New Jersey Debt Rose Most in Decade in Christie's Last Year

(Bloomberg) -- New Jersey debt rose 7.9 percent in fiscal 2017, the biggest jump in more than a decade, during Chris Christie’s final year in office.

Bonded obligations increased by more than $3.3 billion to $46.1 billion, according to the annual debt report released Friday in Trenton. That doesn’t include $801 million the state has borrowed since July 1, the start of fiscal 2018.

Christie, a two-term Republican who pledged to “tear up the state’s credit card” and spend only what New Jersey could afford, borrowed more than $300 million last year without legislative or voter approval to fund a four-year statehouse renovation. The state also increased borrowing for school construction and road upgrades in anticipation of federal transportation grants, according to the report.

David Moore, deputy director of the state’s public finance office, said the roads borrowing was for two years of projects under the transportation trust fund.

During Christie’s terms, New Jersey was downgraded a record 11 times by the three major credit rating companies because of missed revenue forecasts and rising pension and benefit costs. Only Illinois has worse credit.

Last fiscal year, New Jersey’s non-bonded obligations soared 20 percent, to $155.2 billion, on pension and health-benefits liabilities, according to the report. In 2014, that figure was $101.8 billion.

New Jersey’s tax-supported debt was ranked third among U.S. states in a 2017 report by Moody’s Investors Service.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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