“We must remember where we started, fiscally, before the pandemic chaos because that is exactly where we will end up when it ends,” O’Scanlon said in a statement. “Except that the hole will be deeper, the debt our children must be even more enormous, and the path to true solvency even more insurmountable.”
In November, the state borrowed $ 4.29 billion to cover its operating costs, a move Republicans tried unsuccessfully to block, citing the burden it would place on future generations of taxpayers. The state is not expected to begin paying interest on that debt during the fiscal year covered by the proposed budget, administration officials said.
James W. Hughes, former dean of Rutgers University’s Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, said the state’s decision to borrow made sense at the time.
“It’s overused, but whatever the term, unprecedented, uncharted waters, five or six months ago that was really the case,” Hughes said.
“In the summer we were still unsure of the magnitude of the layoffs that could have occurred if we followed a conventional recession,” he added.
During the peak of the pandemic, when most businesses closed in an effort to stem the spread of the virus, 831,000 residents lost their jobs. That was double the number of jobs won in the past 10 years, Hughes noted.
“If that’s not scary,” he said, “I don’t know what kind of metric is scary.”
Since then, the state has regained about 58 percent of those jobs, but an estimated 350,000 residents are still out of work.