At a Monday news conference in Bergen County, Gov. Chris Christie criticized Democratic legislators for cutting $35 million from the state budget for Information Technology upgrades, and suggested they restore the funding.
"What would have been helpful is if they wouldn’t have taken the $35 million out of the budget that I submitted to improve our Information Technology and computer systems," Christie said in response to a question about Democrats’ plans to hold hearings on the recent computer problems at motor vehicle offices.
When a reporter told Christie that Democrats have claimed the amount was $5 million or $5.5 million, the governor responded: "No. Thirty-five million that was put in to improve our infrastructure at all levels, not just MVC, but across the state. Which they took out. Now that things are going bad, they’re trying to change the numbers and change the story. The fact is, this is what happens when you rush and do a budget in the last week."
PolitiFact New Jersey found that Christie was wrong about the budget cut -- nearly seven times wrong. Instead of $35 million, the Democratic-controlled Legislature cut $5.5 million for Information Technology upgrades from the budget for fiscal year 2012.
In fact, the governor’s office had listed those $5.5 million in budget reductions in a July 13 press release. That press release was distributed via an email from the governor’s office.
Christie spokesman Kevin Roberts on Tuesday acknowledged the governor’s mistake in an email:
"The Governor was speaking to the total amount appropriated for IT, while Democrats actually zeroed out $5.5 million in spending for IT improvements and modernization," Roberts wrote.
"The point remains the same - the Governor is calling on the Legislature to send him a supplemental to restore the funding they eliminated so that the Administration can make the investments and upgrades needed to keep the state’s computers up to par with the needs of New Jerseyans," Roberts said in the email.
The Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee is scheduled to discuss the recent computer failures at a meeting today in Lodi.
Now, let’s explain those funding cuts.
The state’s nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services last month released a budget analysis showing the differences between Christie’s budget proposal, the budget approved by the Legislature and the final budget signed by Christie after making various line-item vetoes.
According to that analysis, the Legislature cut funding from Christie’s proposal for three IT projects in the Office of Information Technology, which handles IT systems throughout state government. Those cuts remained in the final budget signed by Christie.
Tom Hester Jr., spokesman for the Assembly Democrats, said the Assembly is willing to discuss restoring the IT funding. Derek Roseman, spokesman for the Senate Democrats, said any discussion on such a restoration must be part of broader negotiations to reverse cuts made by the governor.
But Roberts’ statement left us asking more questions.
Roberts said the $35 million was in reference to "the total amount appropriated for IT." But according to the fiscal 2012 budget, the total state appropriation for the Office of Information Technology is about $51.2 million.
Andrew Pratt, a spokesman for the state Department of the Treasury, clarified that the governor was referring to roughly $38 million of that money, which goes toward computer-related services. That funding is not broken up by state agency, Pratt said.
The real issue is the state needs to upgrade its computer systems, Pratt argued.
"We really have to do something here," Pratt said.
In the wake of computer problems at Motor Vehicle Commission offices and other state agencies, Christie claimed the Democrats had cut $35 million for Information Technology improvements. But a Christie spokesman acknowledged the actual cut was $5.5 million.
We rate the statement False.
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