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Nearly 3,000 miles from Trenton, Gov. Chris Christie couldn’t pass up an opportunity to knock his predecessor, Jon Corzine.
The Republican governor appeared Aug. 9 at a campaign event in Bellevue, Wash., for GOP gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna. Christie told the crowd public-sector union workers should pay their fair share toward pension and health benefits, and then criticized Corzine for giving away raises.
"My predecessor's first negotiation with the public-sector unions, he gave away 14 percent raises over 4 years and he stood on the front steps of the Capitol at a public-sector union rally and said, 'I will fight to get you a great contract,’" said Christie, according to a video posted on YouTube.
Corzine, a Democrat, did approve contracts providing 13 percent in raises over a four-year period for state workers. Corzine also spoke at a union rally where he vowed to "fight" for public employees, according to several news reports.
But Christie’s criticism that Corzine "gave away" those raises ignores the fact that the contracts included a number of union concessions.
First, let’s explain the events leading up to that union rally.
For the first budget of his tenure, Corzine in 2006 proposed increasing the sales tax to help cover a budget shortfall. The governor also called for increasing the contribution to the state’s pension system.
But instead of the tax hike, some Democratic legislators called for state worker unions to accept salary or fringe benefit givebacks. Another proposal was scaling back the proposed pension payment.
On June 19, 2006, thousands of public employees rallied outside the Statehouse to show support for Corzine’s plan. According to several news reports, the governor made comments at the union rally similar to those cited by Christie.
Star-Ledger columnist Paul Mulshine and Gannett New Jersey columnist Bob Ingle both quoted Corzine as saying, "We're gonna fight for a fair contract." The New York Times quoted the governor as saying, "I will fight for you."
The final budget included the sales tax increase and a smaller pension contribution.
Now, we’ll address the raises mentioned by Christie.
Eight months after that union rally, the Corzine administration reached a deal with the largest state workers union for a new four-year agreement. Two other unions later agreed to similar deals. Those contracts, which went into effect in July 2007, provided a total of 13 percent in raises for each union.
However, by claiming Corzine "gave away" those raises, Christie failed to mention a number of union concessions built into the contracts.
For example, union workers agreed for the first time to contribute 1.5 percent of their salaries each year toward the cost of health benefits. The contracts also increased employees’ annual pension contributions by 0.5 percent.
In response to our findings, Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak said in part:
"For goodness sake, the fix was in for that fight, and Jon Corzine was taking a ‘fall’ in the first round. Who was representing the taxpayers? Where was the adversarial collective bargaining relationship? And, finally, how many people do any of us know got those kinds of raises in those years? It was a ‘giveaway’ in the fullest sense, and that’s exactly what Governor Christie was saying."
At a campaign event in Bellevue, Wash., Christie said Corzine "gave away 14 percent raises over 4 years and he stood on the front steps of the Capitol at a public-sector union rally and said, 'I will fight to get you a great contract.’"
Corzine did authorize four-year contracts with a total of 13 percent in raises, and vowed to "fight" for public employees at a union rally. But Christie’s criticism ignores how the contracts included certain union concessions.
We rate the statement Mostly True.
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Gov Chris Christie in Bellevue WA, a video posted on YouTube on Aug. 9, 2012
Associated Press, Christie campaign swing gets going with Washington state rally, fundraisers, Aug. 10, 2012
The Seattle Times, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie rallies Washington state Republicans, Aug. 9, 2012
The Star-Ledger, Largest state worker union approves new contract, April 12, 2007
New York Times, State Workers in New Jersey Vote to Ratify New Contract, April 13, 2007
Philadelphia Inquirer, N.J. workers approve pact trading raises for higher benefit payments, April 13, 2007
New York Times, Corzine Gives In on Part of Tax Plan in Trade-Off for His Embattled Budget, June 20, 2006
The Star-Ledger, Corzine gives us the business, June 20, 2006
The Star-Ledger, Budget standoff in Trenton, June 20, 2006
Ocean County Observer, Corzine rallies with unions, wants tax hike, June 20, 2006
New Jersey Governor’s Office, The Facts Behind Governor Chris Christie’s Facts, March 10, 2011
FactCheck.org, Christie Misrepresents State Workers’ Contract, Feb. 28, 2011
The Star-Ledger, Corzine and unions shake hands on contract, Feb. 22, 2007
The Star-Ledger, Gov. Corzine's labor deal will hit future taxpayers despite savings of at least $300M, June 10, 2009
Communication Workers of America Local 1037, New Jersey State Workers, accessed Aug. 13, 2012
Communication Workers of America Local 1037, State contract from July 2007 to June 2011, accessed Aug. 13, 2012
Communication Workers of America Local 1037, Memorandum of Understanding between State and CWA, June 3, 2009
E-mail interview with Michael Drewniak, spokesman for Gov. Chris Christie, Aug. 14-15, 2012
The Star-Ledger, State announces contract deal with AFSCME, April 12, 2007
American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, State contract from July 2007 to June 2011, accessed Aug. 17, 2012
International Federation of Professional & Technical Engineers, State contract from July 2007 to June 2011, accessed Aug. 17, 2012
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