I'm not sure why my brothers and sisters in the media haven't given this Associated Press story a better ride. It's an interesting article and, if you ask me, actually could have been even stronger. We have a governor with a truth problem.
A fact check of NJ gov's favorite figures
An occasional look at claims by public officials and how well they adhere to the facts.
By BETH DeFALCO
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie likes to use numbers - a lot of them - to explain to people the enormity of the state's fiscal crisis. But like with many things, context can change the meaning.
Here's a fact check of some of Gov. Chris Christie's favorite figures.
CHRISTIE: Says he closed an $11 billion budget deficit without raising any taxes.
THE FACTS: People paid more in taxes last year. The structural deficit - what the state would have spent if it fully funded every program on the books and accounted for inflation - was $10.7 billion for the 2011 fiscal year, which ends in June, according to the nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services.
OLS projected the 2012 budget year deficit at $10.5 billion.
Much of the gap Christie closed was done by skipping a $3.1 billion pension payment.
Christie also reduced tax relief. Property tax rebates were cut by 75 percent in fiscal year 2011, meaning that ultimately, homeowners had a higher tax bill. The earned income tax credit was also cut by $45 million that year - money that will be made up by taxpayers who don't receive it.
CHRISTIE: State workers got a 7 percent salary increase this year.
THE FACTS: They did in July 2010. But that's because they deferred for 18 months a 3.5 percent raise in 2009 as part of a deal with former Gov. Jon Corzine that guaranteed no layoffs. The 7 percent Christie cites combines the 3.5 percent raises over two years.
CHRISTIE: "We've cut spending two years in a row."
THE FACTS: When you take out federal stimulus money in the budget - spending of state dollars is basically flat from year to year. The governor also counts a $500 million pension payment the state has not yet made as part of the 2011 fiscal year budget - inflating the 2011 budget year number even though the dollars have not, and may not be spent in that year.
CHRISTIE: Says he increased K-12 aid by 3 percent the 2012 budget, or $250 million.
THE FACTS: That's true. What he doesn't mention is that he cut education funding by $820 million in the 2011 budget year, which ends in June. So by comparison, the state spent $8.5 billion in direct school aid in the 2010 budget year ($1 billion was federal stimulus money). It spent $7.9 billion in 2011. Christie proposes spending $8.1 billion in 2012. So spending is up, but not at the same level as before he took office, when federal money was available.
CHRISTIE - Democrats want to raise income tax on those making $400,000 or more.
THE FACTS: That depends on your definition of "millionaire." Just before Christie took office, an income tax hike known as the "Millionaire's Tax" (even though it applied to those making $400,000) expired. The surcharge raised the income tax from 8.9 percent to 10.8 percent. Last year, Democrats tried to revive the income tax hike, but on those making $1 million or more. Christie vetoed it.