Chris Christie trots out PolitiFact-tested claims in think tank appearance

Gov. Chris Christie discussed his accomplishments today at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.
Gov. Chris Christie discussed his accomplishments today at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.

Fresh off a string of national media appearances last week, Gov. Chris Christie kicked off today with a speech at the Brookings Institution, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank.

During the roughly hour-long event, the Republican governor touted his achievements over the last two and a half years, criticized Democrats for delaying a tax cut -- and revisited a few claims previously tested on the Truth-O-Meter.

Here’s an overview of some statements that have been made by either Christie or his supporters:

‘Tax and fee increases’

Near the start of his Brookings speech, Christie reminded his audience of the climate he inherited upon taking office in January 2010.

"But we inherited a huge problem. What caused that huge problem in my view?" Christie said. "A hundred and fifteen tax and fee increases in the eight years before I became governor. A hundred and fifteen tax and fee increases at the state level in the eight years before I became governor. That’s a tax and fee increase every 25 days for eight years."

PolitiFact New Jersey looked into that figure for an October 2011 fact-check of a statement from state Sen. Tom Kean Jr., a Republican. In a news release, Kean said Democrats raised "taxes over 115 times, making New Jersey increasingly unaffordable and chasing jobs to neighboring states."

We verified that under Democratic control of the state Legislature and governor’s office, approval was granted for nearly 115 increases in taxes and fees or other tax policy changes. Those tax hikes included increases in sales and income tax rates.

But Kean was wrong to attribute the loss of jobs in New Jersey solely to those tax changes. He received a Half True.

‘Best job growth year’

Christie later turned to how the "New Jersey approach" is yielding positive results, such as the private-sector job growth during his tenure.

"Our best job growth year last year since 2000 -- 2000," Christie said before taking a long pause. "We had a decade of joblessness in New Jersey. 2000 to 2009, we had zero net job growth in the private sector in New Jersey. 2011 was our best year of job growth since the year 2000, and 2012 is now outpacing 2011 already."

We’ve fact-checked each of those claims before.

In a June 2011 news release, state Sen. Steve Oroho, a Republican, said that as a result of Democratic tax hikes, the past 10 years marked "the first time in recorded history where the state had less private sector jobs at the end of the decade than we had at the beginning."

We found that Oroho’s statistic was on target. According to non-seasonally adjusted federal labor statistics, New Jersey lost 152,700 private-sector jobs between December 1999 and December 2009.

That net figure represents the first private-sector job loss in a decade since payroll employment statistics were first collected.

Oroho’s statement, however, centered on Democratic tax hikes and ignored other factors behind the job loss. He received a Mostly False.

In January, we fact-checked a claim related to Christie's statement about "our best job growth year last year since 2000."

That claim came from the Committee for Our Children’s Future, a nonprofit group that supports the governor. In an ad posted on YouTube, the group said Christie and bipartisan reformers were responsible for "the most job growth in 11 years."

That claim is accurate in terms of private-sector jobs, but for total jobs -- including public-sector employment -- New Jersey in 2011 had the highest total employment growth since 2004. That claim received a Half True.

‘Second-most expensive Medicaid program’

Following Christie’s speech, the governor sat down for a question-and-answer session. The discussion turned to the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the national health care reform, including the expansion of Medicaid.

"A place like New Jersey, we have the second-most expensive Medicaid program in the country behind New York, and so our question is gonna be how much more do we really need to expand our program, because we have some of the most generous benefits already," Christie said.

PolitiFact New Jersey fact-checked a similar claim by Christie a year ago, when he said in an interview: "We have the second-richest Medicaid program in America. Only the State of New York spends more money on Medicaid than the State of New Jersey."

At the time, three separate analyses covering three fiscal years showed New Jersey ranking ninth each time in overall state spending on Medicaid.

The governor received a False.

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