Poll asks NJ voters how state should take on $10B revenue shortfall
If your household budget has been affected by the COVID-19 health crisis, chances are you first looked at ways to cut expenses before looking at ways to bring in more money.
That's how a plurality of New Jersey residents hope the state approaches a multibillion-dollar revenue shortfall for the rest of Fiscal Year 2020 and 2021 created by the fallout of the pandemic, according to a poll conducted at the end of April by The Garden State Initiative.
The state Department of the Treasury should release updated revenue forecasts by mid-afternoon Friday for the current and upcoming budget years. As of May 13, it was expected the state would be looking at a revenue shortfall of more than $10 billion.
Across every demographic of registered, likely voters who were surveyed in the GSI poll, raising taxes to deal with a deficit was considered the last move the state should consider.
"They were very specific about updating the public workforce pension and health benefits as being the number-one response in terms of looking for savings, and then in many groups it was reducing other government spending," said GSI President Regina Egea, who served as former Gov. Chris Christie's Chief of Staff from 2015 to 2016.
When asked about closing large deficits, just 7% pointed to raising taxes as the answer. More than 40% chose cost-saving measures such as bringing public employees' benefits in line with private employers' pension and health benefits, and finding cost reductions in government operations through layoffs, furloughs and salary freezes.
The poll noted 10% of New Jersey's budget this year will be paid into the public employee pension system. About a quarter of respondents said states like New Jersey should "ask for a federal bailout" to deal with their respective pension payments and budget gaps.
Egea said GSI believes any federal support ought to come with conditions related to updating the state's public-workers' benefits system.
"There's plenty of room for us to look for more effective benefit programs for our workforce," she said.