Court Upholds Murphy’s Borrowing Plan: Today, the New Jersey Supreme Court unanimously upheld Governor Phil Murphy’s plan to borrow nearly $10 billion to cover a huge budget shortfall caused by the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Supreme Court’s decision will allow Murphy and Democrats who control the state legislature to assume billions of new debt through June 2021, provided that the requests are approved by a committee of four lawmakers. This borrowing will likely allow Murphy to avoid huge budget cuts and layoffs when he proposes a spending plan later this month.
However, in upholding the bond act, justices imposed certain parameters that would limit borrowing to match actual budget deficits.
“To avoid borrowing in excess of what the law allows, and to be faithful to the Emergency Exception, we require that the governor or the treasurer certify the state’s projected revenue figures and the shortfall resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic before each tranche of borrowing,” Chief Justice Stuart Rabner wrote.
“The state may not borrow more than the amount certified, and not more than $9.9 billion in total. In other words, if, at the time the State seeks to borrow money or issue bonds, the governor or the treasurer certifies that the shortfall resulting from the pandemic is estimated to be $7 billion, the state cannot borrow more than that amount,” added Rabner.
The borrowing plan, which passed the Legislature along party lines in July, allows the Murphy administration to bond $2.7 billion for the remainder of the current 2020 fiscal year, which the governor and Legislature extended from June 30 to Sept. 30, and $7.2 billion for the nine-month fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.
Murphy to Allow All-Remote Learning in Public Schools this Fall: On Wednesday, Governor Murphy announced that the State will allow certain districts to offer an all-remote learning option this fall, reversing course on his previous plans to open all schools for in-person instruction.
Murphy’s announcement comes shortly after groups such as the New Jersey Association of School Administrators, the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association, the New Jersey Education Association and the New Jersey Charter Schools Association had called upon the governor to direct all public schools to open remotely this fall.
Under the new guidelines, districts that chose to begin their semesters remotely will be required to explain why they could not meet state health and safety standards to open in-person, provide a detailed plan for meeting those standards and provide a date for beginning on in-person instruction.
Murphy also issued an executive order that allows all K-12 schools, colleges and universities to resume in-person instruction immediately.
“There is no one size fits all plan to this very difficult situation. We are fully committed to getting this right,” said Murphy. “Any student who chooses to continue remote learning must be accommodated.”
Business Groups Call on Murphy to Restart Reopening Plan: A coalition of more than 100 businesses and non-profit organizations in New Jersey have called upon Governor Murphy to restart his plan to gradually reopen the state’s economy now, considering that the state’s COVID-19 numbers are on the decline again. Murphy had paused the recovery plan in Stage 2 after the State’s rate of transmission crept up last month. Gyms, movie theatres and indoor dining sections of restaurants and bars are among the businesses that remain closed until further notices.
In a letter to Murphy, the business coalition cited that with the State’s rate of transmission below 1 and its positivity rate below 2, “there is no reason not to proceed to reopen our economy.”
“If ‘data determines dates’ relative to reopening, as Governor Murphy has consistently said, it is appropriate that as our COVID-19 cases continue to go down, New Jersey’s economic numbers should rise,” the group wrote. “Unfortunately, this is not the case, and we find ourselves and our economy in an unnecessary and extenuated ‘pause mode.‘”
The business coalition also presented their own recommendations for how to further reopen the economy and suggested the state should take a regional approach to reopening, allowing safeguards to protect against hotspots.
Click here to read the letter to Governor Murphy.