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

Associated Press

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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