Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) said the state “has to do better” after Moody’s Investor Service downgraded New Jersey’s credit rating on Thursday.
“This is what happens when the administration fails to make the legally required pension payments and does nothing to generate economic growth,” Sweeney said in a statement. “This is the ninth credit downgrade and the administration still doesn’t get the message.”
Moody’s knocked the state’s bond grading down a step, from A1 to A2, citing chronic budget shortfalls and an ongoing public pension and benefit crisis. It’s the ninth time the state’s rating has been downgraded since Gov. Chris Christie took office in 2010, and underscores the precarious economic situation the state finds itself in as lawmakers and the Republican’s administration work to craft this year’s budget.
Christie has proposed a $33.8 billion spending plan that would make a $1.3 billion contribution to the pension system, a payment less than half of what is legally required under the pension reform law he signed back in 2011. Democrats, for the most part, have rejected the Republican’s proposal, arguing to short-changing public workers.
“The refusal of the administration to keep its commitment to the pension reform plan is not only unfair to the employees who are keeping their side of the agreement, it is fiscally irresponsible,” Sweeney said. “It results in higher costs for state finances, further undermines fiscal stability and creates more problems for the pension fund.”
Sweeney has become one of the most vocal critics of Christie’s leadership on the economy — particularly as the top Democrat moves toward a potential gubernatorial run in 2017. On Wednesday, Sweeney visited a series of development projects in New Brunswick, during which he told reporters that the Republican’s administration has taken the state “way in the wrong direction” when it comes to strengthening its fiscal and economic footing.
Today, Sweeney is touring a shipping facility at the Port of Newark to call attention to the state’s transportation infrastructure, which also faces fiscal challenges as lawmakers look for a long term funding solution to the program that pays for it: the Transportation Trust Fund.
Sweeney said meeting the state’s pension obligations would help improve economic conditions.
“If the administration kept its promise on pension payments we’d be well on the way to restoring the system’s financial health and if they had a plan to boost New Jersey’s economy the budget would be stronger,” he said. “We have to do better.”