Poll: N.J. voters want state to close deficit through benefits reform, not taxes

The effects of COVID-19 have resulted in a financial deficit for New Jersey.

To close it, residents are urging Gov. Phil Murphy and the legislature to focus on benefits reform and government savings over tax increases and borrowing, according to a new poll by Garden State Initiative.

File photo
Regina Egea of Garden State Initiative.

Last week, the Murphy administration announced that New Jersey will face a revenue shortfall of $10 billion. The shortfall will place the state’s pension system at a funding level of 58.6% of what’s needed to pay 800,000 active and retired public employees. Those figures do not include any of the financial impact from COVID-19, GSI said.

“By significant margins, New Jersey voters recognize that tax increases are not the right prescription to get New Jersey’s fiscal house in order,” Regina M. Egea, president, GSI, said. “Common sense reforms, that put public employee benefits on par with the private sector, coupled with measures to reduce the cost of government, enjoy broad popular support among voters.”

When asked about closing large budget deficits for the state and large cities, nearly half (44%) selected financial savings measures like updating public employees’ benefits to mirror private employers’ pensions and health benefits; 23% picked finding cost reductions in government operations, including layoffs, furloughs and more; and 21% said issuing bonds or raising taxes (7%).

Updating public employee benefits, such as moving state employees to a hybrid or 401K style plan, is supported by one-third of voters (33%), while a federal bailout was supported by 25%. There was widespread opposition to add to the state’s debt by borrowing (8%) or raising taxes (5%).

The poll, conducted by National Research Inc., went from April 28-30 with 500 registered likely voters in New Jersey and a margin of error of +/- 4.38 percentage points.