If you believe what you see on television, Gov. Chris Christie is a ray of sunshine in a dark and dreary world.
A television ad broadcast in recent weeks by a group of Christie supporters paints that image of the governor, while touting his achievements of cutting spending and increasing education funding.
From a group called the Committee for Our Children’s Future, the ad begins with a hazy image of the Capitol building in Washington, D.C. as the narrator intones: "Runaway spending, record debt, gridlock government. Washington is backwards."
Then suddenly, the video turns to an image of a sunrise with the narrator telling us who’s responsible: "But Chris Christie, with bipartisan support, is taking New Jersey (in) another direction."
The ad goes on to claim Christie "cut spending (by) $1 billion" and provided "$850 million in new education funding."
PolitiFact New Jersey found that the group’s numbers are technically correct, but the picture is less sunny when you examine the education funding changes over the course of Christie’s tenure.
Let’s start with that $1 billion in spending cuts.
The $1 billion in spending cuts mentioned in the ad refers to the line-item vetoes made by Christie in response to a $30.6 billion budget approved in June by the Democratic-controlled Legislature.
With his line-item vetoes, Christie reduced the fiscal year 2012 budget to nearly $29.7 billion. So the group is right that he cut spending by about $1 billion from what the Legislature had approved.
Despite that decrease, the fiscal year 2012 budget is still larger than the fiscal year 2011 budget that Christie signed in June 2010. The fiscal year 2012 budget is about $1.3 billion greater than the fiscal year 2011 budget approved last year.
David Rosen, the budget and finance officer for the state’s nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services, said that $1.3 billion -- most of which represents a pension payment and increased school aid -- was made possible by higher-than-anticipated revenue growth in fiscal year 2011 and projected revenue growth for fiscal year 2012.
Now, let’s turn to the "$850 million in new education funding" mentioned in the ad.
In a previous ruling, we noted how the fiscal year 2012 budget increases education funding by about $863 million over the prior fiscal year. That figure supports the group’s claim, but there’s two problems with that argument.
First, about half of that increased aid -- more than $446 million -- was required as part of a court order to go to the so-called Abbott districts. So Christie didn’t have a choice about that money.
Secondly, the fiscal year 2011 budget cut education aid by about $829 million. That means the new budget only represents a net increase of about $30 million.
In a Sept. 8 interview on an online radio show hosted by the New Jersey School Boards Association, Christie backs up that analysis:
"Yes, in my first year, we had to cut $820 million in funding from the public schools because we were in an enormous fiscal crisis. But the next year, this budget that I just signed...and advocated for, put an additional $850 million into the budget for public schools. So it paid back the entire cut from the year before of $820 million and added an additional $30 million on top of that."
Brian Jones, a spokesman for Committee for Our Children’s Future, defended both statements in an email.
"Christie did wind up cutting $1 billion in spending, as you note below, so I don’t see how the statement can be seen as being false," Jones said. "Again, Christie did wind up increasing education funding by $850 million this year. It’s a true statement."
A television ad from a pro-Christie group claims the governor "cut spending (by) $1 billion" and provided "$850 million in new education funding."
Those numbers are accurate, but when it comes to the education funding, Committee for Our Children’s Future must think New Jerseyans only have short-term memory. Given the cuts made last year, education funding has gone up by a total of about $30 million since Christie’s first budget in office.
We rate the statement Half True.
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