Democratic lawmakers today wasted no time in pouncing on the recent downgrade by Standard and Poor’s of the state’s financial outlook.
S&P Tuesday dropped its outlook on the state’s debt from stable to negative, citing Gov. Chris Christie’s optimistic revenue projections. The agency affirmed New Jersey’s AA- rating.
“We revised the outlook to reflect our view of the risk of revenue assumptions we view as optimistic, continued reliance on one-time measures to offset revenue shortfalls, and longer-term growing expenditure pressures,” S&P credit analyst John Sugden said in a statement today.
Assembly Budget Committee Chairman Vincent Prieto called the action by the ratings agency more proof that Christie’s much vaunted New Jersey comeback was nothing more than smoke and mirrors.
“Gov. Christie is the only one who believes his own tale of an economic comeback for New Jersey. New Jersey’s middle-class suffering under property tax hikes and high unemployment certainly don’t believe it, the numbers and economic indicators aren’t adding up and now credit rating agencies are raising serious questions about the governor’s policies,” Prieto said. “We all want a successful New Jersey, but if we’re to achieve it, we need to work with reality, not the administration’s fairy tale budgeting.”
Assemblyman Lou Greenwald, discussed as a potential challenger to Christie next year, took aim as well, accusing Christie of an unabashed assault on the middle class.
“This governor has rejected plans to triple property tax relief credits, cut funding for women’s health care and rejected numerous bipartisan job creation initiatives, all while protecting tax breaks for the mega-rich and working to elect anti-middle-class Republicans,” Greenwald said.
For its part, the Christie Administration defended its actions with regard to middle-class taxpayers, attacking Democratic inaction on several key proposals including sick time payout and ethics reforms. According to a release from a spokesman for the governor, state taxpayers are on the hook for $3.25 billion as a result of one-time payouts for unused sick leave. The governor has proposed eliminating the payouts, known in some circles as “boat checks,” referring to the number of retiring public workers who buy boats with the money.
The release, issued after news of the outlook revision was reported, made no mention of it.
The S&P action is the latest setback for the comeback narrative. Last month, unemployment in the state hit 9.8 percent, it’s highest level since the 1970s. New numbers are due to be released Thursday.