New Jersey Supreme Court Approves Murphy’s COVID-19 Borrowing Plan

The New Jersey Supreme Court, in a unanimous ruling, found the Murphy Administration borrowing plan that could reach nearly $10 billion is constitutional.

The court ruled the law allowing New Jersey to borrow up to $9.9 billion does not violate the state’s constitution prohibition on borrowing large amounts without voter approval. New Jersey’s constitution prohibits borrowing more than 1% of what it spends in a fiscal year without putting the question before voters, though there is an exception “to meet an emergency caused by disaster or act of God.”

The lawsuit was filed by the New Jersey Republican State Committee and two GOP lawmakers, arguing the borrowing plan was unconstitutional in that it ran afoul of the the state’s Debt Limitation Clause.

Economic Recovery

Gov. Phil Murphy said the ruling allows the state to move forward to not only borrow the funds needed to protect vital jobs and programs In New Jersey critical to the ongoing response to the coronavirus pandemic, but the state’s economic recovery. 

“I am grateful for this decision, because we knew that not only were we…right collectively in our decision to take this step,” said Murphy. “But also because the alternative would have been something that no one up anywhere would have wanted to experience.”

The governor is to present a new nine month budget for Fiscal 2021 year by Aug. 25. He said the ability to borrow allows for the funding of schools and first responders.

Federal Aid Still Needed

“We are going to continue our work to strengthen New Jersey’s fiscal foundation and build on the progress of our first two years. However, I must be clear that even with this decision, we are not declaring victory,” said Murphy. “We have a long road still to travel.”

The first-term Democratic governor said borrowing was needed due to the “inaction and indifference” in Washington. He took the opportunity to again press the case for the federal government to provide direct assistance to not just New Jersey, but to all the states in the U.S. that have had their economies and budget disrupted by the coronavirus.

“This cannot continue to twist in the political winds. This isn’t about red or blue. This is about keeping our nation strong and preventing this recession from falling into a depression,” said Murphy. “We cannot rely on half measures that were proposed over the weekend that have no clear guidance, and which push even more costs onto states.”

The Need to Go Big

The governor was referring to President Donald Trump’s recent proposal for additional unemployment would actually cost New Jersey an estimated $1.725 billion in potential benefits, without factoring in the cost of setting up a new system to distribute the aid.

In urging congress to act, Murphy went after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to “finally get something done.”

“You know that phrase, go big or go home? It’s hard to believe this, but he went home,” an exasperated Murphy said. “At this moment in American history, it requires an American response that we’ve seen over the past two-and-a-half centuries.”

“And with all due respect, Senator McConnell, history will be kind to us and to you if we overshoot, if we go too big; but history will be unsparing if we come up small, as you have so far.”

Daily Data

As of Aug. 13, the cumulative number of coronavirus cases in New Jersey reached 186,594 with 699 new cases and eight new deaths, bringing that total to 14,054. The state probable death count remained at 1,839, bringing the overall total to 15,885.

State officials noted 15 deaths occurred in the last 24 hours of reporting that have not yet been lab confirmed.  

Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 1,876, followed by Bergen at 1,787, Hudson with 1,341, Passaic at 1,095, Morris at 682, Sussex at 161 and Warren with 158.

In regards to probable deaths, Bergen has 248, Essex has 234, Hudson has 167, Passaic and Morris at 147, Sussex has 37 and Warren has 14.

State Testing 

As for the rate of transmission, it remains unchanged at 0.92. Officials have continually cited transmission rate and positivity rate as health data they rely on to track how the coronavirus is being contained in New Jersey, guiding them in determining when restrictions have to be tightened or lifted.

Officials reported 545 patients are hospitalized, the northern tier had 259 patients hospitalized, the central 135 and the south 151.

Of those hospitalized, 103 are in intensive care units and 29 on ventilators, while 63 patients were discharged. 

Bergen Tops County Count

Bergen has the most cumulative cases in the state with 20,940, followed by Essex at 19,840, Hudson at 19,792, Middlesex at 18,015, Passaic at 17,801, Union at 16,812, Ocean at 10,668, Monmouth at 10,407, Camden at 8,689, Mercer at 8,164, Morris at 7,304, Burlington at 6,094, Somerset at 5,282, Atlantic at 3,521, Cumberland at 3,386, Gloucester at 3,339, Warren at 1,352, Sussex at 1,343, Hunterdon at 1,151, Salem at 912 and Cape May at 843.

Another 939 cases are still under investigation to determine where the person resides.

Demographic Breakdown

The racial breakdown of the record deaths was 54% White, 20% Hispanic, 18% Black, 6% Asian and 2% another race. Murphy has noted the rates in the black and Hispanic communities are running about 50% more than their population in the state. 

In regards to the underlying disease of those who have passed, 56% had cardiovascular disease, 45% diabetes, 31% other chronic diseases, 18% neurological conditions, 17% lung diseases, 15% chronic renal disease, 10% cancer and 14% other. Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli has stated most cases have multiple underlying conditions which would push the percentage of 100%.

A census of ages for confirmed deaths shows 48% of deaths are of those 80 year old and up, 31% in the range of 65-80, 16% between 50-65 and 5% under the age of 49. 

Long-term Care Facilities

Health officials noted currently 225 long-term care facilities are reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 15,562 of the cases, broken down between 9,933 residents and 5,629 staff. 

Cumulatively, 622 long-term care facilities reported a case infecting 24,643 residents and 13,033 staff, for a total of 37,676 cases. 

The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 7,006 on Aug. 13. The facilities are reporting to the state 6,690 residents deaths and 121 staff deaths. 

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