TRENTON – The Senate Budget Committee today approved a bill authorizing the state to borrow up to $9.9 billion with the consent of a legislative panel to address the financial crisis created by the coronavirus outbreak.
Sponsored by Senate President Steve Sweeney and Senator Paul Sarlo, the bill, S-2697/A-4178, would create the “New Jersey COVID-19 Emergency Bond Act,” which would authorize bond borrowing of up to $2.7 billion for the remainder of FY-2020, which ends September 30th, and up to $7.2 billion for FY-2021, which begins October 1st.
“The pandemic is a public health emergency that has caused crisis economic conditions for almost every business, each individual and all levels of government,” said Senator Sweeney (D-Gloucester/Salem/Cumberland). “This will give us the ability to provide emergency financing to maintain vital public services, to support essential workers and to help those in need. It also creates a four-member legislative panel to provide a ‘check’ on borrowing so we don’t create unmanageable debts that could cause future economic damage. We want to be responsive to the needs, but we also have to be responsible with public finances.”
Each borrowing request would have to be approved with a majority vote of the newly-created Select Commission on Emergency COVID-19 Borrowing, a four-legislator panel of two Senators and two members of the Assembly. Senator Sweeney and Senator Sarlo would serve on the commission as the Senate members.
“We must keep New Jersey’s economy moving and we have to continue to provide the government services that are so important during the pandemic,” said Senator Sarlo (D-Bergen/Passaic), chairman of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee. “While we understand the need for emergent financing to help with the economic recovery, we still have to be responsible with added debt. This is uncharted territory so we have to monitor fiscal conditions as we make decisions on borrowing.”
The committee vote was 8 – 3.