TRENTON — A little bit of sobering but unsurprising information this week from Moody’s Investors Service, which says New Jersey is one of two states inside the worst role to address a potential recession.
A meager surplus and whopping pension legal responsibility are the prime culprits. New Jersey ranked across the middle of the percent for its revenue volatility and financial flexibility for responding to a downturn.
“Twenty- states are higher prepared. Most are mild, and simplest two are less nicely-organized – that’s New Jersey and Illinois,” stated Emily Raimes, the file’s lead writer and a VP and senior credit officer at Moody’s.
Raimes said Moody’s checked out each nation’s largest single-12 months sales decline considering the fact that 1990 and compared a repeat of that loss towards the state’s present-day surplus. Only Pennsylvania rated worse.
“New Jersey has very low amounts of reserves and so might not be capable of cowl lots of a sales decline with to be had reserves and could have to show to other measures,” such as spending cuts or tax increases, Raimes said.
Adding to New Jersey’s capability headache is the country’s pension liability. Moody’s estimates that if the stock market drops notably as a part of a recession, the Teachers’ Pension and Annuity Fund can be left with sufficient property to pay simply four years of advantages to retired educators.
“The pension burden is any such massive and looming problem that a recession is going to make that worse,” Raimes said.
New Jersey is rated as one in every of 3 states whose pension finances are on the most hazard in a recession.
The file is reinforcing, now not recalibrating, the debate on the Statehouse over a nation price range. The Murphy management says it’s proof a bigger surplus is needed. The Senate president says it’s evidence lengthy-time period spending cuts are required.
State Treasurer Elizabeth Maher Muoio said many of Moody’s sentiments line up along with her budget testimony to the Legislature: New Jersey has to develop its surplus, which even at the 3 percent proposed is a way under the endorsed average of 10 percent of the total budget.
Muoio stated, “savings, surplus, and sustainable revenues are the key” to stabilizing the price range.
“New Jersey has been punting on its responsibilities for a way too lengthy. While our projected surplus is truly higher than some distance too risky function New Jersey had come to be familiar with in current years, we are still ways at the back of most states in terms of being effectively located to climate a future economic downturn,” she said. “This management is devoted to higher making ready us for the future.”
Murphy is offering a $1.139 billion budgetary fund balance to give up the modern-day financial 12 months and begin economic 2020, plus a $317 million fee into the “wet day” surplus revenue fund – which hasn’t had money in it considering that 2008, when it changed into tired to deal with the Great Recession.
Senate President Steve Sweeney, D-Gloucester, stated the state has too many instant wishes – for things including NJ Transit, increases for direct help professionals and pre-K growth – to spend money on the rainy day fund.
“A wet day fund is while you’ve paid all of your bills and also you’re meeting all of your duties, and then you definitely have money left over. Right now, it’s still raining in New Jersey,” Sweeney said.

Sweeney said Moody’s is “a hundred% correct” about the kingdom’s recession readiness however that the cure is lowering what the country spends on public people’ pensions and health benefits, no longer expanding the surplus and trekking earnings taxes on income over $1 million as proposed by way of Murphy.
“If we need to get geared up for the next recession, then we want to go into overdrive on cost-saving measures,” Sweeney stated. “By its very nature, a recession reduces sales, so revenue raisers are some distance much less effective than reducing expenses. The best strategy for us in a recession is getting a jump on cost cuts specifically with ensuring our debt responsibilities.”
Asked about the developing debate approximately this year’s rainy-day fund deposit, Raimes stated Moody’s would not provide a recommendation to states approximately what steps to take.
“We do not the type of propose and want to tell any states what they should do,” Raimes said. “I can say that $three hundred million would, for a nation with the finances the size of New Jersey, $300 million would be a few additional cushions but it definitely would not be massive.”