Monday, December 22nd, 2014

On ‘Meet the Press,’ Chris Christie talks national politics, state finances

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Gov. Chris Christie appears on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Jan. 22.

Gov. Chris Christie weighed in on the national political scene and pushed his agenda for New Jersey in a Sunday interview on NBC’s "Meet the Press."

The Republican governor defended Mitt Romney, the candidate he supports for the GOP presidential nomination; took a jab Newt Gingrich, saying the former House speaker has embarrassed his party;  and stood up for his proposed 10 percent state income tax cut.

We have previously checked several of the claims Christie made during the interview. Here’s a recap of those Truth-O-Meter rulings:

Newt Gingrich’s ethics

Christie said Republican presidential hopeful Gingrich wouldn’t know how to effectively wield executive power as president, as Romney would.

Beyond that, Christie called the former legislator an embarrassment.

"We all know the record. I mean he was run out of the speakership by his own party. He was fined $300,000 for ethics violations. This is a guy who has had a very difficult political career at times and has been an embarrassment to the party," Christie said.

PolitiFact National addressed one of those claims in a December ruling and found it’s true Gingrich was fined $300,000 for ethics violations.

The ethics violations stemmed from Gingrich’s work at Kennesaw State College in Georgia in the 1990s and letters he submitted during an investigation about a course he taught there.

In 1997, Gingrich had agreed to pay a sum of $300,000, admitting he had "engaged in conduct that did not reflect creditably on the House of Representatives." He became the first speaker to be sanctioned in this fashion by the House.

Shelving Simpson-Bowles

Christie had some advice for President Barack Obama: embrace the Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction plan in Tuesday’s State of the Union address.

Christie charged Obama ordered the plan, a bipartisan deficit reduction proposal that grew out of a commission co-chaired by former Republican Sen. Alan Simpson of Wyoming and former Democratic White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles, then ignored it.

"He could finally embrace Simpson-Bowles. He asked for it. He put it on a shelf for purely political reasons. He showed political cowardice by doing it and an absolute fear of confronting the big issues in our country," Christie said.

In September, Christie earned a Mostly False for saying Obama failed "to stand up for the bipartisan debt solutions of the Simpson-Bowles Commission."

We found the president didn’t fully embrace the commission’s recommendations immediately upon their release, but has since outlined deficit reduction measures similar to the commission’s proposals.

PolitiFact National ruled a similar statement by Jon Huntsman earlier this month False. Huntsman, the former governor of Utah, said the Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction proposal went from Obama's desk to "the garbage can." PolitiFact also found Obama didn't embrace the entire document, but some of its ideas emerged in the president's budget proposals released more than a month later.

Deficits, taxes and budgets

"Meet the Press" host David Gregory challenged Christie on his plan to reduce income tax rates by 10 percent across the board: if New Jersey was broke when it came to the project to build  a new Hudson River tunnel, how can the state afford a tax cut now, he asked.

"Well, because first of all the tunnel project was going to cost us an additional $8 billion, so we still don't have that money to do it. It was a bad plan," Christie said.

"But the reason we need to cut taxes is, think about what I inherited, David. I came in, we had $13 billion in deficits, we had had 115 tax and fee increases in the eight years before I became governor, we were ranked 50th in tax climate in the country and the worst business environment in America," Christie said. "In two years, we balanced those budgets and brought ourselves to balance without any tax increases through very difficult, aggressive cuts. And now what I'm saying is it's time for the people to get some of their money back. Done responsibly, 10 percent cut, phased in over three years. So you can do it responsibly and not bust the budget."

PolitiFact New Jersey addressed three of those claims in previous fact checks.

In October, we found that Christie is technically right that he balanced two budgets with $13 billion in deficits. However, that figure includes a projected structural deficit, a measurement the governor has since dismissed as "the old way of budgeting."

We put a claim from Republican state Sen. Tom Kean Jr. on tax hikes to the Truth-O-Meter in October and confirmed 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.

And the governor did balance two budgets, as the state constitution requires. But in a July ruling we found that three tax credit programs were reduced in fiscal 2011, and several experts said at least one of those reductions could represent a tax hike.

Hear anything that needs checking?
   
If you hear a statement that you think is worth putting to the Truth-O-Meter, email PolitiFact New Jersey at politifactnj@starledger.com.

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