Dead last: NJ debt hits $52,300 per taxpayer, study shows

By Mark Lagerkvist  /   September 17, 2015


New Jersey ranks worst in the country for state debt, according to a new nationwide study.

Each state taxpayer would need to pay $52,300 to erase New Jersey’s existing bills — including public pensions and retiree health benefits — reports Truth in Accounting, a think tank in Chicago.

Among “sinkhole states,” New Jersey was followed by Connecticut, $48,600 debt burden per taxpayer; Illinois, $45,000; Kentucky, $32,600; and Massachusetts, $27,400.

In the past year, the debt per taxpayer in New Jersey increased by $16,300, or 45 percent, according to the nonprofit.

The findings are consistent with a New Jersey Watchdog analysis of State Treasury records that found the Garden State’s pension and health benefit deficit for public workers is nearing $200 billion.

Earlier this week, New Jersey Watchdog reported:

  • New Jersey’s public pensions are underfunded by $113.1 billion. The state bears $80.5 billion of that burden. Local governments are responsible for the remaining $32.6 billion.
  • State and local governments are also on the hook for $81.4 billion in unfunded health benefits for retired and active workers. The state owes $65 billion; the local share is $16.4 billion.
  • The total shortfall is $194.5 billion – more than $60,000 per household. The figure is nearly six times higher than New Jersey’s total annual budget, currently $33.8 billion.

At the present pace, those unfunded liabilities will exceed $210 billion next year.

In its report, Truth in Accounting reported states have a combined total of $1.3 trillion in debt despite balanced budget requirements in 49 states.

The lack of truthful, timely and transparent financial information is increasing cynicism and mistrust and it is a risk for our representative form of government,” said Shelia Weinberg, CEO of Truth in Accounting. “Citizens do not have the information need to hold their politician accountable, much less cast an informed vote.”

The full study is scheduled for release next week.

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