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Warned about Shortfalls, Christie Blames Feds for New Jersey Budget Deficit

May 1, 2014

Still in the throes of Bridgegate, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has another crisis on his hands. With only two months remaining in the Garden State's current fiscal year, Christie faces a whopping $800 million shortfall. In response, Chris Christie is doing what Chris Christie always does. After being warned by the legislature's nonpartisan budget office about a significant revenue gap, the 2016 White House hopeful is blaming the federal government for his own budget mess in Trenton.

With only 60 days left in the fiscal year in which 83 percent of its spending has already occurred, New Jersey will have to make steep cuts, reductions that may include reducing payments to the pension fund for public workers. But as the Newark Star Ledger reported Tuesday, Governor Christie is insisting it's all Barack Obama's fault:

"What we're being told initially is that this is the effect of the change in the law at the end of 2012 by the Obama administration and the Congress to increase tax rates on upper-level individuals," Christie said.

That, of course, is complete nonsense. While some wealthier taxpayers shifted income into 2013 to avoid paying higher taxes (especially for capital gains), there is no evidence that this is having any impact on the coffers on any of the 50 states. But what clearly had an impact on New Jersey's budget were Christie's wildly optimistic revenue forecasts. As the Star Ledger described his election-year budget in 2012:

A Star-Ledger review of the budgets of all 50 states shows that when Christie projected earlier this year that New Jersey's revenue would swell by 7.4 percent over the next fiscal year, his forecast was the highest jump of any of the 50 states -- and more than double the national average of 2.8 percent.
The newspaper's review shows the governor was far more optimistic than his counterparts in New York, Pennsylvania and Delaware, which have lower unemployment rates than New Jersey but are forecasting revenue growth under 4.7 percent for next year. When $530.8 million from tax cuts are factored in, Christie is actually expecting a more robust 9.2 percent increase in revenue.

Worse still, Christie was warned--year after year--by David Rosen of the nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services that revenue would fall short of the levels needed to meet New Jersey's requirement of a balanced budget. As Vox reported, Christie greeted those dire predictions by blasting Rosen and calling for the firing of the 30-year budget veteran who had correctly forecast Christie's 2012 and 2013 red ink:

So it was very inconvenient when David Rosen said Christie's projections would come up $145 million short this year, and $392 million short the following year. Christie criticized Rosen immediately, calling his office partisan and saying "they shouldn't be given any credibility." He added, "They're background noise to the New Jersey comeback."
Weeks later, Christie went further, going after Rosen personally in what the Star-Ledger called "a fiery 20-minute tirade." He called Rosen, widely respected among legislators of both parties for years, a "Dr. Kevorkian of the numbers" and asked, "Why would anybody with a functioning brain believe this guy? ... How often do you have to be wrong to finally be dismissed?" Christie went on: "It should be humiliating to him. Nobody in this state believes David Rosen, anymore, nobody. And nobody should. He's so wrong, for so long, that his credibility is now gone."

Of course, it is Chris Christie's credibility which is now non-existent. If you believe his finger-pointing that Uncle Sam is to blame for his own mismanagement, Christie has a bridge to sell you.


About

Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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