Wall Street is sending signals that it loves Governor Phil Murphy, the former Goldman Sachs executive who is in a race for re-election against Republican Jack Ciattarelli, Green Party candidate Madelyn Hoffman, Gregg Mele of the Libertarian Party, and Socialist Workers Party candidate Joanne Kuniansky.
The richest of the rich are getting good news from Murphy, but ordinary Americans who are struggling with hardship due to the coronavirus pandemic, recovering from the 2008 global financial crash or stuck in economic decline as a result of Reaganomics are not hearing much good news from the millionaire governor.
Murphy refused to say if he will extend the federal payments to the approximately 500,000 New Jerseyans who will lose pandemic unemployment benefits after the first week of September even after President Joe Biden said that states with unemployment rates higher than the national average — 5.4% — could use COVID relief funds to extend benefits beyond the Sept. 4 expiration date.
New Jersey’s unemployment rate is 7.3 percent, but impoverished people are a low priority for this administration, except when it comes to rhetoric and public relations.
State Treasurer Elizabeth Maher Muoio announced that all three major rating agencies have upgraded New Jersey’s credit rating since the enactment of FY 2022 state budget when Fitch Ratings said its outlook on the state’s general obligation bonds where changed from negative to positive.
In a statement issued on August 12, 2021, Fitch Ratings stated its outlook upgrade “reflects the rapid turnaround in the state’s fiscal condition as it recovers from the coronavirus pandemic.”
Murphy signed legislation setting the state’s minimum wage to gradually rise to $15 an hour, but that only impacts some jobs and employers may still legally pay the poorest workers in New Jersey just $4.13 an hour.
“A solid economic rebound, state balancing actions during the pandemic and multiple rounds of federal assistance are now providing the state with both a solid financial cushion and extra capacity to accelerate progress on its high liabilities,” said the Wall Street credit agency. “Fitch views the state as being well positioned in the near term to continue progress on its longer-term fiscal challenges while manage through current uncertainties, including the lingering effects of the pandemic and duration of the strong economic and revenue rebound it is currently experiencing.”
“It is incredibly gratifying to see, for the third time in a month, rating agencies acknowledging that the decisions made by our administration, the Treasurer’s team, and our partners in the Legislature have put New Jersey on the right path to a full economic recovery,” said Murphy.
“We have not and will not squander this opportunity to tackle the remaining fiscal challenges New Jersey faces, and we will continue to invest in the people of New Jersey” said Murphy. “By making the first full pension contribution in 25 years, and by making strides in tackling health care costs, bolstering our surplus, and avoiding future debt issuance, we have momentum working in our favor.”
New Jersey received $6.2 billion in federal funds from Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan but without an extension, three federal programs will end.
About 250,000 New Jerseyans are currently receiving Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), a program that benefits people who wouldn’t qualify for traditional unemployment, such as gig workers and the self-employed.
Another 190,000 people receive Pandemic Unemployment Emergency Compensation (PUEC), which adds 13 weeks of benefits for people who exhaust their regular payments, although the Labor Department said about of them will be moved onto a different extended benefit program.
About 500,000 unemployed New Jerseyans have been receiving an additional $300 per week supplemental payment, but that will also end on Sept. 4. Instead Murphy chose to squander $17 billion on corporate welfare programs that he once derided as waste.
“We’ve made significant progress toward our goal of building a stronger fiscal house for every New Jersey family,” said Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver. “We are making the types of prudent decisions and wise investments that will build a better state for the next generation.”
Although New Jersey is on the way to righting its fiscal ship, many state residents are still suffering the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic, the global financial crisis as well as the 40-years of economic decline imposed by supply-side policies adopted since the 1980s.
Hoffman said, “Murphy lacks backbone” as she slammed his policies that leave behind immigrants, low-wage workers and other disadvantaged people in the state.
“Since assuming office in 2018, the Murphy Administration has approached improving the State’s economic health through the lens of fiscal responsibility and long-term prosperity. Despite the unprecedented challenges spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic, we kept our commitment to New Jersey taxpayers to build a fairer and more equitable economy for all by making record pension payments, controlling debt, and pursuing reliable and recurring revenue sources,” said Muoio. “These steps will ensure New Jersey is on solid fiscal footing to tackle any future challenges that may come our way.”
In addition to the general obligation bonds, Fitch Ratings also upgraded the outlook to positive for a host of other debt issued by the State, including; New Jersey Economic Development Authority annual appropriation bonds; New Jersey Transportation Trust Fund Authority annual appropriation bonds; New Jersey Building Authority annual appropriation bonds; New Jersey Educational Facilities Authority annual appropriation bonds; New Jersey Health Care Facilities Financing Authority annual appropriation bonds; and New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority annual appropriation bonds.
This outlook upgrade comes within a month of Moody’s Investors Service and S&P Global Ratings upgrading their outlooks for the State from stable to positive. Fitch Ratings issued a press release describing its decision .
Murphy has also failed to do anything about eliminating longstanding racial disparities in New Jersey’s public education system, despite a pending lawsuit that asserts this state has some of America’s most segregated schools 56 years after the Supreme Court’s landmark Brown vs. Board of education decision that ruled it unconstitutional.
The New Jersey law that requires most children to attend public school within their communities has led to some of the worst school segregation in the nation — deemed in a study to be sixth worst in the nation for blacks and seventh for Hispanics — which gave rise to a legal action seeking to overturn that law and reshape the state’s system into one that is very different, and integrated.
To judge the magnitude of the legal action, it’s headed by former associate justice of the state Supreme Court Gary Stein, chair of the New Jersey Coalition for Diverse and Inclusive Schools, the Latino Action Network and the NAACP New Jersey State Conference — among other social organizations.
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