“We must remember where we started, fiscally, before the pandemic mayhem because that’s exactly where we’re going to end up when it’s over,” Mr. O’Scanlon said in a statement. “Except, the hole will be deeper, the debt our children owe will be even more massive and the path to true solvency even more insurmountable.”
In November, the state borrowed $4.29 billion to cover its operating costs, a move that Republicans unsuccessfully tried to block, citing the burden it would place on future generations of taxpayers. The state is not expected to begin paying interest on that debt during the fiscal year covered by the proposed budget, administration officials said.
James W. Hughes, the former dean of the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy of Rutgers University, said the state’s decision to turn to borrowing made sense at the time.
“It’s so overused, but whatever the term is — unprecedented, uncharted waters — five, six months ago that was truly the case,” Mr. Hughes said.
“In the summer we still weren’t sure the scale of layoffs that could have occurred if we followed a conventional recession,” he added.
During the peak of the pandemic, when most businesses were shuttered in an effort to slow the spread of the virus, 831,000 residents lost jobs. That was twice the number of jobs gained over the last 10 years, Mr. Hughes noted.
“If that’s not terrifying,” he said, “I don’t know what type of metric is terrifying.”
Since then, the state has recovered about 58 percent of those jobs, but an estimated 350,000 residents remain out of work.