(The Center Square) – New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy urged the state Senate to pass a bill that will allow him to borrow at least $5 billion from the federal government to cover potential budget shortfalls due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Assembly passed the bill earlier this month but it hasn’t come before the Senate for a vote.
“We continue in our discussions with the Senate president, but time is now of the essence,” Murphy said at his Tuesday news conference. “It will take time for us to tap into the capital markets, and we want to do so as soon as possible to take advantage of historically low interest rates.”
Murphy signed a $7.632 billion spending plan for the next three months that he says is “bare bones.” Murphy and the Legislature agreed to extend the 2020 fiscal year to Sept. 30, prompting the administration to present a new plan.
The budget has a $956 million surplus which comes from the transfer of the state’s $421 million rainy day fund to the General Fund and increases in sales and tax revenues, Murphy said in a statement.
The plan does not cut money for health care and education but removes $850 million in new spending proposed by Murphy in February.
Payments to the Consolidated Municipal Property Tax Relief Aid and Energy Tax Receipts (ETR) are delayed until October and the state’s September pension payment is also deferred until the next month. Discretionary grants are cut 10 percent and nonsalary operating costs are reduced by 5 percent.
The plan does include an additional $3.875 million to the Department of Labor to upgrade its unemployment processing technology.
The worst cuts may be yet to come, state officials said.
“The one certainty forecasters can agree on at this point is that uncertainty lies ahead and we must prepare for that,” State Treasurer Elizabeth Maher Muoio said. “Unfortunately, this means we must brace ourselves for more painful decisions on the road ahead.”
Murphy is hoping to offset the impact with money from the federal government.
“This need has simply not changed and I continue to press the case directly with the senior levels of the Trump Administration, with Speaker Pelosi and her team, with Senate Democratic leader Schumer and his team and I know our congressional delegation is doing likewise,” Murphy said. “Securing this funding has never been a partisan issue, just as COVID-19 never cared about the political party of those that it killed.
"But given the location of recent outbreaks, it is my hope that Congress will rally around all of our states to deliver the hundreds of millions of dollars states will need to get through the current emergency as one nation and two not to have our overall recover stunted by inaction,” he added.