If New Jersey is going to see any fiscal progress, the state has to reduce spending, according to Gov. Chris Christie.
And those steps have already yielded significant results, he claimed recently.
"We’re spending less money today, in upcoming fiscal year 2014 than the Corzine-Buono budget spent in fiscal year 2008," Christie said during his monthly "Ask the Governor" program that aired April 22 on NJ101.5 FM.
Christie’s claim is a variation on one he made in January, also during that month’s "Ask the Governor" program, when he tied the 2008 budget to Democratic predecessor Jon Corzine. Now he’s also tying it to state Sen. Barbara Buono (D-Middlesex), who is challenging Christie in November’s gubernatorial election.
As we determined in a February fact-check, state spending is down since 2008, but Christie ignores that spending has still increased with each new state budget since he took office on Jan. 19, 2010.
Let’s review the numbers.
It’s worth noting that Christie first made the comparison of his administration spending less than Corzine’s between the fiscal 2008 and 2013 budgets, so we’ll look at those two years first. The spending difference was $1.5 billion.
For fiscal year 2008, spending was $33.6 billion, according to Treasury department reports.
Christie’s budget for fiscal year 2013 contained $32.1 billion in spending.
So Christie is correct that spending on his watch is below what Corzine spent, but the governor’s spending isn’t so innocent, either.
Christie’s first budget for fiscal year 2011 was $28.4 billion. For fiscal year 2012, the governor approved a $29.6 billion budget.
Christie’s fiscal year 2013 budget was $32.1 billion and his proposed fiscal year 2014 budget is $32.9 billion. So, Christie’s budgets are lower than Corzine’s, but they’re still growing every year. We should note that the fiscal year 2014 blueprint is still subject to hearings and possible cuts. Christie has until July 1 to sign it.
In PolitiFact New Jersey’s February fact-check, Treasury Department spokesman Bill Quinn said the increased spending since fiscal year 2011 was due in part to Christie’s policies boosting the state’s economy, leading to higher tax revenues. At that time Quinn noted that two of the major areas of higher spending had been in education and pension contributions.
There’s also another reason why Christie’s budgets have spent less than the ones crafted on Corzine’s watch: Corzine used more money for property tax relief than Christie. Also, Christie imposed a 2-percent cap on spending that didn’t exist when Corzine ran the state.
Additionally, although Christie ties Buono in to the fiscal year 2008 budget, she did not chair the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee in 2007, the year that Corzine’s spending plan was created. Buono chaired that panel in 2008 and 2009, when the fiscal years 2009 and 2010 budgets were created.
Said David Turner, a Buono for Governor spokesman, in an e-mail: "The Governor would rather rewrite history than own up to cutting property tax relief, slashing education aid and reducing the Earned Income Tax Credit."
In responding to a caller during New Jersey 101.5’s "Ask the Governor" program last month, Christie claimed, "We’re spending less money today, in upcoming fiscal year 2014 than the Corzine-Buono budget spent in fiscal year 2008."
Christie is correct that the proposed fiscal year 2014 budget of $32.9 billion is less than the level of state spending under Corzine in fiscal year 2008, at $33.6 billion. But Christie’s claim leaves out some details.
First, state spending has increased every year that Christie has been governor. Second, he ties the higher-spending budgets in part to Buono, but she did not chair the Senate budget panel that crafted the fiscal year 2008 budget.
Overall, Christie’s statement is accurate but needs clarification or additional information. That makes it Mostly True.
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