State Supreme Court upholds law approving $10B in borrowing, but places limits

New Jersey’s Supreme Court has unanimously upheld a law authorizing Gov. Phil Murphy to borrow nearly $10 billion to close budget gaps opened by the coronavirus outbreak.

News 12 Staff

Aug 12, 2020, 11:18 PM

Updated 1,344 days ago

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New Jersey’s Supreme Court has unanimously upheld a law authorizing Gov. Phil Murphy to borrow nearly $10 billion to close budget gaps opened by the coronavirus outbreak.
The ruling is a victory for Murphy and the Democrat-led Legislature, which passed the law to close what Murphy said is a roughly $10 billion budget gap through June 2021.
“I am grateful for this decision,” Murphy said. “We were right collectively in our decision to take this step but also because the alternative would have been something no one up here or anywhere would have wanted to experience."
The state Constitution allows borrowing without voter approval in emergencies. The justices said this "includes a rare, once in a century infectious disease of the magnitude of COVID-19.”
“Our schools can be funded, our residents and communities can be protected and our state can move forward,” Murphy said.
But the decision is a defeat for the state Republican Party, which had filed the suit challenging the law, arguing that it violated part of the Constitution that holds debt cannot be counted as revenue in the annual budget process.
“You're telling me we can't close this gap? I believe we can. We just have a governor that doesn't want to do it,” says former assemblyman and Republican candidate for governor Jack Ciattarelli.
Ciattarelli will run against Murphy in the 2021 gubernatorial election. He joined the Republican Party lawsuit as a “friend of the court.”
“These are not even 20-year general obligation bonds that we usually issue here in New Jersey. These are over 35 years. Our grandchildren are going to be paying for this debt service,” he says.
Murphy has two weeks to submit a new budget for the state that is expected to include the borrowing. Of the $9.9 billion, $2.7 billion is already spoken for and is planned to be used in the current budget that expires on Sept. 30.
“If you skip one year’s pension payment, you’ve picked up $4 billion-5 billion right there,” Ciattarelli says. “There should be hiring freezes. There should be furloughs. We should delay salary increases.”
“I don’t wake up wanting to borrow, but we are also in a corner and we’ve got to be there for our residents in their hour and their darkest hour of need,” Murphy said.
The governor said that he is still not certain if he will deliver his budget address in person as he did back in February.
The Associated Press wire services contributed to this report.


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