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In last night’s debate Barbara Buono essentially told Chris Christie to own his record, warts and all. The sentiment should have been painfully familiar to Chris Christie; he spent most of his 2009 campaign demanding that Jon Corzine take responsibility for a state economy decimated by the global recession. He spent the rest of that 2009 race making outlandish promises on the issues voters say they care about most: property taxes and jobs.
Now Senator Buono is very appropriately calling Christie to account for the yawning gap between what he promised voters and what he’s actually delivered.
Property taxes are where New Jerseyans have said they are most disappointed with Christie, and for good reason. Despite promising to ease the property tax burden for taxpayers in 2009, the Governor’s cuts to state aid forced school boards and local governments to rely even more on property taxes to fund essential services.
Even worse, he went back on his promise to beef up state property tax relief and actually cut Homestead Rebates for seniors and people making under $75,000 per year by 75 percent. Four years later the average Homestead Rebate is still half of what it was before Christie took office.
In fact, the one piece of property tax relief that Christie didn’t dare touch was an income tax credit based off property taxes that primarily benefits – you guessed it – the state’s wealthiest. Mark Magyar at New Jersey Spotlight crunched the numbers in May and found that someone making $500,000 per year has received around $900 in property tax relief. Four years ago a family making $72,000 a year in Hamilton Township would have received about the same level of property relief as that wealthy family – now they’d get just $490.
In 2009 Chris Christie campaigned as the guy who would bring jobs and prosperity back to New Jersey, but the results have been nothing short of disastrous. And predictably so. His agenda of tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations paid for by cuts to public investments was straight out of the Grover Norquist playbook, and it’s worked here about as well as it’s worked anywhere else. Which is to say that it hasn’t worked at all.
Let’s do the math: over Christie’s first term we’ve seen $4 billion in tax cuts for the wealthy, $2.3 billion in tax cuts for corporations and $2.1 billion in corporate subsidies to multinational giants like Citigroup and Prudential.
But as Senator Buono pointed out last night, none of that outpouring of public dollars to the wealthy has actually trickled down. In August experts at BusinessWeek looked at New Jersey’s economic track record during Governor Christie’s first term and compared it to the experiences of other states. They looked at employment statistics, tax revenue, housing prices – you name it. The results were damning. New Jersey came in a dismal 45th, leading the magazine – not exactly a liberal rag – to conclude that Christie has done a “poor job” keeping his commitment to grow the state’s economy.
By any objective measure Chris Christie has failed to keep his campaign promises on the issues voters say they care about most. If he can’t take responsibility for that failed record, it’s because he knows that owning up to it with the kind of candor and personal accountability voters deserve would probably cost him a second term – and a chance to eventually bring his unique combination of bluster and bankrupt ideology nationwide.
Rob Duffey is Policy and Communications Coordinator for the New Jersey Working Families Alliance