Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo has endorsed Gov. Phil Murphy’s $9 billion borrowing plan and has brought seventeen mayors along with him — a politically significant show of force that bolsters the six-month-old alliance between Essex and the governor.
DiVincenzo pointed to the impact of COVID-19 on a state budget that suddenly changed New Jersey’s fiscal status to an anticipated $10 billion shortfall through fiscal year 2021, as well as the need to cover “unexpected expenditures necessary to continue combating the coronavirus.”
“In the absence of support from the Federal government, we believe the most prudent step to take is to borrow $9 billion to cover the shortfall,” DiVincenzo said in a letter to Murphy.
The five-term county executive says Murphy’s borrowing plan will help Essex County and its municipalities avoid layoffs and maintain services, including public safety and education.
“We know there are several difficult decisions that have been made and will continue as we move forward to cut spending, suspend hiring, eliminate budget appropriations, etc.,” DiVincenzo said. “The options available are slim.”
Five Essex mayors weren’t on the letter with DiVincenzo – Republicans from Cedar Grove, Essex Fells, Fairfield, North Caldwell and West Caldwell. But the Republican-leaning mayor of non-partisan Nutley, Mauro Tucci, was on the list.
The relationship between DiVincenzo and Murphy represents a stunning reversal from late last year, when Essex County was solidly behind Democratic County Chairman LeRoy Jones, Jr. for state chairman against Murphy’s candidate, incumbent John Currie. Jones had seven of eight Essex votes.
Within weeks of the December deal – Currie retains the post until after the 2001 gubernatorial primary, when Jones will become state chairman – DiVincenzo announced his endorsement of Murphy for re-election.