TRENTON, NJ — Gov. Phil Murphy announced on Tuesday that he has signed a three-month $7.6 billion budget extension prompted by the coronavirus pandemic, allowing the state to continue spending through September.
Murphy said the three-month gap budget, which authorizes state spending through the extended 2020 state fiscal year that ends on Sept. 30, slashes $1.2 billion in previously authorized spending and cuts across all state agencies.
The governor said the spending plan protects essential services such as state aid to school districts and to social service programs. He said the state will finish the extended 2020 fiscal year with a $956-million surplus that will help offset unanticipated budget increases.
According to Murphy, the state needs greater financial flexibility to borrow funds to secure core services. He said he hopes to get borrowing authority from the Legislature shortly and re-emphasized his plea to the federal government for additional direct cash assistance.
"Fiscal impacts of the pandemic are as unprecedented as the public health emergency itself," he said. "As we look forward toward the nine-month fiscal 2021 budget we will enact at summer's end the decisions that we make now will have an even bigger impact. But we can't cut our way forward."
During his daily COVID-19 briefing on Tuesday, Murphy also reiterated the reasons he suddenly decided to put a pause on limited indoor dining originally scheduled to begin on Thursday, just ahead of the holiday weekend.
The growing list of relaxed social and economic restrictions that are a part of the New Jersey Restart and Recovery Plan shifted abruptly Monday with the governor's decision to postpone the start of limited-capacity indoor dining.
Using one of his favorite terms for people who are not compliant with public health guidelines, Murphy said he decided to put the brakes on indoor dining as a result of "knucklehead" behavior.
Murphy said disturbing images over the weekend of crowded bars in New Jersey at which patrons were not wearing face coverings nor following social-distancing protocols, coupled with rapidly Increasing numbers of positive cases in other parts of the country where indoor drinking and dining has been permitted informed his decision to halt the impending relaxation here in the Garden State.
He did not say when he expects to resume limited capacity indoor dining.
"This is not how we beat back COVID-19. This is how we invite COVID-19," he said. "This is how flare-ups happen. This how you risk turning your community into a hot spot."
The governor acknowledged that the vast majority of bar and restaurant owners are complying and enforcing public health guidance.
"But one establishment ignoring the rules or even just one patron ignoring the rules can undo months of progress and ruin it for the rest of us," said Murphy. "As a bar-goer you have just as much of a responsibility as anyone who works at the bar. Ignorance is not bliss."
Murphy had strongly worded advice for bar patrons, especially as the state gets ready for the busy holiday weekend.
The governor reiterated that patrons must not congregate at the bar area, must keep appropriate spacing between groups so that people can safety place orders, and adamantly recommended wearing a face covering at all times except when eating or drinking. He also strongly suggested that if any establishment in an individual's opinion becomes too crowded then it is appropriate to leave.
"We all have to do this together," he said. "There are no mulligans when it comes to COVID-19. Use your common sense not just for yourself or your family or your friends. Use common sense for the common good."
Casinos are still scheduled to open on Thursday and are not affected by the decision to halt indoor dining. One New Jersey casino, the Borgata, announced that it would not open as scheduled without the ability to serve food and drinks to patrons.
Amusement parks, water parks, boardwalk rides and arcades are also scheduled to open on July 2.
Additionally, Murphy announced updates made to the list of states from which travelers to New Jersey, or from where New Jersey residents are returning, are being asked to self-quarantine for 14 days.
The new states include California, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada and Tennessee. They join states already on the list, including Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Utah.
State officials have said that the quarantine request is voluntary but that compliance is expected. According to the New Jersey Department of Health, states being added to the quarantine list have positive testing rates higher than 10 per 100,000 residents or 10 percent or higher positivity rate over a seven-day rolling average.
The state reported 461 new cases on Tuesday, bringing the state's total to 171,667. New Jersey remains third in the nation for total cases, behind New York and California.
The state's rate of transmission ticked up slightly to 0.88 but remains below 1—meaning that every infected person is transmitting the disease to less than one person. According to Murphy, this statistic is vitally important to keep below 1, as it is a sign that the disease is not spreading.
Hospitalizations for the virus were at 992 on Tuesday, marking the third consecutive day that the total was under 1,000. Of those hospitalized, 211 were in critical care and 174 were on ventilators. The governor said these statistics continue to trend downward albeit more slowly.
He also reported 47 new fatalities as of Tuesday for a statewide total of 15,035.