The 55th governor of New Jersey points with pride to his business record.
"After years of decline, New Jersey's economy has turned around," Chris Christie's official biography declares. But the numbers — including our America's Top States for Business rankings — tell a much different story.
New Jersey finished 39th overall this year, with the 40th ranked economy and the third worst infrastructure. The state has suffered nine credit downgrades during Christie's administration, most recently this year, when Moody's downgraded the state's bond rating to A2 from A1 and warned the worst may not be over.
"Without meaningful structural changes to the state's budget, such as pension reform that dramatically improves pension affordability, the state's structural imbalance will continue to grow and the state's rating will continue to fall," the agency wrote on April 16.
New Jersey has also suffered nearly nonstop downgrades in our Top States rankings since Christie took office in 2010. The year before, in 2009, the state had finished 24th overall.
When asked about his economic record by NBC's Chuck Todd during a Sept. 13 appearance on "Meet the Press," Christie claimed the state was in worse shape before he took office.
"There was no net private-sector job creation, Chuck, in the eight years before I became governor. Zero," Christie said. "We've created 198,000 new jobs in the last five and a half years. And the fact is that we spend $2.5 billion less than we used to."
In fact, New Jersey added about 180,000 private-sector jobs from January 2010 through August of this year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a growth rate that is less than half the national average.
As for spending, Christie's fiscal 2016 budget is $4 billion dollars higher than the last budget, proposed by his predecessor, Jon Corzine. Even adjusted for inflation, the numbers are flat.
Christie has blamed the state's credit woes on the public pension system — a huge bone of contention over the years that he blames on the unions and legislative Democrats. But he said even that is on the road to recovery. "We took a pension system that was absolutely ready to go under, and we've now put it as a pension system that's paying its bills and, in fact, has done better over the course of the six years that I've been governor than it's done in the two decades before," he said.
Christie has made changes in the state's beleaguered pension system, including a huge cut in the state's contribution this year that state employee unions say is one of the bills that Christie claims to be paying. The state Supreme Court upheld the cut in a deeply controversial ruling early this year, but New Jersey's retirement systems remain in deep trouble.
According to a state commission Christie himself appointed, New Jersey faces $90 billion in unfunded retirement obligations — the fourth worst position in the nation.
In fairness, many of New Jersey's problems were not of Christie's doing. The state was still mired in the Great Recession when he took office, particularly tough on a state so closely tied to the financial services industry. The state's pension woes long predate the governor, as does New Jersey's crumbling infrastructure.