How New Jersey Averted a Pandemic Financial Calamity


Feb. 23, 2021

Gov. Philip D. Murphy of New Jersey released a $44.8 billion budget on Tuesday that shows better-than-expected revenue projections.Credit...


It has been five months since New Jersey officials issued warnings about a coronavirus-related financial calamity. The dire outlook contributed to lawmakers’ decisions to increase taxes on income over $1 million and to become one of the first states to borrow billions to cover operating costs.

But the doomsday forecast has since brightened considerably, officials said, enabling the Democratic governor, Philip D. Murphy, to unveil a $44.8 billion spending plan on Tuesday that calls for no new taxes, few cuts and tackles head-on a chronic problem — the state’s underfunded pension program — for the first time in 25 years.

The governor also said there would be no increase in New Jersey Transit fares.

“The news is less bad,” the state’s treasurer, Elizabeth Maher Muoio, said. “I wouldn’t say it’s good, but it’s less bad.”

The governor’s election-year financial blueprint relies on better-than-expected revenue from retail sales and high-earners, who have lost fewer jobs during the pandemic than low-income workers and are reaping the benefits of a prolonged Wall Street rally.

The $38 billion that New Jersey and its residents have received in federal stimulus funding, a short-term extension of a corporate tax and a $504 million windfall from the so-called millionaire’s tax also helped, Ms. Muoio said.

The release of New Jersey’s proposed 2022 fiscal year budget comes as Congress continues to debate President Biden’s $1.9 trillion virus relief package. The proposed package includes considerable funds for states and municipalities as well as grant and loan programs for small businesses.

Other states have seen similarly strong signs of an economic rebound even as cases of the virus have spiked nationwide over the last several months and the nation’s death toll surpassed 500,000 on Monday.

Earlier this month, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office concluded that large sectors of the economy were adapting to the pandemic better than originally expected and that December’s economic aid package had helped.

Mr. Murphy, who is running for re-election in November, said the spending plan was designed to not only enable the state to scrape through the pandemic, but to help it emerge stronger.

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published this page in News and Politics 2021-02-24 03:24:12 -0800