Murphy warns of a looming fiscal disaster because of COVID-19
Because of the COVID-19 crisis, many New Jersey businesses have been shut down for close to two months.
Unemployment has skyrocketed. State revenues have nose-dived. And Gov. Phil Murphy acknowledges New Jersey is facing a difficult financial struggle in the weeks, months and most likely years ahead.
During Monday’s novel coronavirus update, Murphy said he can't yet offer specific details “on eliminations, cutbacks, layoffs — but they will be large-scale. I’m not saying that with any joy. We will have no choice.”
He also announced he is vetoing numerous bills sent to his desk “to appropriate money to any number of causes and programs. I don’t want to veto them, but given our current fiscal situation I have no other choice.”
The governor said he hopes some of the spending proposed in the vetoed bills will be covered by federal assistance to states, but he did not specify which bills he was referring to and his communications office did not offer the information.
One vetoed bill would have created a $20 million Temporary Lost Wage Unemployment Program. Another would have appropriated an additional $10 million for healthcare and residential facility sanitation costs. One called for supplemental appropriations of $15 million for grants to food banks.
“In a normal time, a normal time up until a few months ago, these are things we would have clearly entertained," Murphy said. "But we just don’t have the shekels right now to do that."
Murphy said he has also scrapped plans to put $1.28 billion aside in a rainy day fund for the state.
“Right now, it’s pouring. We are on the brink of having to make very tough and quite frankly very unpalatable decisions,” Murphy said.
He said the money may have to be used for education, public transit and other costs in the event direct federal assistance to the Garden State fails to surface.
Murphy again called on federal lawmakers to step forward “with significant investment in our states right away.”
“This is about keeping our police and firefighters, our EMTs and paramedics and our public health workers, our educators, among so many others, on the job and working to get us through this,” he said. “A fiscal disaster is not months away. These decisions will be on our doorstep in literally just a few week. Congress needs to act and act now.”
Murphy also said out even if Congress does make large awards to states, New Jersey will have to borrow to get through the short term.
The governor also encouraged all New Jerseyans to reach out to their federal representatives and ask them to pass financial assistance legislation swiftly.
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You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com