Press of Atlantic City: New Jersey’s next budget needs to face its fiscal reality

As matters currently stand, each resident of New Jersey is on the hook for $18,116 to cover its debt and pension liabilities. For a family of four, make that $72,464.

That’s far and away the largest per person debt and pension liability in the nation. The people of Pennsylvania and New York, for example, are liable for less than $3,000 each, according to Merritt Research Services figures.

New Jersey’s debt and obligations for worker pension and health coverage are more than its residents can handle. State government doesn’t even pay enough on that debt and those employee benefits promises to keep its $200 billion liability from growing, yet such spending is already crowding out that on crucial public services such as transportation and education.

Now state leaders are negotiating the state’s next fiscal year budget that begins in July. Gov. Phil Murphy primarily would raise taxes and rely on one-time fixes to put off addressing New Jersey’s looming financial crisis. Senate President Steve Sweeney would reduce spending by starting to implement reforms recommended by his bipartisan task force on restoring fiscal responsibility. Residents and businesses should hope Sweeney’s leadership prevails.

Read the full piece here.