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Happy New Year! PolitiFact New Jersey looks back on 2012 fact-checks, and ahead to the politics of 2013

By Bill Wichert
Published on Tuesday, January 1st, 2013 at 7:00 a.m.

With votes hanging in the balance, New Jersey politicians hurled accusations at one another, offered different takes on the state’s economic climate, and sometimes found themselves on the opposite side of truthfulness.

That sums up many of the issues covered by PolitiFact New Jersey in 2012, but it could just as easily be a sign of the politics to come in 2013.

Because as Gov. Chris Christie prepares to defend his title against New Jersey Democrats and the Garden State continues the recovery process following Hurricane Sandy, the Truth-O-Meter is just getting warmed up.

As New Jerseyans ring in the New Year, we decided to look back at some of our major fact-checks from 2012, from analyzing campaign-related claims in House and Senate races to the ongoing debates over tax cuts and job growth.

Elections

As our PolitiFact colleagues tracked the presidential contest between President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, PolitiFact New Jersey tested the accuracy of claims made in races for House seats and a U.S. Senate seat.

During the primary season, the most high-profile contest was the Democratic primary battle between Reps. Steve Rothman and Bill Pascrell. The two longtime congressmen were competing to represent the 9th Congressional District in northern New Jersey.

Among our fact-checks related to that primary race was Pascrell’s Half True claim that Rothman voted against funding for Obama’s auto bailout and that he would have let automakers go bankrupt.

Rothman received a Pants on Fire for a campaign ad suggesting Pascrell admitted to supporting "more tax cuts for the rich."

As far as candidates from opposing parties, PolitiFact New Jersey dug into the statements made during the U.S. Senate race between Democratic incumbent Robert Menendez and his Republican challenger, state Sen. Joe Kyrillos (R-Monmouth).

Those statements included a False claim from Menendez, who said Kyrillos "voted to raid the state's pension funds by $2.8 billion." Kyrillos, who also earned a Pants on Fire during the campaign, received a False for claiming he voted against raising the minimum wage in the 1980s.

PolitiFact New Jersey also fact-checked claims in the races between Rep. Jon Runyan, a Republican, and Democrat Shelley Adler, as well as the contest between Republican Congressman Leonard Lance and his Democratic challenger, Upendra Chivukula.

Tax Cuts

Much of the political debate in New Jersey last year was defined by Christie’s proposal to cut state income taxes.

The Republican governor in January proposed an across-the-board cut of 10 percent in income tax rates, but Democrats denounced the idea.

In one fact-check, Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald (D-Camden) received a True for claiming that under Christie’s plan, "middle-class families don't save enough for a week's worth of groceries, while millionaires save enough to go on an exotic vacation."

Democrats in the state Legislature later offered their own tax cut proposals, in which New Jersey residents would receive an income tax credit based on their property tax bills. Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) received a Half True for saying "my plan is a property tax cut."

Given those Democratic proposals, Christie landed at Pants on Fire when he claimed Democratic legislators this year "don't want to cut your taxes under any circumstances."

The governor ultimately backed a plan based on the Senate Democrats’ proposal, but Democratic Sen. Barbara Buono (D-Middlesex) still claimed Christie was demanding "an immediate tax cut that would disproportionately benefit the wealthiest." That Buono statement received a False.

New Jersey officials have yet to make a final decision on a tax cut.

Job Growth

One of the biggest political footballs in 2012 continued to be employment statistics. Christie and other Republicans frequently pointed to the state’s job growth as proof of the "Jersey Comeback," as he called it, while Democrats cast a more dismal picture.

Christie received a True in July when he said, in part, that New Jersey "created as many jobs in the first six months of this year as we did in all of 2011." But the governor landed at False when he claimed the state’s job growth in May 2012 represented "25 percent of all the jobs created in the country."

Republican Sen. Jennifer Beck (R-Monmouth) received a False for claiming "New Jersey's citizens are working at the highest rate in three years."

Job-related claims from Democrats also received mixed results on the Truth-O-Meter.

Buono received a Mostly False when she said that in March, New Jersey was "one of only eight states in the nation to lose jobs" and "the state with the highest loss of jobs in the nation."
   
Greenwald recently received a Mostly True for a claim regarding the Leisure and Hospitality industry.

Looking ahead

The New Year will surely bring a whole new batch of items to test against the Truth-O-Meter, but at least two subjects likely will remain at the top of the heap: the governor’s race and the ongoing recovery effort in areas damaged by Hurricane Sandy.

Christie has announced his plans to seek re-election, and -- with Newark Mayor Cory Booker opting against his own run -- Buono is the only Democrat to enter the race so far.

PolitiFact New Jersey gave Buono a Half True for a statement made in her gubernatorial announcement ad on YouTube, when she claimed to have "the experience as Senate Budget Chair of cutting $4.5 billion in spending -- to close the deficit while protecting education and health care."

We’ve also tested a few Sandy-related claims as well. For example, conservative activist Steve Lonegan received a Mostly False for claiming a federal aid request "amounted to nearly $4,200 for every man, woman and child in the state."

To comment on this story, go to NJ.com.

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