TRENTON - Gov. Christie delivered a familiar message at a town-hall meeting in Hammonton on Tuesday when he told an admiring crowd, "We're cutting spending again this year by 2.6 percent in the budget I proposed."
That same day, an analyst with the nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services offered lawmakers in Trenton a very different view of the $29.4 billion state spending plan that Christie introduced last month.
"There's an increase in state spending," David Rosen, the legislative budget and finance officer for OLS, told the Assembly Budget Committee.
The Republican governor has been touting his latest spending reduction on national television and at his popular town halls. But the administration would have raised state spending 3.8 percent - or $1.1 billion - for fiscal 2012 had it not relied on budget maneuvers to increase the current fiscal year's spending and decrease next year's total:
Christie included $876 million in nonrecurring federal stimulus money in calculating the 2011 state budget total, though state budgets typically did not include federal funding before the stimulus package was awarded in 2009.
He proposed making a $506 million pension contribution required for the 2012 budget in 2011 instead, on the condition that legislators vote for his plans to change employee pension benefits. Shifting the pension burden to 2011 then reduced the next year's budget by $506 million.
What's so hysterical about this is that Christie continues to blame the state's woes on Jon Corzine doing EXACTLY what he's doing right now. Like using the federal stimulus money to balance the budget:Without those moves, state spending would have increased from $28.8 billion to $29.9 billion, which is still lower than spending under Christie's predecessor, Democrat Jon S. Corzine.
Christie was asked if he agreed and thought the stimulus helped New Jersey.
"It certainly helped states like New Jersey and others to not have to confront the difficult choices that we now confront, but it really just put it off," Christie said. "What it did, at least from a personal perspective, was to push off the problems from the Corzine administration to the Christie administration."
He said Corzine was able to use $1 billion in stimulus funding for school aid last year "and that billion dollars isn't coming back," which adds to the shortfall Christie faces as he crafts a 2011 budget.So it's wrong to use the stimulus money to increase sate aid and reduce property taxes, but it's OK to keep the aid and use it to balance the budget while screwing the towns? Nice try.
And he was plenty critical of Corzine's pension deferrals as a candidate.
Gov.-elect Christopher J. Christie said today he opposes the proposed pension deferral that is being backed by a member of his transition team."I disagree with it," Christie said at a news conference in which he announced his nominee for attorney general.
The pension deferral, proposed by Hudson County Democrat Sen. Sandra Cunningham, would let towns skip half of their pension payments this year. It would save money in the short-term, easing pressure on property taxes and service cuts, but would add to long-term costs and further weaken the state's already shaky pension funds.
If there is one thing we know about Chris Christie, it's that he is shameless. He couldn't care less if he is branded a hypocrite, so his flip-flops are especially spectacular.Gov. Corzine allowed a similar deferral in the previous budget, but Christie criticized the move during the recent governor's race. Cunningham is now a member of Christie's transition team, but the incoming governor said that doesn't mean he supports this idea.