Friday, October 31st, 2014

Christie, Doherty claims take hit in weekend rulings from the Truth-O-Meter

Gov. Chris Christie appears on CNN's "Piers Morgan Tonight."

Cutting the state budget and reining in education costs might be priorities for Gov. Chris Christie and state Sen. Michael Doherty, but their recent claims on those topics were found to be less than accurate, according to the Truth-O-Meter.

In case you missed it, the Truth-O-Meter gave Christie a False on Sunday for claiming he cut $13 billion from the state budget, and a Mostly False to Doherty on Monday for claiming that some towns are fudging their overall property values in order to get more state education aid.

Christie claim

The governor in a Feb. 21 interview on "Piers Morgan Tonight," claimed that after taking office in January 2010, he quickly closed a $2.2 billion gap left by his predecessor, Jon Corzine, a Democrat. He then claims to have cut another $10.7 billion.

The problem with this claim is that Christie mixed an actual figure -- the $2.2 billion --  with a theoretical one, the structural deficit. That’s the amount of money the state would need if current services and revenues remained the same and all statutory spending obligations were fully funded.

As the Truth-O-Meter showed, Christie didn’t spend money that would have been used to fully fund a pension payment, the school aid formula, the property tax rebate program and other measures. And Christie’s spokesman admitted to us that the governor didn’t actually cut $13 billion from the budget.

Doherty claim

The senator, a Warren County Republican, made his claim in response to a report issued by state Comptroller Matthew Boxer about the use of tax abatements in some New Jersey communities.

A tax abatement reduces or eliminates property tax bills for certain landowners who are typically businesses and developers. In the case of long-term abatements, property owners are exempt from paying taxes, but must contribute so-called "payments in lieu of taxes," or PILOTs. None of the PILOT money, however, goes to local school districts, which also lose the property tax revenue.

So, Doherty is correct that some tax abatements may increase the need for state aid, but he’s wrong to characterize the tax abatements as "fraud," and to suggest that the purpose of tax abatements is to generate additional school aid. Tax abatements are not only legal, but Boxer’s report states that tax abatements are meant to "encourage rehabilitation and redevelopment of distressed areas."

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