Published: April 15, 2020

Lottery revenue slump deals blow to New Jersey pension fund

In an ominous sign for the New Jersey Pension Fund, Trenton, revenue for the state lottery for the nine months ended March 31 was $707.8 million, down 12.1% from the $805.3 million year-ago period, according to the state Department of the Treasury

The pension fund relies on the lottery for about $1 billion a year to help cover annual state contributions, most of which come from general revenues. A lottery shortfall would put extra pressure on the state to make its promised payments.

The state made its full $684 million quarterly contribution to the pension fund on March 31. The state's commitment to the pension fund for the current fiscal year is $3.75 billion, which includes proceeds from the state lottery. The New Jersey Pension Fund had assets of $74.2 billion as of Feb. 29, according to the latest available data.

However, the economic uncertainty caused by the coronavirus outbreak has caused the state to review its revenue projections and to change the current fiscal year to a Sept. 30 conclusion rather than the traditional June 30.

Gov. Phil Murphy signed a fiscal-year extension law Tuesday, which also pushed back to July 15 from April 15 the deadlines for filing personal and business income taxes.

The latest lottery data was contained in a monthly revenue report released Wednesday by the state Department of the Treasury. The report didn't comment on the lottery or the pension fund but it did repeat previous warnings about the impact of COVID-19.

"Treasury is closely monitoring factors such as the closure of businesses across New Jersey, the sharp increase in unemployment insurance claims, and the decline in the stock markets, which are expected to have a significant impact on tax revenue collections in the coming months," a Wednesday news release said.

Because tax-filing deadlines have been extended, "billions of dollars in tax collections will likely be postponed for several months," the news release said. "This delay, in combination with the likely weakness in future withholdings from employee wages, suggests a challenging period for state tax revenue collections lies ahead. "

The department said March revenue collections for major taxes were $1.89 billion, up 3.6% from March 2019. For the nine months ended March 31, revenue collections were $22.4 billion, or 6.2% higher than the corresponding period last year.

However, the department noted that the March results "largely reflect February economic behavior, which was prior to the onset of many social and commercial restrictions designed to help mitigate the spread of coronavirus."

The April revenue report will provide a more accurate picture of the COVID-19 impact, the news release said.

https://www.pionline.com/pension-funds/lottery-revenue-slump-deals-blow-new-jersey-pension-fund

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