The BBB+ general obligation bond rating reflects several weaknesses, the firm said.
They include "a large structural operating deficit, which we calculate at 9.5% of appropriations in fiscal 2022," the news release said.
Other weaknesses are "a large unfunded pension liability, a low pension funded ratio and a history of substantially underfunding the state retirement systems' annual actuarially determined contribution," the news release said.
S&P also cited "large OPEB obligations" and a "high debt burden." OPEB, or other post-employment benefits, primarily reflects health-care costs.
S&P said the weaknesses are offset by the state's high per capita income, a diverse economic base and "good" budget reserves, the news release said.
The S&P action follows the July 13 decision by Moody's Investors Services to raise its outlook to positive from stable and to retain its A3 rating on the state's general obligation debt.
"The revision to the positive outlook reflects the state's better-than-expected financial position and improved governance profile that will enhance budget flexibility during the coronavirus recovery," Moody's July 13 news release said.
"The state has responded to a brightening revenue and liquidity picture with several actions reflecting a recent commitment to addressing more aggressively its liability burdens, demonstrating improved fiscal governance and management," the release said. "These actions include debt reduction and avoidance and acceleration of pension contributions."
On July 1, the first day of the current fiscal year, New Jersey paid most of its fiscal year 2022 contribution to the state's pension system in a $5.8 billion lump sum, rather than make traditional quarterly payments. The state also expects to contribute an estimated $1.1 billion to the pension system from state lottery proceeds, bringing the fiscal year total contribution to $6.9 billion. The lottery-based payments will be made monthly.
The state's contribution to the pension system — general revenue plus lottery proceeds — was $4.8 billion for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2021.