From Fox Business:
New Jersey’s voters will decide Tuesday who will take over running the state from outgoing Republican Gov. Chris Christie, who, after two terms in office, is leaving Trenton with one of the lowest job-approval ratings of any U.S. governor.
The winner of the election will inherit a state facing large and expensive problems, from underfunded public pensions to crumbling transportation infrastructure, at a time when the electorate is loath to accept more tax increases. The average residential property-tax bill in New Jersey has increased 32% during the past decade, reaching $8,200 in 2016, and public polls consistently have found that the state’s voters list taxes as their top concern.
New Jersey’s financial problems are significant: Its $88.8 billion public-pension liability is 41% unfunded, and that $36.5 billion deficit will weigh on future state budgets. State funding for K-12 public schools hasn’t kept pace with a funding formula outlined in state law, infuriating education activists and putting pressure on local property taxes.
And a host of transportation challenges — financial uncertainty about construction of a new train tunnel under the Hudson River, funding and management struggles at NJ Transit, and questions regarding the replacement of the ailing Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan — will require significant investment by New Jersey’s next governor.
At the same time, New Jersey’s real gross domestic product, a measure of economic strength, saw a compound annual growth rate of only 0.2% between 2006 and 2016 compared with 1.1% nationwide, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. And weighed down by pension woes, New Jersey general-obligation bonds have been downgraded 11 times across three credit-rating firms since Mr. Christie took office in 2010.