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.