Murphy to critics of borrowing: What’s your Plan B?

Gov. Phil Murphy.

Gov. Phil Murphy clapped back, as they say, against those criticizing his desire to borrow as much as $9.9 billion to help the state.

“What’s your Plan B?” he asked rhetorically at this COVID-19 briefing Wednesday.

“What else do you think we should be doing? It’s just ridiculous the absence of viable alternative public policy from folks who are whining about this.”

The state Senate is expected to formally pass the bill Thursday. Murphy said he will sign it as soon as he gets it. And he said he is not necessarily concerned with a potential legal challenge regarding the ability of the government to borrow that amount of money without approval from the voters.

“We wouldn’t attach our name to something if we thought it was not completely constitutional and legal,” he said.

The plan was panned by the New Jersey Society of CPAs on Wednesday — which said it was “deeply concerned” by the idea. On Tuesday, at a Senate committee hearing, representatives from the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce as well as the New Jersey Business & Industry Association testified they had strong concerns, too.

According to the bill, the state would have the ability to borrow $2.7 billion for the remainder of this extended budget year (it ends Sept. 30) and $7.2 billion for next budget year (which ends on the traditional June 30).

Murphy, who needs to complete a budget by Aug. 25, said it’s too early to tell what he would use the money for.

“Bear with us,” he said.

Murphy said people should assume it will go to the priorities and obligations he speaks of constantly: education, health care, keeping front line workforce employed and meeting the state’s obligations on pensions and other fronts.

Other notes from the briefing:

Hospital metrics

There were 396 additional COVID-19 cases, raising the state total to 176,278. And there were 27 more fatalities, pushing the state total to 13,660 — plus 1,947 probable fatalities.

To put that in perspective, Florida again reported more than 10,000 cases on the day, and is now over 300,000. Florida, however, has only had 4,518 fatalities.

Hospital numbers, as of 10 p.m. Tuesday:

  • In hospital: 923;
  • In ICU: 151;
  • On ventilators: 78 (fourth consecutive day under 100);
  • Rate of transmission: 0.91;
  • Positivity rate: 2.13% (from July 10).

Self-quarantine for travelers

Murphy said the state is planning an aggressive advertising campaign about self-quarantining if you come to the state from a COVID-19 hot spot — and that it hopes to have an app available by the end of the week for travelers to monitor themselves. But, Murphy said, the state is not looking to fine anyone who does not participate, as New York state is pledging to do.

“We’re considering a number of items …. (but) we’re not there on fines,” he said. “We want to appeal to people’s personal responsibility to do the right thing.”

A spokesperson for Health Commissioner Judith Persicilli does have authority under the New Jersey Emergency Health Powers Act “to require isolation/quarantine and take other reasonable and necessary measures to control the spread of disease.”

The final word

Murphy on PPE needs:

We’re still not where we need to be.”

Murphy said the state is working on a plan for health care providers, local governments and essential places of work to have 30, 60 and 90 days of PPE stockpiled — but that the state isn’t close to meeting that need.

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