ESSEX COUNTY, NJ — Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo Jr. announced his support of Gov. Phil Murphy’s proposal to borrow $9 billion from the U.S. Federal Reserve to balance the state budget. On Friday, May 29, DiVincenzo sent a letter of support to the governor; the letter was also signed by 17 Essex County mayors.
“We are all aware that COVID-19 has had a tremendous impact on the physical health of our residents as well as the fiscal stability of New Jersey’s finances. As the state stands to face a revenue shortfall of approximately $10 billion through the 2021 fiscal year, in addition to having to cover the unexpected expenditures necessary to continue combating the coronavirus, it is imperative that the state find an alternate means to balance its budget. In the absence of support from the federal government, we believe the most prudent step to take is to borrow $9 billion to cover the shortfall,” DiVincenzo wrote in the letter.
Signing the letter with the county executive were Belleville Mayor Michael Melham, Bloomfield Mayor Michael Venezia, Caldwell Mayor John Kelly, East Orange Mayor Ted Green, Glen Ridge Mayor Stuart Patrick, Irvington Mayor Tony Vauss, Livingston Mayor Rudy Fernandez, Maplewood Mayor Frank McGehee, Millburn Mayor Jackie Benjamin Lieberberg, Montclair Mayor Robert Jackson, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, Nutley Mayor Mauro Tucci, Orange Mayor Dwayne Warren, Roseland Mayor James Spango, South Orange Village President Sheena Collum, Verona Mayor Jack McEvoy and West Orange Mayor Robert Parisi.
DiVincenzo said he is supportive of the bipartisan $500 billion State and Municipal Aid for Recovery and Transition Fund that was introduced by U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez and co-authored by U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, a Republican from Louisiana.
“The legislation proposed by Sen. Menendez would provide New Jersey and the rest of the country with the appropriate level of relief funds to balance their budgets without borrowing. If this bill is not passed, then the only alternative would be to borrow money,” DiVincenzo wrote.
The SMART Fund builds upon the existing $150 billion set aside in the CARES Act to help state and local governments, and gives them greater flexibility to use those funds to plug revenue losses due to the COVID-19 outbreak, while targeting funding to the nation’s coronavirus hot zones. DiVincenzo has shared his support with Menendez and U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, as well as U.S. Rep. Mikie Sherrill, who represents New Jersey’s 11th Congressional District and is leading the effort in the House of Representative to pass the bill.
The county executive noted that if the state budget is negatively impacted and extreme cost-cutting and layoffs were made, counties and municipalities also would be adversely affected since the local governments rely on the state for grants and other revenue support.
“The effects of the proposed cuts will drastically impact our ability to keep our staff working, provide much needed services to our constituents and operate government with a high level of efficiency and effectiveness from the county level and on the municipal level as well. This includes critical functions and essential employees, including police, fire, teachers and other government employees who provide supportive services to vulnerable populations,” DiVincenzo wrote.