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Gov. Chris Christie touts himself as a chief executive who tightened Trenton’s purse strings, squeezing out excess spending while paring down state government.
But a Democratic state legislator claims the Republican governor’s proposed budget makes history for two costly reasons.
"This is the biggest spending budget in the history of the state of New Jersey. It is the largest in the nation at this point in time, that just was written by the governors of the nation," Assembly Budget Committee Chairman Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson) said during an interview on My9 News' "New Jersey Now" that aired June 17.
Those are two big claims, both of which are short on facts.
The budget proposal that Christie outlined in February for the upcoming fiscal year called for nearly $32.15 billion in state spending. The Senate and Assembly are scheduled to vote on a Democratic budget proposal on Monday.
Though Christie’s proposal is one of the largest budget plans in New Jersey’s history, former Gov. Jon Corzine proposed more costly budgets.
Corzine’s fiscal 2008 budget proposed $33.3 billion in spending for the year, the most in state history. Final state spending that year ended slightly higher, at $33.61 billion, according to state Treasury Department reports.
Corzine proposed a $32.97 billion spending plan for fiscal 2009, but the state ultimately spent less than that, with the final tab at $30.8 billion, excluding federal stimulus aid.
But comparing apples to apples -- budget proposals to budget proposals -- the governor introduced the third largest spending plan in state history.
Tom Hester Jr., a spokesman for the Assembly Democrats, said Prieto was referring to a larger measurement of spending that includes federal money, as well as spending from funds like the Transportation Trust Fund. By that measure, Christie’s proposal includes more spending than previous budget plans.
The assemblyman’s "point is accurate," said Hester.
But Prieto does not make that distinction during the interview, which focused on whether the state can afford a tax cut considering lower-than-expected state revenues.
Andy Pratt, a spokesman for the state Treasury Department, said Prieto is including expenditures that are listed as off-budget and said the budget has never been referred to in this way. "Only if you are looking for a way to make some kind of political point would you do it another way," he said.
Prieto also said Christie’s proposal is the largest in the nation. That’s not true.
Hester said Prieto meant to refer to the percentage increase in state spending, not the broader measurement of spending, between Christie’s proposed budget and the current budget.
The National Governors Association and the National Association of State Budget Officers released a report in June that tracks spending from states’ general funds only. The report found Christie’s budget proposal for fiscal 2013 increases spending by 7.2 percent over fiscal 2012.
The percentage increase in New Jersey’s spending is larger than any other state, according to data in the report. California is proposing the next largest increase at 7 percent.
So by that measure, Christie is proposing the largest spending increase in the nation, but Prieto is wrong to characterize the governor’s budget as "the largest in the nation."
The budgets for California, New York, Texas and Massachusetts all propose to spend more in the upcoming fiscal year than New Jersey, according to data in the report.
In a discussion about whether New Jersey can afford a tax cut considering lower-than-expected state revenues, Prieto said Christie’s proposed budget is "the biggest spending budget in the history of the state of New Jersey. It is the largest in the nation at this point in time."
The governor’s fiscal 2013 budget calls for $32.15 billion in state spending. That’s the third largest -- not the largest -- budget proposal in state history.
A spokesman for Prieto said the assemblyman was referring to a broader measurement of spending, which includes federal funds. But Prieto did not make that distinction.
Also, New Jersey’s budget is not the largest in the nation.
We rate this claim False.
To comment on this ruling, go to NJ.com.
My9 News, New Jersey Now: Segment 1, June 17, 2012
National Governors Association and National Association of State Budget Officers, The Fiscal Survey of States, Spring 2012, accessed June 18, 2012
E-mail interview with Tom Hester, spokesman for the New Jersey Assembly Democrats, June 19 & 21, 2012
Interview with Andy Pratt, spokesman for the state Treasury Department, June 21, 2012
The Star-Ledger, Proposed N.J. spending hike is tops in nation, June 12, 2012
PolitiFact New Jersey, Chris Christie claims proposed budget is smaller than the level of state spending when he took office, March 8, 2012
New Jersey Treasury Department, The Governor’s FY 2013 Budget Budget Summary, Feb. 21, 2012, accessed June 18, 2012
New Jersey Treasury Department: Office of Management and Budget, Prior Fiscal Year Publication Archives, accessed June 18, 2012
New Jersey Spotlight, By the Numbers: Analyzing New Jersey's Tax and Budget Growth, May 7, 2012
National Association of Budget Officers, 2010 State Expenditure Report: Examining Fiscal 2009-2011 State Spending, accessed June 19, 2012
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