confidant and campaign manager Bill Stepien had some level of involvement.

The administration has stuck steadfastly to its account and, for the most part, it has held up — considerable cynicism, skepticism, and outright disbelief notwithstanding.

They all accepted the initial representation by Wildstein and former Port Authority deputy executive director Bill Baroni that closing the lanes — or “realigning” them as the two preferred to characterize it — was part of a traffic study that had gone awry due to a failure to inform local officials and law enforcement.

Their story unraveled quickly when Authority engineers claimed the study was altogether bogus and was slapped together by Wildstein without any of the normal planning and preparation that precedes such studies.

Despite warnings and early evidence that the lane closures were a cover story to disguise an attempt at political retribution and that governor’s office personnel had knowledge of it, the top staff failed to pursue the issue beyond a perfunctory “we’re looking into it,” and asking other staff members whether they knew about it.

It was largely dismissed as a Port Authority issue, rather than an administration matter, and could be ignored.

Wisniewski and his Democratic colleagues on the committee voiced their incredulity that, in spite of the intense media attention and speculation, no one in the administration undertook to determine what had occurred.

The committee, as one member expressed it, was “curious about the lack of curiosity.”

While that conclusion is understandable, the more likely explanation is that the administration’s strategy was to keep the issue at arm’s length, confine it to the Port Authority and out of the governor’s office, and play for time in the belief that it would be overtaken and swept aside quickly in the crush of other more pressing matters.

That strategy collapsed, producing a major political uproar and career-threatening scandal with the revelation of the “time for traffic troubles in Fort Lee” email from Kelly to Wildstein.

    In developing an exit strategy, Wisnewski is in an excellent position to recite what the committee’s activities have revealed:
  • An administration that chose to disregard growing evidence of possible misconduct and abuse of government power in its ranks.
  • An administration obsessed with securing political advantage to an extreme point at which a part of the governor’s office became a partner in his reelection campaign, pushing relentlessly against and arguably exceeding the boundaries separating official duties from political involvement.
  • An administration in which an ugly mindset had taken root, one which not only encouraged beatdowns of political opponents, but celebrated them.
  • An administration in which the number of “I don’t recall” or similar responses suggested that amnesia had become a communicable disease.

Wisniewski deserves much credit for standing firm in the face of mounting political pressures. Had it not been for his perseverance, none of the foregoing would have been become widely known, nor — and perhaps most importantly — would the United States Attorney have begun an investigation.

Leading a legislative committee investigation into actions of the executive branch controlled by the opposition party is a task that requires sober judgment, a clear-eyed sense of balance and proportion, a recognition that an end has been reached and a conclusion necessary.

Wisniewski has demonstrated those qualities. Now is the time to take advantage of the Legislature’s preoccupation with the state budget and secure his committee’s place as having carried out its duties in a responsible and fair-minded fashion.

U. S. attorney Paul Fishman is waiting in the wings.

Carl Golden is a senior contributing analyst with the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.

Who Should Pay for Seasonal Worker Wage Increases?

Who Should Pay for Seasonal Worker Wage Increases?

Deborah M. Figart, Ph.D.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie recently announced that the state has a $807 million budget shortfall in Fiscal Year 2014. So proposals to “give away” tax revenue need to be considered very carefully. My estimate of one such bill in the New Jersey Assembly that provides seasonal employers tax credits on their income tax forms for hiring minimum wage workers is equal to $14.8 million in 2014 and up to $30.9 million by 2019.

On New Years Day in 2014, New Jersey became the 21st state to have a higher minimum wage than the federal minimum wage: $8.25 per hour, up from $7.25 per hour. Voters in New Jersey and other states have pushed for a minimum wage that would keep pace with the cost of living; the New Jersey and federal minimum wage had been $7.25 since 2009. Increases would raise the incomes of the working poor and help struggling families put more food on the table. Raising the minimum wage puts the burden for adequate living standards on employers, alleviating pressure on the social safety net.

In 2013, the New Jersey legislature delivered a bill to raise the state minimum to $8.50 per hour and index it to inflation. It was vetoed by the governor. After Governor Chris Christie vetoed the increase to $8.50 per hour, the measure was sent to the voters as Public Question 2 on the November 2013 election ballot. The same day that Chris Christie overwhelming won a second term, 61 percent of New Jersey voters pulled the lever in favor of raising the state minimum wage to $8.25. More important, the voters approved language that would automatically index the new state minimum wage to inflation.

Inflation has been running about 2.5 percent per year over the past 10 years, less than the average long run rate of 3.0 percent. Assuming 2.5 percent for each of the next five years, a low estimate, the New Jersey minimum wage would gradually increase to:

2015                $8.46

2016                $8.67

2017                $8.89

2018                $9.11

2019                $9.34

Those dollar amounts are too high for New Jersey State Assembly members Samuel L. Fiocchi and Chris A. Brown, who have sponsored a Bill No. 2983 that provides certain seasonal employers tax credits on their income tax. An “eligible employee” is one employed by a seasonal business for not more than 30 weeks per year. It has been referred to the Assembly Labor Committee for consideration. The sponsors hope for it to pass by the end of June, just in time for the summer tourism season at the Jersey shore.

The proposed legislation would allow seasonal employers to claim a tax credit equal to the federal-state minimum wage gap, the total number of hours worked by eligible minimum wage employees times the dollar amount by which the state minimum wage exceeds the federal minimum wage. The gap is currently $1.00 per hour ($8.25 minus $7.25). Seasonal employees would include groups such as migrant farm workers and teenagers at amusement parks and some Jersey shore restaurants.

Let’s do some basic math to estimate the effect of this bill. The current federal-state minimum wage gap is $1.00. Suppose seasonal employees work 4 months per year, or 18 weeks. Some work more, some less, so I have selected a midpoint. At 40 hours per week, this equals 720 hours per year. So 720 hours multiplied by a tax credit of $1.00 per hour equals $720 per employee. A tax credit, unlike a deduction, comes directly off the bottom line of the amount of taxes owed to the state.

How much total loss in tax revenue is this for the State of New Jersey? In other words, how much would the state subsidizing the hiring of private sector seasonal employees? The answer depends on developing an estimate for the number of seasonal employees in the State of New Jersey.

A data retrieval tool from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics helps us calculate this estimate. We can compare the seasonally adjusted total private employment for New Jersey with the not seasonally adjusted total private employment. By selecting July 2013, a month and year with seasonal employment, the BLS shows the following for New Jersey:

3,365,200 employees, not seasonally adjusted

3,324,100 employees, seasonally adjusted

The difference is 41,100 employees (3,365,200 – 3,324,100). But not all seasonal employees work for seasonal employers. For example, casinos hire extra dealers every summer but are open year-round. Let’s assume that one-half of seasonal employees work for seasonal employers. That would be 20,550 workers or about 0.6 percent of the current New Jersey private sector labor force, which seems reasonable.

Recall our $720 dollar subsidy per worker. With 20,550 workers in a season, the total cost to the state would be $14,796,000 or $14.8 million dollars (20,550 employees x 720 hours x $1.00). According to the New Jersey Department of the Treasury, New Jersey is projected to collect about $2.483 billion in corporate business taxes in Fiscal Year 2014. The tax credit for seasonal employees would therefore amount to a 0.6 percent reduction in tax revenue.

By 2019, the state minimum wage could be $9.34 per hour. Assuming no growth in the number of seasonal employees by 2019, the cost to the state would be $30.9 million dollars in 2019 (20,550 employees x 720 hours x $2.09). The subsidy would be $1,504 per worker per year, reducing corporate tax revenue by about 1.2 percent. Of course, if the minimum wage is subsidized for seasonal but not permanent employees, there could be perverse incentives. For instance, Jersey shore restaurants that try to remain open during the winter, with pared down staff, may opt to close to meet the definition of “seasonal employer.” Another example is the inducement to cut labor costs. For employers who used to pay seasonal employees 50 cents an hour or more above the minimum wage, they would be incentivized to cut that wage down to the minimum to quality for the tax credit.

One may think that this is costing the state a lot or just a little. My point is this: we should have a reliable estimate of the cost of the Assembly bill by the New Jersey Office of Legislative Services. Finally, we should ask ourselves another question. If the federal minimum wage stays constant, New Jersey taxpayers will assume an increasing percentage each year. At what point does an increasing taxpayer subsidy mean that the seasonal employees are partly government employees and not just private sector workers?





| MAY 29, 2014

The governor’s reliance on wishful thinking when it comes to the budget finally comes up against reality.

Being governor is all about having options, settling on a course of action, marshaling legislative and public support, and then implementing it smoothly and effectively.

From time to time, though, issues arise for which none of the available options is particularly appealing or without considerable risk. The choice is narrowed to selecting the one that is the least distasteful.

This is where Gov. Chris Christie is at the moment.

The state budget is more than $800 million in the red; he faces a legislative revolt and two court challenges to his plan to dramatically reduce contributions to the public pension system; the state’s credit rating has been cut six times, and the outlook for 2015 is equally gloomy.

Moreover, he’s deferred the homestead rebate program until next year, the equivalent of a $375 million property tax increase on the seniors and disabled eligible for the credit. The rebate program has been skipped in three of the five years Christie’s held office.

The shortfalls are the product of successive budgets built upon wishful thinking rather than hard fact. The administration based its proposed spending on revenue growth of between five percent and seven percent, despite repeated warnings that the state’s economy — while recovering — remained too weak to sustain such optimistic forecasts.

As the gaps between income and spending developed toward the conclusion of each fiscal year, they were bridged by fund transfers, shifting money from dedicated programs, or delaying expenditures until the following fiscal year.

The effect of these last-minute manipulations was to create a rolling structural deficit from one year to the next, putting off an eventual day of reckoning when the shortfall reached a level too great to be overcome by bookkeeping sleight of hand.

The Legislature is hardly an entirely innocent bystander in this drama. Despite hearing the same warnings Christie heard — including from its own budget research office — the Legislature accepted the governor’s glowing revenue estimates and the spending that went along with them.

The Democrats recent indignation over the governor’s inclusion of some $32 million in tax and fee increases was short of genuine as well, since both they and the media were told of the plan in a treasurer’s budget briefing in February.

The sheer size of the impending deficit left Christie with no option but to reduce by $2.27 billion the state’s contribution to the public pension system this year and next. His opposition to any sort of broad-based tax increase and his promise to veto one should the Legislature approve it left the pension payment as the only source of readily available funds sufficient to cover the shortfall.

The reaction of the Democratic legislative leadership was predictable — outrage, accusations that the governor was in violation of the law, and warnings that the state’s credit rating would be downgraded yet again.

Senate President Steve Sweeney who earlier this year threatened to refuse to act on the budget and shut down state government if the pension payment was not made in full didn’t repeat it, but said instead he would pursue reinstatement of a surcharge on incomes above $500,000 – the so-called millionaire’s tax — something Christie has vetoed twice.

It’s not likely that Sweeney will follow through on a government shutdown. Democrats are leery of being blamed for denying essential state services to taxpayers to prove their point that shoring up the pension plan for public employees is more important.

In the ensuing public relations war, Christie would seize the high ground, insisting his plan addressed the budget shortfall and protected against a tax increase while Democrats, on the other hand, were willing to punish taxpayers in the interest of appeasing its public employee union base. He would argue, with validity, that the shutdown was initiated by the Democrats in a brazen move to gain political advantage.

The more likely Democratic strategy would be enacting the tax surcharge on wealthy earners, include the revenue in the pending budget, restore the cut in the pension payment, and send it to Christie’s desk.

As anticipated, the governor would veto the surcharge legislation, use his line-item veto to strike the revenue from the budget, and proceed with the reduced pension payment.

Democrats are short of the required votes to override a veto, but will settle for a “lose the battle, win the war” outcome, one which they believe will support their argument that the governor is more sensitive to the desires of the wealthy than the middle class.

They’ll point out that a modest increase in the tax rate for upper-income earners has consistently enjoyed overwhelming public support and that Christie, by his steadfast opposition, has turned his back on the majority of taxpayers while clinging to the discredited notion that the wealthy will flee the state in great numbers if faced with a tax increase.

Christie’s resolute opposition to any tax increase, including raising the gasoline tax to replenish the soon-to be-bankrupt Transportation Trust Fund, guarantees that in the end he’ll prevail. His line-item veto and the Democrats’ inability to override it ensures he’ll succeed.

The New Jersey Education Association and the Communications Workers of America have challenged Christie’s pension reduction in court, alleging that his action violates a 2010 law that locked the state into a specific payment timetable. How and how long the litigation will take to play out is anyone’s guess.

Of the options at his disposal, Christie chose the one he felt posed the lowest political risk. For instance, should he decide to seek the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, he can do so as someone who refused to raise taxes while reining in the burgeoning cost of public employee benefits — conservative credentials all.

His candidacy would still confront questions about his fiscal stewardship, the lagging pace of job creation and economic growth, and the state’s creditworthiness being near the bottom in national standings. Like all his predecessors, Christie enjoys a wide array of options to address problems. Nowhere in the oath of office, though, does it mention they’ll all be good ones.

Carl Golden is a senior contributing analyst with the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.


Money and politics lead to scandal


Recently, the United States Supreme Court, in a 5-4 ruling in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, effectively overruled limits on aggregate campaign contributions. Before the ruling, individuals were restricted to giving no more than $123,000 to candidates and party committees per election cycle.

The decision by the court allows even more money in a political system awash in dollars and influence peddling.

For some perspective, the 2012 median household income in the United States was $51,371; and, in New Jersey it was $69,667. These figures are from the U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey.

Not only does this ruling demonstrate how out of sync Washington is with the rest of the country, it also points to the degree to which Washington is not in tune with regular Americans.

Clearly, an individual making about $50,000 in the United States, or even $70,000 in New Jersey, is in no position to contribute $123,000 or more during the course of an election cycle. Citizens in this income area are lucky if they can afford to make a $5 or $10 contribution to a favored candidate for office

This ruling rewards the interest groups and individuals who already dominate Washington, advocating agendas that push apart the American electorate and tempting candidates and elected officials.

United State Sen. John McCain, Republican from Arizona, has already predicted, “There will be major scandals in campaign finance contributions that will cause reform.

“There will be scandal,” McCain repeated. “There’s too much money washing around.”

Money scandals in national politics and in New Jersey politics serve as warning signs of too much money concentrated in too few hands. The film “American Hustle” is a fictional account of the Abscam scandal of the 1970s. More than 30 political figures were included in the bribery investigation. Eventually six members of the U.S. House of Representatives, a U.S. senator, a New Jersey state senator and the mayor of Camden were convicted of crimes.

In 2007, the then-U.S. Attorney Chris Christie warned mayors and other local officials at the New Jersey League of Municipalities convention in Atlantic City: “If over the next couple of days someone approaches you with an envelope of cash looking to seek a favor from you, unless it is your mommy, turn and run for the ocean.  It’s probably us.”

Despite the warning, two years later the U.S. Attorney’s Office conducted a sting involving bribes that ensnared local elected officials, real estate developers, a former punk rocker, an illegal body parts broker, five Orthodox rabbis and a retired exotic dancer.

Ted Sherman and Josh Margolin co-authored “The Jersey Sting,” which chronicled the true story of a three-year corruption investigation that ended up so comical and sensational that it found its way into late-night talk show monologues.

But it is not really funny because, as McCain said, “there will be scandal.”

Daniel J. Douglas is the director of the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.


Stockton’s Hughes Center for Public Policy Launches Online Forum, ‘Policy Hues’

Stockton’s Hughes Center for Public Policy Launches Online Forum, ‘Policy Hues’

For Immediate Release; with photo of Figart

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Contact:    Maryjane Briant

                        News and Media Relations Director

                        Galloway Township, NJ 08205


                        (609) 652-4593

Deb 1









Galloway, NJ – Concerned citizens have another forum in which to engage on today’s public policy issues with the start of “Policy Hues,” a new blog (http://blogs.stockton.edu/policyhues) hosted by the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.

Policy Hues will feature blog posts from Dr. Deborah M. Figart, professor of Education and Economics in the School of Education and a Contributing Policy Analyst for the Hughes Center. Figart is also director of the Stockton Center for Economic & Financial Literacy, which serves as the southern regional office of the New Jersey Coalition for Financial Education (www.njcfe.org).

Dr. Figart received a Ph.D. in Economics from The American University in 1986 and a B.A. in Economics, summa cum laude, from Wheaton College (Mass.) in 1981.

Dr. Figart is an internationally known scholar in the field of labor and employment issues. She has written on the subjects of equal pay, working time, emotional labor at work, minimum and living wages, job evaluation and career ladders.

With her academic background rooted in her knowledge of economics, Dr. Figart will provide commentary on other public policy issues including those affecting the workforce, financial literacy and economic development.

She is the author or editor of 18 books or monographs, including: Women and the Economy: A Reader (M.E. Sharpe, 2003); Living Standards and Social Well-Being (Routledge, 2011); and Handbook of Research on Gender and Economic Life (Elgar, 2013). Some of her current research is on financial exclusion in the U.S. and the student loan debt crisis.

Dr. Figart currently serves on the Board of Trustees of Novadebt, a non-profit credit counseling corporation. She recently completed terms as a member of Atlantic County Advisory Commission for women and coeditor of the Review of Social Economy, a peer-reviewed journal in economics.

“We are pleased to have the distinctive voice of Dr. Figart in providing commentary on contemporary policy issues,” said Daniel J. Douglas, director of the Hughes Center.

“We encourage members of the public to read and comment on the blog posts,” said Douglas.

In addition to Dr. Figart’s blog posts, Policy Hues will also include columns from Carl Golden, press secretary for former New Jersey Governors Tom Kean and Christie Whitman. Golden is a senior contributing analyst with the Hughes Center.

The new blog expands the Hughes Center’s web and social media presence that includes a website (www.stockton.edu/hughescenter), Twitter handle (@hughescenter or (www.twitter.com/hughescenter), and Facebook (www.facebook.com/Hughes.Center.Stockton.College).

About the Hughes Center

The William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy (www.stockton.edu/hughescenter) at The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey serves as a catalyst for research, analysis and innovative policy solutions on the economic, social and cultural issues facing New Jersey, and is also the home of the Stockton Polling Institute. The Center is named for William J. Hughes, whose distinguished career includes service in the U.S. House of Representatives, Ambassador to Panama and as a Distinguished Visiting Professor at Stockton College. The Hughes Center can be followed on Twitter @hughescenter and found on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/Hughes.Center.Stockton.College.


Opinion: Gov. Christie’s Made Champagne Promises on a Beer Budget

Opinion: Gov. Christie’s Made Champagne Promises on a Beer Budget

Carl Golden | May 6, 2014

Recipe for a fiscal crisis — optimistic revenue projections, midcourse corrections, and a Legislature all-too-willing to sign on

carl golden

Stripped of the sloganeering — “Turn Trenton upside down . . .” “the Jersey comeback . . .” “the new normal . . . ” — the brutally bleak reality is that the state’s fiscal condition is the worst it’s been in decades.

In a scene reminiscent of the investment broker staring in disbelief at the stock ticker in October 1929, the Christie Administration confronts the following:

  • A shortfall of $807 million in the current budget that must be bridged in less than two months.
  • The fifth downgrade of the state’s credit-worthiness by rating agencies since 2010.
  • A Transportation Trust Fund with no money left.
  • The need for $620 million to continue the state’s capital construction transportation program in 2016.
  • An underfunding of the statutorily mandated aid to education formula by $1 billion, leading to property tax increases or cutbacks in personnel and programs at the local level.
  • Unemployment stubbornly lodged at over seven percent.
  • A job creation rate that has recovered little more than half of those lost five years ago.
  • A scheduled payment of $2.2 billion into the state’s public employee pension fund.
  • A home foreclosure level now the highest in the nation.

Not surprisingly, accusations are flying thick and fast over who bears the responsibility for the sorry state of fiscal affairs, but a good deal of the blame must fall on Gov. Chris Christie who, as a candidate in 2009, pledged that “change is on the way,” an implicit promise that the old ways of tax and spend would end and be replaced by prudent policies to restore sound financial footing.

It’s been the rating agencies, entities with no political axe to grind, that have consistently identified the underlying reason for the state’s ills — wildly optimistic predictions of anticipated revenues year after year, despite repeated warning signs that the economy remained so fragile the estimates would not be realized.

Those same agencies agreed also to the continuing use of one-time budget maneuverings — fund transfers, postponing scheduled spending from one fiscal year into the next, a reliance on borrowing — all served to undermine long-term stability and erode confidence in the state’s credit standing.

It is indisputable that the administration’s revenue projections have fallen considerably short year after year, requiring midcourse corrections to maintain a balanced budget.

Whether the estimates reflected wishful thinking or were based on a political decision to do whatever it took to get through the year and avoid tax or fee increases is up for argument.

David Rosen, budget director for the Office of Legislative Services, has for each of the past four years, warned that the administration’s revenue estimates were too generous and submitted his own figures which, in the end, proved more accurate.

Rosen was publicly castigated by the governor who accused him of partisanship and lacking the intellectual heft to be taken seriously. Rosen can take solace in the knowledge his projections turned out much closer to reality than the administration’s.

With its optimistic estimates, the administration constructed annual budgets that, in reality, contained structural deficits which it then addressed at the end of the fiscal year by rolling them over into the coming year, virtually guaranteeing an annual crisis to be solved by last-minute manipulations.

The Legislature shares some of the blame as well, for accepting the administration’s projections despite Rosen’s warnings they wouldn’t materialize. It could have scaled back the estimates, crafted a budget to comport with the more conservative numbers, and sent the budget to the governor’s desk.

While the exclusive authority to certify revenue estimates rests with the governor, it would have been politically difficult for him to reject the lower projections in favor of his more optimistic outlook and seek approval for the spending increases it would permit.

With less than 60 days remaining in the fiscal year and with 90 percent of the current budget appropriations already spent, Christie has few options to fill the $800 million gap.

Widespread speculation has it that the governor will settle on a reduction or a delay in meeting the $1.6 billion obligation due the pension fund. It is the largest single pot of money remaining and, despite the potential for a major political uproar in the Legislature, it appears Christie has little choice but to move toward skipping a part of the payment or putting it off into the next fiscal year.

It’s highly unlikely that cuts in those few areas in which the money hasn’t already been spent will be sufficient to cover the $800 million shortfall, pushing the Administration closer to the pension solution.

Equally disturbing is the certainty that the budget difficulties — most prominently devising a method to replenish the Transportation Trust Fund — will continue into next year and the year after. Christie has given no indication his unyielding opposition to a tax increase of any sort and for whatever purpose has softened, even though a pay-as-you-go program for capital construction doesn’t appear possible or probable.

There is also the matter of increased payments into the pension fund, as well as the pressure to comply fully with the state’s aid to education formula.

There is no question that the administration’s wide-of-the-mark revenue estimates played a major role in creating the current crisis, as the credit rating agencies contend.

When the state could afford Budweiser, Christie budgeted for Dom Perignon ’55, a menu substitution the Legislature couldn’t resist, either.
It’s time for both to retreat from the taste.

Carl Golden is a senior contributing analyst with the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.

Vive les Vacances

Vive les Vacances

Deborah M. Figart, Ph.D.

It is May. With approaching Memorial Day signifying the unofficial start of summer, it means planning a summer vacation. Or does it?

I read with interest a recent column by my colleague, Joe Molineaux, Director of the Small Business Development Center at The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey: “Business owners can profit from taking a vacation.”

Vacation is an English word derived from old French. But Americans are not acting like the French when it comes to vacations.

If we think that Americans even have much vacation time, the National Compensation Survey (NCS) – Benefits Program by the U.S. Department of Labor reveals otherwise. The NCS provides information on the availability, costs, and usage of employee benefits, including holidays and vacations, sick leave, health and life insurance, and retirement plans. The latest data from the 2012 indicates that 77% of workers in the broad survey of private and public employers had access to paid vacation. On average, workers with at least 1 year of service received 10 days of paid vacation in 2012.

Ten days of paid vacation (2 weeks) is low by European standards. The Working Time Directive of the Commission of the European Union (EU) guarantees twice as much—4 weeks or 20 days. Europeans are typically “on holiday” for the entire month of August. A 2013 report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research arrays the paid vacation days for employees across 21 developed industrial (OECD) countries (see Table 1). The United States and Japan are the “work horses” of the world with only 10 paid vacation days. At the other end of the spectrum, France has 30 days and the United Kingdom has 28.

Since Americans average only two weeks of paid vacation, you might think we are using it. Think again. Expedia.com’s 13th annual Vacation Deprivation study reveals that we are leaving 577,212,000 vacation days on the table unused, about 30% of our total days. Another Glassdoor survey from the first quarter of 2014 finds that Americans are only taking about half of their vacation or paid time off.

This get back to Joe Molineaux’s dispatch to entrepreneurs: take time to recharge those batteries. If workers are hanging around because their bosses are loath to leave the workplace, then it’s up to the bosses to set an example. This means small business entrepreneurs, CEOs, managers of medium- and large-size companies, non-profit organization directors, state and municipal leaders, and even the President of the United States. Psychologists agree: take your vacation.

Being at or near the top of the world’s list of workaholics is not an occasion to chant “We’re #1.” Instead, embrace your inner French: Vive les Vacances.