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Gov. Chris Christie sliced spending from the state budget, but the cuts are not as deep as he claimed recently.
In a speech at the Brookings Institution, a policy think tank in Washington, D.C., Christie said he recently signed his third budget, which he said increased spending on education, while bolstering support for the state’s most vulnerable citizens and making a "significant down payment on our pension obligation."
"At the same time, I used my line-item veto authority to veto $360 million dollars in special interest spending, so that our budget this year, in fiscal year 2013, which has just begun, is still smaller than the fiscal year 2008 and 2009 budgets signed by my predecessor, Governor Corzine," Christie said during the July 9 address.
In fact, Christie sliced about $86 million -- not $360 million -- from the state budget using line-item vetoes, a process that allows the governor to eliminate or reduce particular appropriations in the budget.
Reductions in funds for pension contributions made up a large portion of the cuts. Christie also reduced funding for transitional aid to towns, nursing homes and medical day care services, among other areas.
So Christie is wrong on the size of the cuts.
He’s also wrong to claim those cuts had an impact on trimming the spending plan to below the size of the 2008 and 2009 budgets. The Legislature had passed and delivered a budget to Christie that was already smaller than those two budget bills.
The governor’s office did not respond to requests for clarification on how Christie reached his total of $360 million in cuts, but his office has cited the figure before.
A news release from June 29 -- the day Christie signed the budget -- said that the governor "put Corzine Democrats on their heels by vetoing $361 million in unnecessary or unsupported spending."
Attached to that release were several vetoes of other bills the Legislature sent to the governor’s desk. Christie claims in his veto messages that seven of those bills would have increased government spending by more than $275 million. Adding that amount to the line-item vetoes pushes Christie’s total cuts to more than $361 million.
Christie says in the veto documents that separating the bills from the budget is "little more than a thinly veiled attempt to circumvent the tough choices required to meet the constitutional obligation of passing a balanced budget."
"Taken together," Christie claims the bills "would add more than $275 million of government spending for the coming fiscal year."
Several of the bills clearly authorize additional appropriations, such as a bill that increased the amount of aid municipalities receive from the Energy Tax Receipts Property Tax Relief Fund, starting with a $66 million bump in fiscal year 2013.
But others don’t.
One bill Christie vetoed would have provided towns more time to spend affordable housing funds before turning the money over to the state.
And other bills, like a piece of legislation that would have required municipalities to submit economic growth plans to keep participating in the state’s urban enterprise zone program, lacked a firm estimate of potential fiscal impact.
Still, all of the bills were vetoed outright by the governor and were not part of the state budget he signed.
Christie used his line-item veto authority to cut more than $86 million -- not $360 million -- from the Legislature’s budget.
Christie said he used his "line-item veto authority to veto $360 million dollars in special interest spending, so that our budget this year ... is still smaller than the fiscal year 2008 and 2009 budgets signed by my predecessor."
Only one fourth of that figure -- about $86 million -- represents appropriations in the budget reduced by Christie’s line-item veto.
And Christie’s point that those cuts reduced the size of the budget to below 2008 and 2009 levels is wrong. The budget the Legislature passed was already smaller than those two budgets.
We rate this claim False.
To comment on this ruling, go to NJ.com.
The Brookings Institution, Restoring Fiscal Integrity and Accountability: A Discussion with Governor Chris Christie, July 9, 2012
Gov. Chris Christie, A Third Balanced Budget Without Raising Taxes, June 29, 2012
Gov. Chris Christie, Governor Christie Delivers Third Balanced Budget Without Raising Taxes, Protects Key Priorities for New Jerseyans, June 29, 2012
Office of Gov. Chris Christie, List of Absolute Vetoes, June 29, 2012
Office of Gov. Chris Christie, Senate Bill No. 2013: Line-Item Veto, June 29, 2012
New Jersey Office of Legislative Services, Appropriations Act FY 2013 Summary Totals, accessed July 16, 2012
The Star-Ledger, Gov. Chris Christie signs $31.7B budget with spending cuts, June 29, 2012
The Star-Ledger, Gov. Christie rejects 8 Democrat-backed bills, June 29, 2012
E-mail interview with Derek Roseman, spokesman for the New Jersey Senate Democrats, July 16, 2012
New Jersey Legislature, Bill Search, accessed July 16, 2012
The Brookings Institution, Restoring Fiscal Integrity and Accountability: A Discussion with Governor Chris Christie: Transcript, July 9, 2012
Tax Foundation’s Tax Policy Blog, New Jersey Governor Amends Legislature’s Budget and Pushes for Tax Cuts, July 2, 2012
New Jersey Office of Management and Budget, The State Budget Process, accessed July 17, 2012
PolitiFact New Jersey, Vincent Prieto claims Chris Christie’s proposed budget is largest spending plan in state history, June 25, 2012
PolitiFact New Jersey, Chris Christie cites his accomplishments, criticizes Democrats in new radio ad, July 2, 2012
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