New Jersey treasurer who shaped state fiscal policy dies at 75

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Clifford A. Goldman, New Jersey treasurer from 1976 to 1982 and a major architect of the state’s first income tax, died Sunday at his Ewing Township home. The cause was leukemia. He was 75.

After being named deputy treasurer in 1974, Goldman was tasked with developing Gov. Brendan Byrne's response to a Supreme Court ruling that New Jersey’s school finance laws violated the state constitution.

The legal challenge led Goldman to recommend a new school finance formula along with a 2% income tax, spending caps on school and municipal budgets and property tax relief for homeowners whose tax bill exceeded a percentage of income.

State lawmakers eventually enacted a revised version of Goldman’s school aid and income tax package in 1976 to end decades of political stalemate.

Goldman, who was appointed to the state treasurer post by Byrne in 1976, oversaw the implementation of the new income tax and the heavy processing of newly required paperwork. The income tax helped lead to New Jersey receiving triple-A bond ratings from all three major credit rating agencies by the end of Byrne’s term in 1982 with the state’s pension system also funded at 105% of accrued liability.

“His hard work and imagination for innovations in municipal credit was an important factor in keeping New Jersey's credit on an even path,” said Hyman Grossman, who was the lead New Jersey analyst for Standard Poor’s when Goldman was in the state treasurer’s office. “As a credit analyst one needed honest access to those on the inside of state government. Cliff Goldman also provided that with honesty, integrity, and hard work.”

Goldman’s seven-year run as treasurer also involved bond refinancings for the New Jersey College of Medicine and Dentistry and the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority. Savings achieved for the NJSEA helped offset construction costs for a new arena at Meadowlands that was home of the National Hockey League’s New Jersey Devils and National Basketball Association’s New Jersey Nets.

Late in Goldman’s tenure as treasurer, he urged the state to establish a new entity that could design and finance office construction at lower costs than its traditional practice of leasing its office space from private owners. Byrne eventually latched onto the idea and signed legislation in 1981 establishing the New Jersey State Building Authority, which helped spark a major facelift of downtown Trenton.

“Under his thoughtful stewardship, the state navigated multiple financial crises, all while maintaining public pension solvency and reclaiming its highest bond rating in years,” current New Jersey Treasurer Elizabeth Maher Muoio said in a statement. “Afterwards, he continued to offer his services as one of the state’s leading experts in public finance, providing me invaluable counsel during my transition as Treasurer.”

Goldman first entered New Jersey government in the late 1960s as an assistant to Paul Ylvisaker, who was the state's first commissioner of community affairs. He was named the executive director of the newly created Hackensack Meadowlands Development Commission in 1969.

As deputy treasurer, Goldman proactively sought a plan to assure New Jersey cities maintained access to the bond markets when a near-default of nearby New York City threatened the financial stability of Garden State municipalities. He proposed channeling state aid directly to city bond trustees as part of a no-cost measure that reopened market access and guaranteed a minimum A credit rating for the state's localities and school districts. The proposal was codified in 1975 as the New Jersey Qualified Bond Act.

Goldman later proposed that the assets of the constitutionally established Fund for Support of Free Public Schools be pledged by statute to service school bonds in the event of default. The measure’s statutory approval raised the minimum rating of all school bonds to double-A and combined with the NJQBA has helped reduce debt service costs for local governments.

After his run as treasurer ended, Goldman established a financial consulting firm in 1982 called Goldman, Beale Associates that advised dozens of New Jersey municipalities and state agencies including Newark, Jersey City, Trenton, Jersey City, Paterson and North Bergen. He also was named chairperson of the Mercer County Alliance to End Homelessness in 2009.

“You can’t go far in any direction in New Jersey without seeing a major public project that benefited from Cliff’s financing plans,” said David Beale, who was deputy treasurer under Goldman and later became his business partner at GB Associates LLC. “New Jersey’s municipalities and school districts still enjoy better market access and lower borrowing costs today because of programs Cliff designed in the 1970’s. “

Goldman graduated from Rutgers University, where he was a Henry Rutgers Honors Scholar. He received M.A. and Ph.D. degrees at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, where he was later a visiting public finance professor.

Plans for a memorial service will be announced soon. Goldman is survived by his wife of 53 years, Irene Etkin, sons Daniel and Paul, brother Richard and a granddaughter.

“He never spoke just to hear himself speak, so when he did say something, everyone in the room knew that what was said was meaningful and impactful,” said Neil Grossman, who worked with Goldman for more than 20 years at GB Associates. “He treated me, and everyone who came in contact with him, with dignity and respect. In turn, he earned the utmost respect and admiration from everyone who was fortunate enough to know him.”

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