For New Jersey taxpayers, the bad news is even worse than a report showing their state government is $160 billion in debt.
The deficit is actually $10 billion higher than that — a whopping $170 billion — according to State Treasury records obtained by New Jersey Watchdog.
In a national study released Monday, Truth in Accounting, a nonprofit advocate of governmental transparency, calculated that state governments have racked up $1.3 trillion in debt.
The report ranked New Jersey dead last among states with a burden of $52,300 per taxpayer, the highest in the country.
But it didn’t count a new valuation that found the state’s responsibility for unfunded retiree and employee health benefits has increased to $65 billion. That hikes the Garden State’s deficit per taxpayer to $55,550, a figure that also includes pensions, bonds and other liabilities.
“I urge Gov. Chris Christie and his administration to acknowledge their state’s true debt and address this situation immediately before New Jersey sinks further into debt,” said Sheila Weinberg, CEO of Truth in Accounting.
The $170 billion hole does not include the debts of New Jersey’s local government units, which face a collective shortfall of $50 billion for pensions and health benefits. Nor does it encompass the bond debts and other liabilities of the state’s 21 counties, 565 municipalities and 610 school districts.
The findings of Truth in Accounting’s study are consistent with a New Jersey Watchdog analysis of Treasury records that found the total pension and health benefit deficit for the state and local governments is nearing $200 billion.
Last week, New Jersey Watchdog reported:
- New Jersey’s public pensions are underfunded by $113.1 billion.
- State and local governments are also on the hook for $81.4 billion in unfunded health benefits for retired and active workers.
- The total shortfall for pensions and health benefits is $194.5 billion — nearly six times higher than New Jersey’s total annual budget, currently $33.8 billion.