Sweeney-Sarlo Legislation Would Create the ‘New Jersey COVID-19 Emergency Bond Act’ with Legislative Oversight
TRENTON – The Senate today approved a bill authorizing the state to borrow up to $9.9 billion to address the financial problems caused by the coronavirus outbreak. Sponsored by Senate President Steve Sweeney and Senator Paul Sarlo, the bill, S-2697/A-4175, would create the “New Jersey COVID-19 Emergency Bond Act,” authorizing borrowing of up to $2.7 billion for FY-2020 and as much as $7.2 billion for FY-2021.
“This will give us the ability to provide the resources needed to respond to crisis economic conditions resulting from the coronavirus,” said Senator Sweeney (D-Gloucester/Salem/Cumberland). “It also includes a process to ensure responsibility in managing public finances as we work through the fiscal problems that are not fully known. We want to be responsive to financial needs, but we also have to be fiscally responsible and recognize the long-term consequences of actions we take.”
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.”
“New Jersey is facing a fiscal crisis that will harm our low and moderate income families, especially in Black and brown communities. We do not yet know the full extent of COVID-19’s impact on New Jersey,” said Renee Koubiadis, Executive Director of the Anti-Poverty Network of New Jersey. “This uncertainty is why this legislation is so vital. In this unprecedented moment, it is crucial that we have all possible means to ensure programs and services that help our state’s workers and most vulnerable weather the effects of this virus will be there for everyone.”
The Senate vote was 22-15.