March 13, 2017 | Number of The Day
New Jersey's total bonded debt

New figures detailing the latest official state borrowing totals released by the Department of Treasury last week indicated bonded debt decreased slightly during the 2016 fiscal year to $42.72 billion. For context, New Jersey’s current total for bonded debt is still among the highest of all states, and it remains larger than New Jersey’s current annual budget of $34.6 billion.

The 1 percent reduction in bonded debt from last year’s total of $43.23 billion followed a year in which the state’s Transportation Trust Fund ground to a halt for several months as Gov. Chris Christie and lawmakers failed to reach an agreement on a way to renew the fund. A 23-cent gas-tax hike was eventually enacted on November 1 to create a new source of dedicated revenue for the TTF.

The rare drop in overall state borrowing seems unlikely to be carried over during the current fiscal year as Treasury records indicate a series of new-money bond issues worth more than $3.5 billion have already closed since the fiscal year began in July. They include new borrowing for transportation projects backed by both state and federal revenue, and borrowing for higher-education and biomedical research facilities, among other things, according to the official debt report released on Friday.

New Jersey, meanwhile, remains fourth in net tax-supported bonded debt, behind only California, New York, and Massachusetts, and fourth in total per-capita debt, behind only Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Hawaii, according to the debt report.
The total for all of the state’s long-term obligations that aren’t derived from bonding, including the pension and health benefits earned by employees, is now $128 billion, up $18 billion from the last fiscal year, the report said.