Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

Truth-O-Meter issues rulings on toll hikes claims

Conservative activist Steve Lonegan recently claimed that New Jerseyans were facing the highest tolls in the nation.
Conservative activist Steve Lonegan recently claimed that New Jerseyans were facing the highest tolls in the nation.

Tolls and controversy: perfect together in the Garden State, PolitiFact New Jersey has found.

In case you missed it, the Truth-O-Meter ruled on toll-related claims during the holiday weekend, finding one statement by Steve Lonegan to be False and another by Gov. Chris Christie to be True.

In addition to those rulings, the Truth-O-Meter – no stranger to controversy – gave readers a six-month report card Sunday on its first 120 rulings.

Lonegan claim

Lonegan, a conservative activist who heads the state’s chapter of Americans For Prosperity, said in a newsletter last week that New Jerseyans would face the highest  tolls in the nation when increases took effect Sunday. The Truth-O-Meter found that New Jersey’s tolls may be high, but they’re not the highest in the nation by cost per mile – a measure several experts said was more significant – or actual toll prices, according to a statistical comparison.

Our False ruling on Monday prompted Americans For Prosperity to issue a news release today challenging the rating, calling our decision a Pants on Fire and suggesting we issue a retraction.

"PolitiFact’s rating has completely ignored the thrust of Americans for Prosperity’s statement," said Americans for Prosperity Communications Director Mike Proto. "Their ‘analysis’ focuses solely on the tolls on the New Jersey Turnpike and the Garden State Parkway but does not take into account all of the tolls New Jersey motorists are subject to, including as they commute into New York via the George Washington Bridge, the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, the Lincoln Tunnel or the Holland Tunnel."

That’s news to us, considering Lonegan’s original press release only stated that New Jerseyans would face toll hikes on the New Jersey Turnpike, the Garden State Parkway and the Atlantic City Expressway. By the way, Steve and Mike, there’s no toll hike on the Atlantic City Expressway. Our ruling stands.

Christie claim

The governor pulled a case of "Not Me!" during a Dec. 23 interview with WFAN’s Boomer Esiason and Craig Carton, when Carton said Christie was raising tolls by 50 percent. Christie told Carton that Jon Corzine approved the hikes when he was governor. The Truth-O-Meter today rated that claim as True. The 50-percent hikes represent the second phase of a two-part rate increase approved by the New Jersey Turnpike Authority in October 2008.

Accountability agenda

PolitiFact New Jersey issued a six-month report card Sunday of its first 120 fact-checks. Of those, 41 were by Democrats, five were by Democratic organizations, 49 were by Republicans and five were by Republican organizations. We also fact-checked seven claims by nonpolitical organizations, one claim by bloggers and one chain email; two claims by two politicians who are declared Independents; and nine people with no declared political bent.

In the new year

In coming weeks we will introduce a free email newsletter for readers to learn more about claims that we’re working on and what’s ahead, as well as spotlighting reader feedback. If you’re interested in receiving the newsletter, or having PolitiFact New Jersey do a presentation for your organization or school, drop a note with your email address to PolitiFact New Jersey Editor Caryn Shinske at cshinske@starledger.com. You can also follow us on Twitter @PolitiFactNJ or find us on Facebook.