Thursday, September 10, 2009

Fact Checking Corzine's Latest Commercial

Here's New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine's latest commercial, in which he touts job creation and his economic development plan:

Let's address the four major claims provided in the commercial in turn:

1) Cut spending $4 billion. He claims the current budget is $4 billion less than last year's budget, but that doesn't take into account the $2 billion in federal stimulus money to balance the budget. Without the federal aid and curtailing pension payment obligations, the state would have run a deficit. Moreover, the state budget is billions more than when Corzine first took office and the state unemployment rate has steadily crept upwards all the while. In fact, the Governor's numbers never added up.

2) Claims that new jobs were created. Based on the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, it appears that Corzine doesn't do basic math. The unemployment rate has risen from 7.3% in January 2009 to an estimated 9.3% in July (a preliminary figure). It's quite likely to be much higher than that. If the jobs are being created, they're not replacing the thousands of jobs lost over the same time.

3) Property tax relief. Corzine came into office claiming that property tax relief would be on the way. He proposed and got a sales tax increase to pay for property tax relief. His current budget slashed last year's property tax relief payments for most New Jerseyeans - particularly those making over $75,000, which isn't that much over the median income in New Jersey, meaning that most taxpayers took a big hit compared to a year before.

The reason for that? Government spending didn't slacken even as sales tax revenues from the sales tax hike didn't bring in the same revenue. The budget was thrown out of whack, and the only way to bring them into balance was to cut the program. Curbs on municipal tax hikes hasn't worked out either, given that most municipalities that seek increases above 4% annually can get waivers - there's no teeth to the cap. Moreover, Corzine told municipalities to skimp on pension obligations to avoid tax hikes, following in the state's example, which is one of the worst situations in the entire country. That's the height of irresponsibility.

Instead of pandering to taxpayers with a bait and switch on tax money, the property tax relief program and the associated sales tax hike should both have been scrapped.

4) Corzine's attack on Christie for not accepting federal stimulus funds. Corzine does this in a brutally dishonest fashion. He notes that Chris Christie would have rejected the $2 billion stimulus package, meaning there would be higher property taxes. Of course, Corzine ignores the fact that the state's budget was balanced only by including the $2 billion and shifting money into next year, but then plays down that fact when you ask where the money is in counting what the actual state budget size is (to boost the claim that he cut the size of the state budget).

Corzine continued to use one-shot budget items to balance the budget, even though he's technically prohibited from doing so. He had to raise $1 billion in taxes and fees to bring the budget into balance, and yet he's claiming he provided property tax relief? He was simply shifting around taxes and fees, increasing everything in the process. Soaking the rich isn't going to help either.

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