Coughlin details support for $5B in borrowing: Alternatives are unrealistic

File photo Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin also won some concessions in budget talks.

Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin explained why he doesn’t think the state needs to “defund” the police, but why it does need to borrow $5 billion Friday morning.

Coughlin (D-Woodbridge), appearing on the “Speak to the Speaker” program on WCTC-AM 1450, agreed with Gov. Phil Murphy and other leaders when he said the issues around policing are really about community relations.

“At the heart of the sentiment of that is not so much defunding police as it is at pushing for community reinvestment,” he said.

Coughlin said that means making sure social services — including those for behavioral health — get the attention and the funding they need.

“Those are things that I’m clearly and firmly behind,” he said. “I think making sure that those things get their fair share (of investment) and recognizing how important they are to bringing about stronger and safer communities is really at the heart of that movement.”

Coughlin also noted the state will be facing some funding challenges — which is putting it lightly. Some estimates say the state will face an approximate $10 billion shortfall in revenues.

It’s one of the reasons why Coughlin said he has supported — and the Assembly has passed — a bill that would allow the state to borrow $5 billion. A bill in the Senate has yet to be voted on.

“I believe it is the necessary thing to do,” he said. “Borrowing $5 billion is a big decision. And it’s something that I generally wouldn’t support: I wouldn’t do it for my personal finances, I wouldn’t support it for the state, but the other alternatives are unrealistic.

“The notion that we would be able to cut an additional $5 billion would mean beyond-draconian cuts, it would cut into things we recognize are necessary and essential for the state to continue to operate. We can’t tax $5 billion of new revenue in order to fill that revenue gap. And, so, it is the best among not-great options, and so that’s what we have done.”

Even with such massive borrowing, Coughlin said the state will be facing cuts that will be painful, he said. He said the Legislature, which will appropriate the spending, needs to make sure it does so carefully.

Not borrowing, however, is not an option, he said.

“These are extraordinary financial times and I think that cries out for an extraordinary financial option if there is one, and borrowing, in my view, is one of those options that we need to avail ourselves to,” he said.