Democrats in Trenton scoffed when Gov. Chris Christie unveiled a proposal to cut income taxes by 10 percent, saying property taxes are more of a burden for New Jersey residents.
Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-Essex) reiterated that point during a recent radio interview.
"In New Jersey our constituents want to see the Legislature and the governor focus on cutting the property taxes. The average New Jerseyan pays close to $8,000 a year and that is just average," Oliver told Steve Adubato Jr. on WOR-AM on April 19.
"The proposal to cut income taxes by 10 percent, if you took a family with an average income of $50,000 -- which, by the way, $57,000 is the mean in our state -- that would provide $80 over a three-year period in the pockets of a New Jersey family. That is not anything of significance. We say that won't buy a bag of groceries for a working-class family," Oliver said.
We previously checked a statement about potential savings from the governor’s income tax cut proposal. It’s true a couple with a taxable income of $50,000 would pay about $80 less in income taxes under Christie’s plan.
But is Oliver right that the average family in New Jersey lives on $57,000 a year?
We should note that economists generally prefer median income to mean income, since the mean income can be skewed by extremes, such as very high-income earners.
Robert Bernstein, a spokesman for the U.S. Census Bureau, said since the mean can be distorted "it's not a good reflection of the situation there. Median is better."
The median income is the amount in the middle when a series of numbers are ordered smallest to largest.
By either measure, Oliver is wrong.
The mean family income in New Jersey was $106,125 in 2010, according to the most recent data available from the American Community Survey, a yearly national assessment conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau. The median family income, according to the same survey, was $82,427.
Tom Hester Jr., a spokesman for the Assembly Democrats, told us Oliver meant to refer to the annual average wage in New Jersey, not the average family income.
There’s a significant difference between the two.
The annual average wage is calculated by determining the total amount of wages paid out in a year and dividing by all the workers covered by the state’s unemployment insurance system who got a paycheck.
The figure is "based on workers employed at New Jersey companies, those workers may or may not be New Jersey residents," Brian Murray, a spokesman for the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development, said in an e-mail.
According to a state labor department report released in 2011, the annual average wage in New Jersey was $56,385 in 2010.
Oliver said, "$57,000 is the mean [income] in our state" for a family.
That’s not true. The mean family income in New Jersey in 2010 was $106,125 and the median income, a measure less influenced by very high-income earners, was $82,427.
We rate Oliver’s statement False.
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