Chris Christie hasn’t completed his first term as governor yet but under his leadership, the state is in better shape than during previous administrations, he suggested Tuesday.
During his State of the State address, Christie listed a number of accomplishments achieved since taking office in January 2010. Among them: a 2 percent property tax cap, pension and health benefits reforms, balanced budgets (required by state law), no new taxes and job growth.
"A far different picture from the prior eight years, which saw 115 increases in taxes and fees," Christie said during his address in the Assembly chamber at the Statehouse in Trenton.
That’s a lot of increases, but Christie is right. And this isn’t the first time PolitiFact New Jersey has checked this claim.
Let’s revisit our original fact-check on a similar claim made by state Sen. Tom Kean Jr. in an Oct. 7, 2011 news release.
At that time Kean said, "Over the past 10 years, Democrats have been in control of the Legislature and have done a disservice to New Jersey workers and their families by raising taxes over 115 times, making New Jersey increasingly unaffordable and chasing jobs to neighboring states."
Republicans provided us with a list that included tax and fee hikes as well as tax policy changes that occurred between fiscal years 2003 and 2010. It’s worth noting that even though Kean specified increases over a 10-year time frame and Christie specified an eight-year time frame, both were using the same list of tax and fee increases. Kean’s claim was rated Half True.
Now let’s look back at the increases in question.
Democrats held legislative majorities in the eight years before Christie became governor. His predecessors during that time were Jim McGreevey, Richard Codey and Jon Corzine.
Although most of the bills in question during their tenures were sponsored by Democrats, a few had Republican support.
Among the many tax increases were raising the sales tax from 6 percent to 7 percent and applying the tax to things such as tanning and limousine services. Also, the state twice increased the gross income tax on New Jerseyans with six-figure incomes: in 2004 for those with income exceeding $500,000 and again in 2009 for those incomes above $400,000.
Also among the increases were hikes in dozens of fees, such as a new $1.50 fee on the sale of new vehicle tires. So while those types of measures cost some residents more money, they are not tax increases.
Overall, the list provided by Republicans showed that there were dozens of increases in taxes or fees or other tax policy changes that could result in individuals or businesses paying higher taxes.
The key difference between Kean’s claim in 2011 and Christie’s, though, is that Kean specified only tax increases and tied those increases to driving jobs out of state. The governor said taxes and fees were raised 115 times in the eight years before he took office.
"The Governor was correct," spokesman Michael Drewniak said in an e-mail Wednesday.
In sharing some of the state’s achievements during his State of the State address Tuesday, Christie talked about a variety of fiscal goals he has overseen since taking office in 2010: balanced budgets (a state requirement),, tax relief, pension and health reforms, and job growth. "A far different picture from the prior eight years, which saw 115 increases in taxes and fees," he said.
We have checked that claim before, when Kean made a similar statement in a 2011 news release. Back then Kean mentioned only tax increases, but there were quite a few fee increases, too. While higher fees represent more cost for taxpayers, they are not tax hikes. Christie, however, got it right when he said taxes and fees.
We rate the governor’s statement True.
To comment on this story, go to NJ.com.