Senator Vin Gopal did not vote on the controversial bill passed and signed into law yesterday that allows Governor Phil Murphy and four Democrat legislators to borrow up to $9.9 billion without voter approval.
New Jersey’s Constitution requires voters to approve state government debt. New Jersey’s Courts, and therefore its Democrat legislators and Governors, treat the Constitution as book of aphorisms.
UPDATED with Senator Gopal’s statement:
“New Jersey faces an extraordinary budget gap as a result of lack of revenues coming in for Covid. We absolutely need to borrow as raising taxes right now is not an option. We also need to restore programs like senior freeze, the homestead rebates, , funding for our schools, extraordinary special education funding, funding for Fufill and our other foodbanks and other critical services. We can only do these things through borrowing. I voted against the budget last week for this reason. Many who are against borrowing have offered no solutions on how to fund these programs. I challenge those folks to go line by line in the budget, like I have, to determine what they want to cut. Programs like what is in the Path to Progress, many of those bills which I am a sponsor of, will take years to see savings.
“With that said, I have significant concerns on this bill. The total amount, the fact that it does not go before voters and the makeup of the commission all gave me serious concerns which is why I did not support this bill and abstained. A no vote would have indicated that I opposed borrowing in the time of a state emergency and pandemic. That is not the case. I advocated to my colleagues for a borrowing bill that was smaller, went before voters and had a commission that included representation that reflects all of New Jersey.
“Seeing that the bill passed and was signed by Governor Murphy, I will continue to advocate that we borrow only what we need to borrow to make up budget shortfalls, and not a penny more.”
Senator Declan O’Scanlon voted against the bill and is a plantiff, along with the NJGOP, Assemblyman Hal Wirths (R-Sussex County) and Lisa Natale-Contessa, a school funding activist from Toms River, and former Hamilton Councilwoman Ilena Schirmer, in a law suit against Murphy to prevent the borrowing.
The new law authorizes the state to borrow $2.7 billion between now and September 30, 2020 and another $7.2 billion between October 1, 2020 and June 30, 2021. Murphy said the money is to plug holes in the state budget caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The current economic crisis is virtually unprecedented in both its severity and swiftness,” said Governor Murphy. “Our unemployment numbers and drop in revenue have both far outpaced the worst months of the Great Recession so while we see this bill as an important step, our ultimate recovery will depend on a number of factors including additional federal aid and savings within state government.”
“This plan represents fiscal irresponsibility on a scale that is unprecedented even by Trenton standards,” Senator O’Scanlon said.
“To fund spending over the next fiscal year, taxpayers will be on the hook for $10 billion of debt and potentially more than $30 billion of interest payments over the 35-year repayment period that the proposal allows. At the same time, Wall Street bankers will collect hundreds of million of dollars in fees at New Jersey’s expense.
“To saddle the next generation of New Jerseyans with potentially $40 billion of debt repayments for spending that will occur next year is beyond insane. That’s exactly why schemes like this must be approved by the public.
“Unsurprisingly, the Democrats’ partisan agreement fails to address the simple fact that this record-setting, multi-billion borrowing scheme to fund State operating expenses remains unconstitutional without voter approval.”
Gopal, 35, has been silent on the borrowing, which would still be being paid off when he’s 70.
In a COVID-19 and Recovery update email to his constituents yesterday, Gopal did not mention the bill.
Gopal has yet to respond to an early morning text. This post will be updated if he does and comments.