Gov. Chris Christie isn’t quite ready to free the beaches.
As municipalities down the Shore seek financial help in restoring beaches damaged by Hurricane Sandy, two state senators have introduced legislation to prohibit towns that receive federal or state aid from charging beach access fees.
The Republican governor said in a Dec. 19 radio interview that he still had to evaluate that proposal, and questioned how towns would pay for beach maintenance without charging fees. Those beaches are a key part of tourism at the Shore, which provides $38 billion in economic activity to the state, according to Christie.
"I mean, why are we going to rebuild the beach? Because our economy in New Jersey gets $38 billion from the businesses at the Shore," Christie said on New Jersey 101.5’s "Ask the Governor" program. "The Shore ain’t the Shore without the beach."
PolitiFact New Jersey isn’t entering the debate over beach fees, but we did find that Christie is wrong to attribute all of those tourism dollars to Shore businesses. That $38 billion figure applies to New Jersey’s entire tourism industry, and the Shore region is only responsible for about half of that amount.
The estimate comes from a study released by state officials in March in regard to the economic impact of the state’s tourism industry in 2011.
The bulk of the economic activity represents about $37 billion in visitor spending across all of New Jersey’s 21 counties on items such as lodging and transportation, according to the study. An additional roughly $1 billion includes other economic impacts, such as capital investment to build hotels and attractions, the study states.
Of the roughly $37 billion in visitor spending, a total of nearly $19 billion, or slightly more than half, occurred down the Shore in Monmouth, Ocean, Atlantic and Cape May counties, according to the study.
The remaining tourism sales were spread across the rest of the state, including about $2.5 billion in Bergen County and nearly $3 billion in Essex County, the study states.
The governor’s claim in the radio interview was incorrect, but over the last several months, his administration has accurately cited visitor spending during 2011 in the Shore region. In an Aug. 23 news release, for example, the administration noted how tourism in Atlantic, Cape May, Monmouth and Ocean counties "generated approximately $19 billion in visitor revenues."
Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak didn’t question our findings, but argued that the governor has cited that $38 billion figure on other occasions in reference to the entire tourism industry.
"Other times, the Governor and Lt. Governor have cited that same figure and spoken of the central importance of our entire state’s tourism industry to our economy," Drewniak said in an e-mail. "They have also noted that the largest slice of tourism dollars is generated by our Shore economy and 127 miles of beaches.
"If you want to cherry pick this particular utterance, be my guest," he added.
During an interview on New Jersey 101.5’s "Ask the Governor" program, Christie said the beach will be rebuilt because "our economy in New Jersey gets $38 billion from the businesses at the Shore."
But that 2011 figure applies to New Jersey’s entire tourism industry, from the northwestern stretches of Sussex County to the beaches of Wildwood. Of all visitor spending last year, nearly $19 billion, or slightly more than half, took place down the Shore in Monmouth, Ocean, Atlantic and Cape May counties.
We rate the statement False.
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