- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 13, 2015

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - Gov. Chris Christie on Tuesday delivered his fifth State of the State address, highlighting his accomplishments from his five years in office and his priorities for 2015. He zoomed in on New Jersey’s economic profile. Here is a closer look at some of the highlights of Christie’s speech:



Christie said the state’s current unemployment rate is 6.4 percent, down from 9.7 percent when he took office in 2010. He said New Jersey has added 150,000 private-sector jobs in five years. His figures come from federal employment surveys.

The governor did not mention that the improving jobs picture in the state has lagged behind the nation’s, which had an unemployment rate of 5.6 percent as of November. The seasonally adjusted number of New Jersey residents with jobs as of November was about 36,000 below its pre-recession peak of 4.29 million in February 2008.



Christie said that before he took office, property taxes were rising by an average 7 percent annually. He said that during his time in office, the growth in four of those years was under 2 percent.

His numbers are accurate. But the property tax burden for many residents has gone up more than Christie’s numbers suggest because the state has not restored property tax rebates to many homeowners who received them before they were scaled back during Gov. Jon Corzine’s last two years in office.

Christie said he would veto any income tax increases - something he has done in the past with legislative proposals to raise the state’s highest earners. The income tax on those earning more than $500,000 is already among the highest in the U.S. but the rate for low earners is among the lowest in the country.



Christie renewed his call to overhaul the state’s pensions and benefits for public workers, comparing them to national entitlement programs, such as Social Security and Medicare.

Workers and their unions generally argue the programs are not entitlements because they are part of compensation and for many workers they are specified by negotiated contracts.

Christie and lawmakers struck deals in 2010 and 2011 to require employees to make greater contributions in exchange for the state increasing its contributions to pension plans. The state had frequently skipped or skimped on payments in the past, leaving future funding gaps.

Last year, Christie reduced the payments he had promised for June 2014 and June 2015, citing a surprise tax revenue shortfall. Pension funds and public employee workers are suing over the cuts and Democratic legislative leaders are accusing Christie of backing out of his promises.

Christie said the unfunded liability for pensions and health benefits is $90 billion - a figure that came from a panel he assembled last year to study the issue and propose solutions. So far, no solutions have been presented.



Christie portrayed the state’s assistance in Camden - using new strategies rather than only sending money - as a model for helping other struggling cities. He cited a declining violent crime rate as more police officers have been added under changes in policing there.

The city department was replaced in 2013 with a new department run by Camden County, freeing Camden from many provisions of its former collective bargaining agreement and resulting in more officers on the street. Christie said the number of police went from 260 before the change to 400 currently.

Layoffs and attrition that caused the number of police to drop by more than 100 were a contributing factor to the surge in crime in Camden in 2011 and 2012 that prompted the changes to beef up the force.

Christie also pointed to private companies pledging last year to invest more than $600 million in Camden. Under tax incentive programs, those firms - including Subaru of America and the Philadelphia 76ers - are in line for future tax credits equivalent to the amount they’re investing. They have to make their promised investments and provide the jobs they call for before they can receive the tax benefits.

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