Gov. Christie dismisses nonpartisan group's tax revenue report

Gov. Christie visits an AP government class at Haddonfield Memorial High. He chose the school, he said, because it is one of the highest performing in the state and because it implemented a teacher evaluation pilot program.
Gov. Christie visits an AP government class at Haddonfield Memorial High. He chose the school, he said, because it is one of the highest performing in the state and because it implemented a teacher evaluation pilot program. (DAVID M WARREN / Staff Photographer)
Posted: September 12, 2012

Gov. Christie dismissed new tax revenue numbers on Monday that Democrats say dampen his claim that a "Jersey comeback" is under way.

The nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services sent a memo Monday to legislators about tax revenue for the 2012 fiscal year, which ended in June. It said that revenue collections fell $253.9 million short of the governor's projections, potentially affecting this year's budget and the expected surplus that Christie has set aside for a tax cut.

Christie, who often derides the OLS as "partisan" and a "handmaiden" of the Legislature's Democratic majority, noted that an OLS memo last month had estimated that the administration's revenue projections could be off by as much as $542 million - more than twice as much as the new figure.

"That's why all of this stuff is blatantly political," Christie said Monday at a news conference in the Haddonfield Memorial High School library.

He noted that five sources of revenue for the last fiscal year had yet to be accounted for, and final numbers won't be known until December or January.

The OLS, calling the memo its "final FY2012 OLS revenue snapshot," said its analysis accounted for 88 percent of state revenue. It said income tax collections beat expectations while corporate tax revenue fell short.

Democrats wasted no time slamming the governor for the new numbers, and noted that Christie had already budgeted for 7.3 percent growth in revenue for the current fiscal year, which began in July. To make up for the kind of shortfall that the OLS reported for last year, revenue would have to go up even further this year.

"These numbers, when combined with slow economic growth and high unemployment, unfortunately continue a disconcerting trend for New Jersey under Gov. Christie," Assemblyman Vincent Prieto (D., Hudson/Bergen), chairman of the budget committee, said in a statement.

"Unfortunately, we have yet to see any signs of such a so-called 'comeback,' despite the constant spin that budget shortfalls have been tackled."

Prieto said he was planning hearings to address the issue.

Christie also spoke Monday to other numbers that are of particular concern in South Jersey.

Camden County is rapidly moving toward the creation of a regional police force, which would have its first patrol division in the city of Camden, effectively replacing the city police department.

The county, however, has yet to release firm details about how much the new force would cost and how it would be funded.

Camden Mayor Dana L. Redd has said she is confident that the state will provide enough aid for the city to sustain the department going forward.

Christie agreed - to a point.

He said a portion of the transitional aid that the state gives the city would be used toward the new department, just as that money helps fund the current city force. The department's current budget is just under $60 million.

But, he said, "we have to look at how it winds up being set up," noting that he is awaiting final figures from the county on costs.

And, he said, "transitional aid" is meant to only be "transitional," so funding won't be there in perpetuity. The final goal is to figure out "how we can lower the amount of state aid that goes into Camden." (The state funds about 70 percent of the city's overall budget.)

"I've encouraged this to happen," he said of the county force. "I think it should be the wave of the future in places that are challenged like this."

As Christie spoke to reporters, a group of students from Haddonfield Memorial's AP government class sat behind him. Earlier in the afternoon the governor fielded questions from students.

He said he chose to visit this high school because it is one of the highest performing in the state, and because it implemented a teacher evaluation pilot program. That program is to form the basis of a new tenure law, recently signed by Christie, that considers teacher performance when determining tenure.

One student, Gabrielle Fabbri, a 17-year-old senior, keeps up with Christie in the news and said it was incredibly "cool" to see the governor in action.

She has even followed along with the somewhat esoteric debate over OLS numbers - and she's siding with Christie.

"He's really, really honest," she said. "We should just let the governor say the numbers and not spit out numbers to make a point."


Contact Matt Katz

at 609-217-8355 or mkatz@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @mattkatz00.

Read his blog, "Christie Chronicles," at www.philly.com/

christiechronicles.

Staff writer Claudia Vargas contributed to this article.

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