Sadly for New Jersey, some things never change. Pew Charitable Trusts came out with its most recent study on the long-term fiscal condition of the 50 states, and New Jersey comes in DEAD LAST. Again.
According to Pew, over the last 15 years (2005-19), New Jersey had the WORST structural budget deficit of any state,with revenues equalling only 91.5% of expenditures. Even broke Illinois (the only state with a worse bond rating than New Jersey) came in at 94.1%. By comparison, the median for the 50 states was a SURPLUS of 102.7%.
In his first term in office, Gov. Murphy did NOTHING to improve New Jersey’s dismal fiscal condition. Rather than address the state’s structural deficit, Murphy chose to increase state government spending by 34% ($34.7 billion to $46.4 billion). As Pew states, when states have long-running deficits, they “end up pushing off unpaid costs to future taxpayers.” But apparently Murphy thinks he will be long gone by then.
The news is just as bad for New Jersey’s economy. According to Pew, from before the pandemic to FY2021, New Jersey saw its prime-age (28-54) workforce decline by 6%, from 82.7% to 76.7%, the fourth-largest decline in the nation. (Nevada and Hawaii had the two largest declines, but they are heavily tourism-dependent, which suffered greatly in the pandemic). This means that New Jersey had 6% fewer prime-age people employed than before the pandemic. This is a terrible statistic.
Thanks to the gusher of federal relief money, New Jersey’s personal income was up 3.4% from before the pandemic, but this income growth was still in the bottom 40% of states and below the national average of 4.1%. No doubt because so many fewer New Jerseyans are employed. But the real question is: what happens to personal income when the federal money goes away?
Gov. Murphy appears content to continue to spend more than the state takes in and stick future taxpayers with the bill. But he is also apparently content to have a New Jersey economy that is less likely to be able to pay that bill.
Now that Murphy has been re-elected, Sunlight asks when will he enact policies that enable prime-age New Jerseyans to get back to work? When will he take steps to ensure that New Jersey can thrive once he has left office? Does he even care?