Truth-O-Meter rules on weekend claims by Democratic congressman, GOP governor

Gov. Chris Christie delivers a speech at the Brookings Institution on July 9. Go to 02:47 to hear his comments about the state budget.

Weekend claims on taxes and the state budget didn’t do too well in the accuracy department, the Truth-O-Meter found.

In case you missed it, the Truth-O-Meter handed down rulings of False on Sunday and Monday to U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell  and Chris Christie respectively for claims about whether President Barack Obama has raised taxes and just how much the governor cut from the state budget using line-item vetoes.

Pascrell claim

Pascrell (D-8th Dist.) said in a July 18 interview on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal that Obama has not raised taxes during his presidency, but PolitiFact New Jersey found several instances in which the president did. Among the examples cited in our fact-check Sunday:

-- Obama signed a bill that increased the federal excise tax on tobacco products. The tax hike went into effect in 2009.

-- Obama signed the health care law, formally known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act but often called ObamaCare, which includes several tax increases (some have not yet gone into effect, some have).

-- The individual mandate, a linchpin of the health care law that will require people who skip health insurance coverage to pay a fine, can be considered a tax, the U.S. Supreme Court said in its recent decision upholding most of the law.

A Pascrell spokesman said the congressman was "referring to the overall effective tax rate for American families," but Pascrell never made that distinction during his interview.

Christie claim

During a July 9 appearance at the Brookings Institution, a Washington, DC-based think tank, Christie claimed that he used his line-item veto authority to cut $360 million in "special interest spending" from the fiscal year 2013 state budget. He also noted that the effect of those cuts resulted in a smaller budget than the fiscal year plans for 2008 and 2009 approved by his predecessor, Jon Corzine.

Nice try, governor, but not true.

The Truth-O-Meter  found that Christie really cut $86 million from the budget, not $360 million. Additionally, the fiscal year 2013 tentative budget sent to the governor by the Legislature was already smaller than the two Corzine budget bills he referenced.

Three strikes?

While we’re at it, let’s point out that the line-item veto claim from Christie is the third item fact-checked from his Brookings speech that was found to be False. A recap of the others:

Christie’s Brookings speech repeated a previous claim about how there are fewer "state government" employees now than when former Gov. Christine Todd Whitman resigned in January 2001 – and the reductions were achieved by attrition, not layoffs.

The Truth-O-Meter in December gave Christie a True for a claim about the number of state employees on the payroll compared with when Whitman was in office. But revised numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, combined with the attrition claim, make the governor’s recent statement wrong.

When Christie made his claim at Brookings, the latest BLS figures were preliminary estimates for May 2012, when there were 146,100 state government employees. That represents a 7,700 increase, or nearly 5.6 percent, over Whitman’s last month as governor. Additionally, Christie’s spokesmen told us in a December e-mail that from the start of the governor’s tenure to November 2011, "743 out of 4,738 full-time positions eliminated were through layoffs."

The other False was given to Christie’s claim that New Jersey teachers would lose tenure after receiving two negative evaluations. The Truth-O-Meter found that teachers who receive negative evaluations may be fired but under new tenure reform legislation -- passed by both houses of the Legislature on June 25 but not yet signed by the governor -- teachers still can appeal charges to a third party. Bottom line: the new legislation may make it easier to fire a teacher, but not outright, as Christie’s claim suggested.

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