New Jersey gets its third credit ratings upgrade within a week

They say the third time’s a charm — and that must be true in the Garden State, where for the third time in less than a week, New Jersey received a credit rating upgraded.

S&P Global Ratings on Wednesday raised its long-term and underlying ratings on the state’s general obligation bonds to A from A-minus and on certain bonds outstanding secured by state appropriations to A-minus from BBB-plus.

It also raised its rating on New Jersey Economic Development Authority’s department of human services pooled financing program bonds to BBB-plus from BBB and the rating on South Jersey Port Corp.’s state moral obligation debt to BBB from BBB-minus.

“The upgrades reflect better pension funding levels and improved structural balance, largely the result of an anticipated third consecutive year of full actuarial pension contributions in fiscal 2024,” S&P credit analyst David Hitchcock said in a statement.

In addition, S&P assigned an A-minus rating to the New Jersey EDA’s $804.1 million of Series 2023 RRR school facilities construction refunding bonds and $254.7 million of Series 2024 SSS forward delivery school facilities construction refunding bonds, selling April 20.

The outlook is stable for all ratings.

“Today’s upgrade from S&P is welcome news coming as it does on the heels of the announcements from Fitch and Moody’s and is just more evidence that New Jersey is on the right fiscal path,” Gov. Phil Murphy said.

“We’ve worked hard since day one to change the narrative in Trenton from one of financial distress to one of fiscal responsibility and that work shows in these upgrades.” he said.

The state’s outstanding GOs are secured by its full faith and credit. Revenues securing the state’s appropriation bonds outstanding are subject to annual appropriation for debt service.

On Tuesday, Fitch Ratings raised the state’s issuer and general obligation bond ratings to A-plus from A and revised the outlook to stable from positive ahead of the EDA’s sale of the $1.1 billion of school facilities construction bonds.

Fitch said its upgrade reflects its view the state has “effectively used the fiscal momentum of recent years to accelerate progress on its long-term fiscal and liability challenges. Solid economic performance matched by robust revenue growth have helped New Jersey to shrink its liabilities.”

On Thursday, Moody’s Investors Service upgraded the state’s issuer and GO ratings to A1 from A2.

Moody’s said its upgrade “incorporates a solid economic recovery, with job gains leading the region and driving employment above the state’s pre-pandemic peak.”

“When we talk about fiscal responsibility, it’s not just lip service, it’s something we constantly strive for,” said Treasurer Elizabeth Maher Muoio.

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