Murphy Signs COVID-19 Emergency Bond Act; Creates Oversight Committees

At today’s COVID-19 press briefing, Gov. Phil Murphy announced that he has signed the New Jersey COVID-19 Emergency Bond Act, which he says will enable the state to secure “core services” as it emerges from the pandemic.

“This is not a step that any of us wished to have to take,” Murphy said. “Our administration has worked incredibly hard over the past couple of years to point our state in an entirely new fiscal direction.”

Murphy cited record high surpluses, record low reliance on “one-shot revenues,” and the first deposit in a decade into the state’s “rainy day fund,” as examples of his administration’s progress towards this claim.

“Today, it is pouring. This is a historically unprecedented fiscal crisis,” Murphy said. “[But] we simply can’t cut our way out of this,” adding that cuts in funding to various programs and services as part of the newly developed three-month budget, and eventual FY2021 budget, will not be enough to weather the COVID-19 storm.

“What we don’t need is a return to the old way of doing things. We need creativity and flexibility,” Murphy said, reiterating the importance for property tax relief for the middle-class and seniors, school funding, and services to the state’s most vulnerable and underserved communities.

The borrowing act is not without opposition, as NJGOP, Senate and Assembly Republicans filed suit Thursday evening at the Mercer County Superior Court in an effort to halt the act, claiming it as unconstitutional.

“This ill-advised scheme will have a devastating financial impact on every single state budget for a generation,” said Senator Mike Doherty (R-23). “Far worse, the $10 billion in new debt is being borrowed without voter approval, which is in clear violation of the New Jersey Constitution. For the sake of our overburdened taxpayers, I hope that the legal challenges that have been filed will be successful in stopping this reckless and unconstitutional plan.”

Additionally, Murphy today signed an executive order that creates the Governor’s Disaster Recovery Office which will ensure oversight of funds used in the state’s recovery.

Murphy said the office will replace and assume the responsibilities of the Office of Recovery and Rebuilding, which was established in the wake of Superstorm Sandy. A website will be created to track the office’s progress, as well as an independent annual report.

The executive order also creates the COVID-19 Compliance Task Force, which will review all COVID-19 related procurements above a certain dollar threshold, ensure internal controls, and provide compliance training to all agencies receiving COVID-19 funds.

The task force will also establish an integrity oversight monitoring program to ensure that agencies guard against fraud, waste and abuse of any funds.

Daniel Kelly will serve as the director of the Governor’s Disaster Recovery Office, and Acting State Comptroller Kevin Walsh will lead the COVID-19 Compliance Task Force.

“We are putting in place the oversight we need for this moment to give the public greater confidence in our work, and to ensure the restart and recovery moves forward,” Murphy said.

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