New Jersey stood at a cliff two years ago. Our obituary was being written, and the state we’d grown up in was slipping away.
But then Gov. Chris Christie rescued us.
At least that's the version of events that plays out in a video the governor's office released today, about five hours before his annual State of the State address.
The video includes a clip from Christie’s Dec. 20 appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, when the governor listed some of his accomplishments.
"I have a Legislature that's overwhelmingly Democratic. Yet, we've accomplished balancing two budgets without raising taxes. We've now created 60,000 new private sector jobs. We've made government smaller. We've made it smarter. We've made it less expensive for people."
With a backdrop of sunshine breaking through the white clouds, three phrases in red and blue font and all capital letters flash on the screen: "Balanced budgets. Created 60,000 jobs. Made government smaller."
It’s a claim Christie touts as a fiscal accomplishment: his administration balanced "two budgets without raising taxes."
Christie is correct that he balanced two budgets, but the state constitution forbids governors from running budget deficits. Following that requirement, Christie signed two balanced budgets for fiscal years 2011 and 2012.
So, that part of Christie’s statement is true.
But the governor’s assertion that he didn’t raise taxes is not as clear. We found in a previous PolitiFact New Jersey ruling that although the rates for the state’s three major taxes -- gross income, sales and corporation business -- have not increased during Christie’s tenure, some experts view cuts in state tax credit programs as tax hikes.
The state reduced funding for the State Earned Income Tax Credit and programs for property tax relief in fiscal 2011.
One expert, Josh Barro, a fellow at the right-leaning Manhattan Institute, told PolitiFact New Jersey in July that a reduction in the earned income tax credit was not a tax hike, because it’s a welfare payment through the tax code. But reducing the property tax credits could be considered tax increases, since they’re meant to offset property tax burdens, he said.
In that ruling, the governor’s claim earned a Half True from the Truth-O-Meter.
‘Created 60,000 Jobs’
One of the governor’s frequent talking points is that his administration is responsible for private-sector job growth in New Jersey. PolitiFact New Jersey has checked two previous claims with Christie pointing to jobs gained under his watch.
First, let’s address the 60,000 private-sector jobs cited in the video.
Based on the latest seasonally adjusted data from the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development, the video isn’t far off. As of November 2011, there were 3,258,100 private-sector jobs in the Garden State.
When compared with January 2010, when Christie was sworn into office, there’s been a gain of 54,700 private-sector jobs. Compared with February 2010 -- Christie’s first full month in office -- there’s been a gain of 62,100 private-sector jobs.
But as economic experts have told us for previous rulings, the governor can’t take credit for all of that job growth. Just as we couldn't fully blame Christie for private-sector job losses, we can't fully credit him for private-sector job gains.
Each time Christie made a similar claim about private-sector job growth, those statements have landed at Half True on the Truth-O-Meter.
‘Made Government Smaller’
Just as there’s been private-sector job gains, there’s been losses within New Jersey’s public sector.
Christie’s claim on Morning Joe that "we’ve made government smaller" followed him saying that there are fewer state workers now than when former Gov. Christine Todd Whitman left office in 2001. We previously found that Christie’s numbers are solid, earning him a True ruling.
Compared with January 2001, when Whitman resigned, there are 600 fewer state government employees, marking a minimal decrease of 0.4 percent.
Since Christie’s first full month in office, the number of state workers has dropped by 13,100 to 137,800 employees as of November.
So, Christie has "made government smaller" by reducing the number of state workers.
About five hours before he was set to deliver the State of the State address, Christie released a Hollywood-esque trailer touting his accomplishments.
As words flash across the screen, Christie is heard listing some of those achievements as "balancing two budgets without raising taxes. We’ve now created 60,000 new private-sector jobs. We’ve made government smaller."
We’ve heard all this before from the governor and, once again, his statement needs some serious clarification.
Christie has balanced two budgets, but he is required to do so under the state constitution. It’s true that the rates for the state’s three major taxes have not changed under Christie, but the governor has cut funding for some tax credits.
The jobs-related claims in the video are on target. The number of state workers has declined during Christie’s tenure, and number of private-sector jobs has grown by about 60,000. But the governor is giving himself too much credit for that job growth.
Overall, the three claims don’t give a completely accurate picture of Christie’s New Jersey. We rate the statement Half True.
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