Governor Christie’s 2015 State of the State Address
Mr. Speaker. Mr. Senate President. Lt. Governor Guadagno. Members of the legislature. Friends and citizens of New Jersey:
I come before you, as required by the state constitution, to report on the condition of our state.
Listen up Americans. I didn’t invite the national press for nothing. This speech is for you. New Jersey is quickly growing tired of me and so I need a new audience.
The state of our state continues to get better. New Jersey is better off than it was last year at this time, and it is certainly far better off than it was just five years ago. While many first years of a second term show a hangover from the campaign and its partisanship, we have fought through that tradition and have real accomplishments to show for that action in 2014.
Ignore that line I made a couple years back about the New Jersey Comeback™. Our economy lags behind our neighbors and by multiple accounts is still in relatively bad shape. Let’s do everything I can to spin this.
This is a tale of two New Jerseys. Prior to coming to power, those living under the poverty line in New Jersey was below 9%. Yet in 2013, it rose to over 11%, only one of three states in the nation where poverty has increased(New Mexico and Washington happen to be the others). But while my administration has worked hard to cut funding to needy school districts, prevent healthcare expansion under the Affordable Care Act, and cut property tax rebates, it has done an incredible job at providing corporate welfare to keep the rich safe and happy.
In a year with plenty of politics from some overly partisan corners of this chamber, New Jersey has made progress — growing our economy, creating jobs, reforming our criminal justice system, and improving some of our most challenged cities-like Camden. We’ve done it because a majority of us care more about our state and New Jersey’s middle class than we do about scoring partisan political points.
I must be careful to follow up buzzwords like “Camden” and “middle class” that hints to my audience thinks I’m a governor of the people with explanations of how helping the rich and big corporations is really about helping them. Because, the rich are good, caring, generous, job-producing, people.
Since last January, the total number of people employed in New Jersey has grown by over 90,000, and the number of unemployed has dropped by nearly 30,000. We recorded our 5th consecutive year of private sector job growth, and the unemployment rate continues to steadily go down.
Despite constant criticism of policies from politicians on the other side of the aisle, my State’s unemployment of 6.4% continues to lag behind the national average of 5.8% by a significant margin. And while the United States has fully recovered the jobs lost from the Great Recession and Democratic New York has regained 200% of the jobs lost since then, New Jersey has only returned 50% of those jobs. This has resulted in New Jersey being left with the highest rate of long-term unemployment.
We have attracted and retained companies — from Subaru USA to the Philadelphia 76ers to Sandoz. We have grown our economy and more people are working, supporting their families and knowing the power of going to work every day in New Jersey today than one year ago.
We’re really skilled at giving out checks to corporate donors looking for a break. My administration gave out $82 million to the 76ers to create 250 jobs ($328,000/job), $118 million to Subaru USA to promise 100 jobs ($1.18 million/job), and offered $9.1 million to Sandoz, Inc. to stay in New Jersey to keep nearly 300 jobs and add 70 ($24,267/job, or $130,000/new job). These examples are only a small portion of more than $4 billion my Administration has committed to
helping out my rich friends saving the middle class.
We have done this while holding the line on government spending and government employment. We also extended the successful cap on a key driver of property tax growth.
I’m personally proud of my record of corporate welfare that only temporarily keeps companies and jobs within this state while at the same time cutting funding to many of the infrastructure necessities (including public trusts as well as research that supports public-private partnerships (and spurs innovative and economic output). I’ve retained a couple hundred jobs here, a couple hundred there, while failing to address major macroeconomic challenges such as our foreclosure problem that continues to plague our economy, with nearly 8% of mortgages in foreclosure compared to approximately 2.5% nationally.
Now, despite this progress, Despite so much evidence of an improving New Jersey, It has become fashionable in some quarters to run down our state. I get it: that’s politics.
I don’t tolerate criticism. As long as I believe I’ve made a difference, it shouldn’t matter if there is genuine criticism or overlooked failings.
But let’s be clear. Our growth in this past year has been part of a trend. A trend that began five years ago. It is easy to forget where we were and how far we have come.
Five years ago, our unemployment rate was 9.7%. Over 440,000 New Jerseyans were out of work. Today, the unemployment rate is 6.4%.
We have cut unemployment by over one third in the last 5 years. And we have created over 150,000 private sector jobs in New Jersey in five short years.
Please pay no attention to the stats that suggest we’re behind the curve compared to others. Let’s not talk about that. Let’s celebrate our moderate successes instead!
Five years ago, we faced massive consecutive budget deficits –$2 billion for fiscal year 2010 and a projected $11 billion the next year, on a budget of only $29 billion. We fixed it by making hard choices; the way middle class families in New Jersey have to do it in their homes. Today, we have balanced five budgets in a row. And we will balance a sixth this year. And we didn’t do it the Washington way, by raising taxes.
Balancing the budget is the new smoke-and-mirrors way of suggesting my governship has not dealt with similar structural deficits each year. That way I can claim I’m making tough choices each year when I refuse to meet certain budgetary obligations.
We did it by cutting spending, shrinking government, and fundamentally reforming the way government operates. This administration believes today — and has always believed — that New Jersey and America, will be a better place for middle class families by shrinking the size of government.
I cut spending and shrank the government so I didn’t have to raise taxes on the rich who have been paying less for years. Because helping the rich will only help the
rich middle class.
Back then, state spending had grown by 56% in the years from 2001 to 2008. Today discretionary spending in our state’s budget is $2.5 billion below its level in fiscal year 2008. Back then, the size of government was out of control. Today, the number of state government employees is 6,000 lower than it was five years ago.
Having 6,000 fewer jobs for state workers has really stopped our state from being out of control. Who cares if the cuts to spending disproportionately affect the middle class and the working poor? The rich will help the middle class recover all those jobs we haven’t yet recuperated from our infrastructure spending cuts.
Back then, New Jersey’s highest in the nation property taxes had increased more than 70% in ten years. We averaged a 7% growth in property taxes per year. Today, we have had four years of less than 2% annual property tax growth. Now it’s because of the property tax cap we passed together in 2011 is working. This is a bipartisan achievement.
Today, New Jersey still has the highest property taxes in the nation and because I’ve cut property tax rebates for those making less than $150,000/yr., this class has seen their net property taxes rise 18.6% per year. And my 2% tax cap has saddled municipalities with fiscal challenges in order to bail out Trenton.
We also came together this year to extend the reforms of interest arbitration awards. This act has continued to make property tax control possible. In these past five years, we have delivered needed tax relief to small businesses. The $2.3 billion small business tax relief package that we continue to phase in is improving New Jersey’s business climate and making our state more competitive. That approach is explicit in the sweeping, bipartisan changes we’ve made to New Jersey’s economic incentive programs. I want to congratulate you: we have streamlined these incentives. And we have better targeted them to areas of our state that need investment most.
And the verdict is in — and the early returns from the economic opportunity act show that it is working to attract and retain businesses. In total, our pro-growth policies and streamlined economic development efforts have brought in over $12 billion dollars of new public and private investment in New Jersey in these last five years.
The fact is that, the deeper they look, the more businesses like what they see. From Forbes media to VF Sportswear. From Wenner Bread to Bayer Health Care. Companies have chosen New Jersey as a home for expansion.
We have assets that many other states just cannot match. A highly educated work force. A world class transportation network. Proximity to large markets. The shore. New Jersey has so many attractions. We are America’s number two state in biotechnology. Number four in per capita income. Number three in the use of solar power. And in the top ten in data centers.
The results of this past year’s survey by the New Jersey Business & Industry Association said it best. “Overall”, the BIA said, “our members believe the state is continuing to move in the right direction. Things are looking good for small business in 2015.” Now, I know that many of you in this room believe that income tax increases are the way to go.
So yes, sometimes we will simply have to disagree. I have vetoed four income tax increases passed by this body. And make no mistake, I will veto any more income tax increases that come before me. And I will do it for one simple reason — the higher our taxes are, the fewer people and businesses will come to New Jersey and the more who will consider leaving. Raising taxes is the old Trenton way, and it didn’t work.
Taxes were raised 115 times in the eight years before 2010. People and businesses in turn didn’t support them and left our state. Between 2004 and 2008 the departure of wealth, investment, and income was staggering — some $70 billion left the state. We have begun a new direction and we need to go further, not reverse course. Because despite all our progress, we have more to do.
We have to open our ears and listen to our people. Open our eyes and see what is happening around us.