Most NJ Residents Will See Stimulus Money

Soberanes Fire-22
Lindsay Dpenha

Nearly all of the Garden State's 8.5 million residents are expected to see a direct impact from the proposed $787 billion economic stimulus approved by Congress on Friday.

“First and foremost, this package is going to help start creating and saving jobs in our state,'' said U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-New Jersey. “Jobs are the most essential piece of any family's economic situation, and that's the main focus of this package.''

According to Gov. Jon S. Corzine, more than half of New Jersey residents will see a $400-per-worker credit; couples would receive $800. The credit applies to those with incomes under $75,000, and the median income in New Jersey is $68,000, Corzine said.

Officials estimate it would mean about $13 a week more in people's paychecks this year. Next year, the measure could yield workers about $8 a week.

Critics say that's unlikely to do much to boost consumption.

The stimulus will also mean an extra $100 a month in unemployment insurance for 731,000 out-of-work New Jersayans; 148,000 laid-off workers will also qualify for extended unemployment benefits, according to the National Employment Law Project.

New Jersey will see an infusion of $2.2 billion for Medicaid -- the government health program for the poor and disabled -- that should help the state avoid cutting benefits to the needy.

And 77,000 New Jersey families will become eligible for a tax credit for college-saving plans. The plan creates a partially refundable $2,500 tax credit for those saving for up to four years of college.

Also, under a provision pushed by Menendez, 1.7 million middle-class New Jersey workers will get a one-year reprieve from the Alternative Minimum Tax.

The tax, created to stop high-earning workers from avoiding paying higher taxes, was never adjusted for inflation and would have soon applied to some middle-income workers.

On Friday, Corzine said his staff was still trying to figure out how the stimulus will break down for New Jersey spending, but said it won't be enough to prevent additional budget cuts this year as revenues continue to decline.

“However, this will help very much in making additional cuts much less than what they would have otherwise been,'' the governor said. New revenue figures are expected to come out next week.

Corzine defended some of the special projects that were tacked on to the stimulus bill, calling them critically necessary.

“I get very irritated when I hear someone say 'it's pork-barrel spending' when you put $2 billion into community health care clinics,'' he said Friday as health officials announced $5 million in grants for state community health care centers.

"I don't call that wasted money."

More than 300,000 patients received care from such centers in New Jersey last year, according to health officials.

“This is one of those places where we could have chosen to make cuts,'' Corzine said, “but we have worked very hard to preserve that human safety net.''

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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