State of New Jersey
From $14 billion in the Red, the Triumphant Return of America’s Playground
City of Atlantic City, New Jersey: Due to the heavy decline in the casino gambling industry from new regional competition and softening demand, Atlantic City’s ability to raise enough revenue from its casino-dependent tax base to support its outsize municipal and school budget became severely impaired. After being engaged by the Greater Atlantic City Chamber of Commerce in January 2014 to offer the City of Atlantic City and incoming Mayor Don Guardian a broad base of budget, financial, and policy consulting services, we developed a multi-point strategy to stabilize the City’s tax base by identifying tens of millions in cost savings, a new method of tax assessments to curb the debilitating cycle of tax appeals, and coordinated our efforts with the State and other public entities. We have been able to serve as a bridge between the City and the State Division of Local Government Services—as well as the Governor’s Commission on Atlantic City and the Emergency Management team—helping to facilitate the development of a multi-stakeholder executable strategy and recovery plan. We have also worked closely with the private sector to assure that the City’s recovery plan does not leave large or small businesses behind and lays the groundwork for future economic development. Beginning in 2016, we were retained by the Attorney General’s Office to work with the State’s core recovery team.
Pension and Benefits Study Commission: Like most states, New Jersey has struggled to keep up with the rising costs of employee and retiree pension and healthcare costs; unlike most states, New Jersey’s pension is one of the most distressed in the country. By 2023, pension and benefit costs are projected to exceed more than a quarter of the state’s total budget, cutting off funds for vital services like school safety, environmental protection, and property tax relief. We assisted the non-partisan New Jersey Pension and Health Benefit Study Commission and its consultant team to develop and vet saving strategies to close the funding gap, as well as explore similar reform efforts in other states to learn from the best and avoid the worst. All told, over $1 billion in potential savings were identified, primarily in healthcare, by fixing the out-of-network reimbursement problem, discouraging the use of emergency rooms for non-emergent care, increasing the use of generic and mail-order drugs, and empower primary-care physicians to focus on patient outcomes; savings in healthcare would be devoted to increasing the amount contributed to the pension annually.