A new study by the Center for Budget Policy Priorities finds dozens of states have gone through great struggles to balance their budgets since the Great Recession began in 2003 - but no state has had a tougher time - and made more severe cuts than New Jersey.

An analysis by 24/7 wall-st-dot-com ranks the Garden state 4th in the nation when it comes to having the toughest time paying its bills - even though by law New Jersey must produce a balanced budget by the start of every new fiscal year at the beginning of July.

Rutgers economist Joe Seneca says the bottom line here is that, "New Jersey's economy is on the mend… the rate of improvement certainly needs to be accelerated and that's recognized by everyone, but private sector employment is coming back…yes, the state like many other states has had significant fiscal problems during the recession, particularly as tax revenues were sharply curtailed…we've been through some difficult times, other states, many states, all of the states almost have had similar difficult times, but we have had fiscally balanced budgets."

He says it is true that in fiscal year 2012, year-to-date tax revenues are up over the previous 6 months, July through December, "but they are falling short of expectations in terms of the revenue estimates that were adopted for this budget- and that's an issue going forward."

Seneca adds it's no secret that housing prices have dropped across the country - "sure, the housing sector has been the sick man of the economy back through 2008, and it's now 2012 and it's still the missing link in the economic recovery - we have seen some positively signs, but has the housing sector been a problem? Yes- is it still a problem - absolutely…as we recover from the Great Recession, it's a long road back - a very long road back - we lost well over a quarter of a million jobs -private sector jobs - during the recession… continuing to grow the economy - with private sector jobs - is one of the keys to the comeback - New Jersey has to be ever-vigilant to become a good place to invest and we're on the right track."

As for the 24/7 wall-st analysis, he says "I'm not sure this study really tells us anything of use."