Bloomberg News quoted state Senate President Steve Sweeney as declaring New Jersey “in worse shape” than any other state. Sweeney is not exaggerating. The facts are sobering (drawn from Sunlight Policy’s report “Beware the Downward Spiral“):
- NJ has the worst funded public pensions in the nation at 38%, which means that the state owes future retirees $215 billion but has set aside only $82 billion to fund it, a $133 billion hole. Despite increased contributions under Governor Murphy, this unfunded liability continues to increase because FY2020’s $3.8 billion (10% of the budget) is only about 70% of what is required.
- Adding in $90 billion of unfunded retiree healthcare obligations, NJ has a $212 billion hole.
- The entire state budget is $38 billion, and has the worst structural budget deficit of any state: revenues are only 91% of expenditures. So increased funding for retiree benefits will squeeze a budget that is already deeply in deficit.
- NJ has the highest combined taxes in the northeast region – states that NJ competes against for businesses, jobs and people.
- NJ has the worst business tax climate in the nation for the fifth year in a row.
- Over the past 20 years, the NJ economy has underperformed the nation and the neighboring states of NY and PA in personal income, state GDP and job growth.
- As a result of all this, NJ has one of the worst domestic out-migrations of wealth and people of any state, including the very worst for millennials, the future of the state.
Rather than trying to reform this broken system and arrest these negative trends, Gov. Murphy’s solution to this crisis is to appease his public union allies, “who were key to Murphy’s election,” by trying to raise taxes even more. The facts be damned.
Looking at those facts, and keeping an eye out for the people of NJ rather than the special interests, Sen. Sweeney warns that NJ is “going to go up in flames.” Such truth-telling has earned the wrath of NJ’s most powerful special interest and major Murphy-backer, the NJEA, which spent $4.8 million of teachers’ dues trying to unseat Sweeney in 2017.
Gov. Murphy is a status quo governor of a special-interest-dominated status quo. When the public pensions do “go up in flames,” regular NJ citizens will be left to clean up the ashes.
Read the full Bloomberg article here.