N.J. coronavirus recovery: Deal on $9.9B borrowing plan; transmission rate dips

New Jersey Statehouse in Trenton

New Jersey Statehouse in Trenton. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

New Jersey reported another 367 of COVID-19 on Friday, bringing the state’s cumulative total to 174,628 since the start of the pandemic.

Another 31 residents died from complications of the coronavirus, bringing the state’s total of confirmed and probable fatalities to 15,479.

Murphy, Sweeney strike deal on $9.9 billion borrowing plan

Gov. Phil Murphy has struck a deal with Senate President Steve Sweeney, D-Gloucester, over a plan that would allow the state to borrow up to $9.9 billion as it continues to grapple with a budget hole brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

A four member legislative panel, which would include two members of the Senate and two members of the Assembly, would have to approve any borrowing.

“It is absolutely critical that we get this done and get this done quickly. And now we can,” Murphy said.

Sweeney added: “This agreement will ensure we will have the resources needed to respond to this fiscal and economic crisis in a responsible way.”

The Assembly previously passed a bill authorizing the borrowing, but Sweeney had yet to post it in the upper chamber. Senate Republicans on Friday called the plan “unprecedented.”

“The Governor and Democrats agreeing to issue $10 billion of debt for operating expenses isn’t just unconstitutional, it’s insane. Taxpayers will be paying for this madness for the next 35 years,” said state Sen. Michael Testa, R-Cape May.

Murphy said the state could be short as much as $20 billion by the end of 2021, and continued to press the Trump administration for federal cash assistance.

Transmission rate dips to 0.98

The rate of transmission of COVID-19 in New Jersey has again dipped below 1.0, which statistically means that every person who tests positive is spreading the disease to fewer than one other person.

“[The] daily positivity [rate of coronavirus tests] and the rate of transmission — or RT — are the two most meaningful measurements we have of the spread of this virus across our state,” Murphy said.

“This is a good sign,” he added.

Earlier this week the transmission rate was 1.1, as the state was continuing to permit more activities that had previously been banned to slow the spread of the virus.

The state’s transmission rate had been at 0.70 before “stage 2” of New Jersey’s reopening plan, which saw the resumption of outdoor dining and permitting customers inside nonessential retail stores.

MVC headaches continue

The Murphy administration is continuing to draw criticism for the long lines and lengthy delays at newly reopened Motor Vehicle Commission offices, which resumed in-person operations on Tuesday.

The governor asked residents to be patient as officials reworked plans to deal with overwhelming demand.

“Please while we recognize you may not be happy — by the way, I don’t blame you, I’m not happy either — don’t take it out on the hardworking MVC employees who are doing their jobs. They are our neighbors and fellow New Jerseyans,” he said.

Officials are urging residents to first check the MVC’s website to see if their transaction can be completed online. They are also reminding motorists that the state has automatically extended the expiration date on certain documents.

This week people have started waiting in the wee hours of the morning to get a spot in line at MVC offices.  Offices have resorted to giving numbers to the people near the front of the line and telling those beyond a certain point to try again another day.

Murphy asked drivers not to camp out to reserve a spot. As of next week, every MVC office will be open Monday through Saturday for the rest of the month to try to serve more people than normal.

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