NJ Spotlight: Opinion - The COVID-19 Crisis’ Impact on NJ’s Finances — Questions for the Governor - Garden State Initiative

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NJ Spotlight: Opinion – The COVID-19 Crisis’ Impact on NJ’s Finances — Questions for the Governor

April 30, 2020

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By Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff

Dear Gov. Murphy:

Now is not the time for partisan politics. As our elected leader during an unprecedented time of crisis, you deserve the goodwill and cooperation of all New Jerseyans, regardless of party affiliation. Yet that does not suspend the obligation of those of us who do not share your partisan political priorities, but who do share your commitment to doing what’s right for our state, to offer constructive feedback where appropriate, as is fundamental to our democracy. In that spirit of “loyal opposition,” I ask that you consider the following requests regarding the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on state finances.

Please update the state’s financial information: We can’t solve a problem without first knowing its full extent. Yet, two weeks after you acknowledged that New Jersey’s tax collections were “falling off the cliff,” your administration has yet to follow other states in updating its revenues, creating an information vacuum that leaves far too much room for ill-informed speculation. Similarly, you have not disclosed with specificity the impact of the coronavirus crisis on the state budget: how much extra are we spending, and where are we spending it?

Combined with the unnecessary delay in conforming to extended federal tax deadlines, the absence of timely financial information is fueling a growing sense of confusion and disarray at the state level. Unfortunately, the lack of transparency undermines your credibility in seeking federal assistance or building a bipartisan consensus around the need to cut state spending and/or increase state revenues.

Please tell the state’s budget stakeholders the truth: Regardless of whether we receive billions more in unrestricted federal aid, you must realize by now that you will have no choice but to pare back your proposed 2021 budget’s planned increases, such as those for municipal and school aid. The sooner our stakeholders receive the official news, the sooner they can revise their own proposed budgets and the less disruption to local taxpayers and important citizen services. Withholding the inevitable truth is not doing anyone any favors and will only make things worse.

Read the full op-ed here.