Voting along party lines, the New Jersey State Assembly today approved Gov. Phil Murphy’s plan to borrow at least $5 billion to make up for the possible loss of revenues caused by the deadly coronavirus pandemic.
Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin had backed the plan, which now heads to the State Senate for approval.
While Senate President Steve Sweeney has acknowledged the need to borrow money, he has stopped short of endorsing Murphy’s proposal.
But in a signal of support, all twelve Democrats in the South Jersey Assembly delegation voted yes on the bill today.
“The coronavirus pandemic represents the greatest public health and economic challenge we have faced since the Great Depression, nearly a century ago,” Coughlin said, citing State Treasurer Elizabeth Muoio’s estimate that the loss of revenue will exceed $10 billion. “Our residents face record unemployment, loss of business and difficulty in paying rents and mortgages. The middle class is struggling to make ends meet.”
Coughlin acknowledged that the plan was “not ideal.”
“I support the borrowing of necessary funds through bonding, provided the sacrifice is spread evenly and that proper Legislative oversight is included, to ensure our economic position is strengthened for both the present and future,” the speaker stated.
Coughlin got all 52 Democrats onboard, with no passes and no negotiations.
All 28 Assembly Republicans followed the lead of Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-Westfield) voted against the borrowing plan and will announce plans to file a lawsuit to stop it later today.
Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald (D-Voorhees) said that the state has no other viable option beyond borrowing money to plug the budget gap.
“New Jersey’s nine million residents were our only concern today. Staving off property tax increases, supporting education for our children and helping local governments and businesses recover was our only objective with this bill,” Greenwald said. “Securing this funding will help the State meets its obligations to our schools, higher education institutions, municipalities, hospitals and, most importantly, to residents who are struggling as a result of the effects of the pandemic.”
The chair of the Assembly Budget Committee, Eliana Pintor Marin (D-Newark), said that the ”historic nature of the current pandemic has led to this unprecedented last resort due to the current fiscal crisis.”