By Joseph De Avila 

The New Jersey Assembly passed a measure sought by Gov. Phil Murphy giving the state the authority to seek $5 billion in bonds as officials struggle to close a massive revenue shortfall stemming from the Covid-19 pandemic.

New Jersey's Department of the Treasury projects the state's tax revenue to fall short of previous estimates by $10 billion through June 2021. That decline is the result of state restrictions on business activity to help curb the spread of the coronavirus, which has led to widespread unemployment and declines in corporate and income tax revenue.

"This scope of this budget crisis cannot be understated and requires us to consider any possible solution," said Assemblywoman Eliana Pintor Marin, who sponsored the bill.

The measure would also give Mr. Murphy, a Democrat, the authority to seek additional loans from the federal government.

The Assembly approved the bill Thursday by a margin of 51 to 28. The bill still needs to be approved by the Democratic-controlled state Senate. A spokesman for Democratic Senate President Steve Sweeney declined to comment.

New Jersey Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick opposed the measure, saying it would produce higher taxes for state residents.

"Very serious decisions have to be made. But we shouldn't have our judgment clouded in the middle of a crisis," Mr. Bramnick said. "We also need to debate every potential new piece of legislation, every possible reform and every possible way we can reduce the cost of government. We haven't done that."

The Murphy administration has also proposed $5 billion in cuts to state spending to help close the revenue gap. New Jersey received $2.4 billion from the federal Coronavirus Relief Fund, but state officials said that won't be enough to fix New Jersey's fiscal problems.

The emergency bonding plan would help the state get by in case Congress doesn't approve more federal funding for New Jersey, Mr. Murphy said at a press conference Thursday,

"That is the immediate relief that we need desperately," the governor said.

In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio also sought the authority to borrow up to $7 billion to help the city cover costs related to the pandemic, but the state legislature rebuffed him in May. New York lawmakers say they will convene next week to consider bills on criminal-justice matters but haven't said whether they would take up the borrowing bill.

New Jersey's Democratic Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin said borrowing money wasn't ideal, but the pandemic has created tremendous financial damage in the state.

"It's an economic tsunami that requires an extraordinary action," Mr. Coughlin said in a statement.

--Jimmy Vielkind contributed to this article.

Write to Joseph De Avila at


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

June 04, 2020 14:36 ET (18:36 GMT)

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