Thursday, September 18th, 2014

Chris Christie rehashes old facts in budget speech

Gov. Chris Christie delivers his budget address to the Legislature on Tuesday.
Gov. Chris Christie delivers his budget address to the Legislature on Tuesday.

Gov. Chris Christie leaned on a few tried but not quite true lines Tuesday while presenting his plan for the upcoming budget year.

Unveiling a $32.1 billion spending plan for fiscal year 2013, Christie repeated claims PolitiFact New Jersey previously checked. Here’s a recap of how those statements fared on the Truth-O-Meter.

Balanced budgets

Christie told the Legislature when he took office the state faced tough choices, but those tough choices would "pave the way for better ones in the future."

"You see, because our previous tough choices have indeed made a difference. Those budgets for Fiscal Year ‘10 and Fiscal Year ’11 were balanced – without raising taxes," he claimed.  In previous rulings, similar statements earned a Half True.

Yes, the governor balanced two budgets, as required by state law. He achieved it,  in part, by skipping a multibillion-dollar pension payment and reducing school and municipal aid.

But Christie also cut some tax credits. Several experts told us one or all of those reductions could represent a tax hike.

Funding for the Homestead and senior freeze programs as well as the State Earned Income Tax Credit decreased between fiscal 2010 and fiscal 2011.  

Josh Barro, a fellow with the right-leaning Manhattan Institute told PolitiFact New Jersey in July that he didn’t consider the reduction in the Earned Income Tax Credit a tax hike, but said reducing the property tax credits could be considered tax increases, since they’re meant to offset property tax burdens.

Property tax credits

Though property tax credits decreased in the beginning of Christie’s tenure, the governor claimed that he doubled property tax relief last year.

"To help those senior citizens and middle income families hardest hit by property taxes, the state has long had a property tax rebate program. Last year, we were able to double that property tax relief over the prior fiscal year," Christie said in his budget speech.

PolitiFact New Jersey checked this claim when Christie said it in a July radio spot that was sponsored by the New Jersey Republican State Committee. Then, Christie said his budget "doubled property tax credits for seniors and middle class New Jerseyans."

We found it’s technically correct that Christie doubled property tax credits in his fiscal 2012 budget. However, the average Homestead benefit would still be less than half of the $1,035 average in fiscal 2010, according to a budget analysis by the state’s nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services.

Taxes and fees

Christie said in his budget speech that any plan to stimulate job growth in New Jersey must begin with cutting taxes.

"As everyone in this room knows, or should know, New Jersey raised taxes and fees 115 times in the eight years before I became Governor. Government abused the taxpayers of New Jersey because government refused to control its own appetite for spending," the governor told the Legislature.

Republican state Sen. Tom Kean Jr. made a similar claim in October. PolitiFact New Jersey found then that under Democratic control of the state Legislature and governor’s office, the state saw nearly 115 increases in taxes and fees or other tax policy changes.

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More facts to check

PolitiFact New Jersey will be digging further into the governor’s budget address in the coming days. If you heard a statement you believe is worth fact-checking, email us  at politifactnj@starledger.com. You can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook.