Christie Legacy

Three former New Jersey governors claim that Chris Christie’s tenure was not a failure with one even coming out with:

he got pension and health care reforms and helped keep property taxes from rising swiftly by limiting how much raises for police and firefighters and enacting a 2 percent local spending cap, [Donald] DiFrancesco argued.

“His perception is really, really bad,” he said. “His legacy is really, really good.”

In a discursive interview in Politico Magazine Christie comes off as an obnoxious egomaniac who got things done early on:

On policy, Christie was both hard-nosed and pragmatic. He capped property taxes in a notoriously high-tax state. He cleaned up a budget mess left by his disgraced predecessor, Gov. Jon Corzine. He persuaded Stephen Sweeney, a burly ironworker’s union official who leads the State Senate, to make a compromise on pensions that would require unions to pay more.

“He came to my union office and we sat down the second day,” Sweeney recalled. “And his comment to me, are we going to get anything done, or do what is always done and fight? He wanted to get things done, and so did I.”

At the time, New Jersey’s pension system was among the most underfunded in the country, and Christie’s predecessors didn’t pay. (Christie also has a checkered record—while paying more than his predecessors, he also skipped some payments.) Stile, a sometimes fierce critic of the governor, said, “The time of practically skipping and significantly shorting the pension system has pretty much stopped. It went on for 15 years leading up to him. He deserves credit for that.”

There is a possibility that Chris Christie may not go down as the worst governor in New Jersey history……..which is a shame…….because he is. Looking at the record:

Property taxes

There is a fairly addictive website where you can search through property tax records going back to 2010 from which I got….

Tax increases varied by county with our current governor in Morris County getting slight increases and our incoming governor in Monmouth County even seeing a substantial tax cut while mine (and many familiar names to me in Union County) not only getting 4% average annual increases but, to deal with a tax cap which already had large holes in it, local governments were also ramping up debt to bring in money that could not be classified as ongoing expenses for budget purposes. In Union County they even got the idea of stealing the Open Space tax. The property tax cap in many localities only moved current costs to future taxpayers (who will likely lose the federal tax deduction on those payments).


Cost-of-living-adjustments on pensions were eliminated (the only cost savings of any note in those 2011 faux reforms) with the approval of an accommodating judiciary while “requirements” to have the state make their contributions quarterly and use lottery money to pay part of it were gimmicky distractions from real reforms that the politicians we are stuck with do not have the stomach for. As for the status of New Jersey’s pension system in relation to other states, self-reporting and assumption-shopping make it difficult to compare where New Jersey stood when Christie came in but, with new GASB reporting rules, it should be obvious to anyone who cares to see the truth where New Jersey ranks at the end of the Christie era.


Back to that Politico interview:

For a while, allies and aides say, Christie feared he was going to be charged himself over what became known as Bridgegate, though he always denied involvement. He demurred when I asked him about it repeatedly. “I always tried to have confidence in the process and in the system,” he said.

19 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by dentss dunnigan on November 19, 2017 at 12:49 pm

    If you notice Murphy’s is the only person who’s taxes have declined ,as I’ve said before in CC 8 year reign my taxes declined as well I live in Monmouth county .I partially attribute this to our yearly assessment program which I was against until I saw how it worked that said in Corzines 4 years my taxes increased 42% I was close to calling it quits in the state …I’ll give Murphy 2 years and see ,but I do want him to extend the 2.5% cap because we all know the unions are chomping at the bit .All bets are off if Trumps tax cuts pass because that should destroy this state taxing ability ,but t won’t stop Murphy and his crew …..


  2. Posted by boscoe on November 19, 2017 at 1:49 pm

    I don’t think you can draw any specific conclusions about tax patterns from looking at a small subset of individual tax bills over seven years. Revaluations, reassessments, tax appeals, tax base composition (e.g., commercial vs. residential vs. farm), size of municipal surplus, size of reserve maintained for non-payment, county equalization process, home capital improvements — all of these influence any individual homeowner’s tax bill. My own tax bill has bounced around over this period so depending on what year(s) you pick to run the comparison, you’d come up with widely ranging short-term averages. I hate to ever have to defend Christie, but I’m not sure the whatever problems there are specific to Union County, can be laid at his doorstep. That being said, property taxes are too high, period.


    • Posted by bruce paterson on November 19, 2017 at 7:35 pm

      Boscoe-these are impacts you note, but basically none of that really has any major impact and if it does, its outliers on the 566 total towns-and none in the towns JB1 lists (although murpthy may be the outlier-lucky him)- the raw numbers show simply your taxes go up and is an easy conclusion to see the % : see my garwood numbers below and the ulterior reason we find.


  3. Posted by boscoe on November 19, 2017 at 1:55 pm

    Worse than Don DiFrancesco? Harold Hoffman?


    • Hoffman was more of a classic thief:
      and DiFrancesca did not have enough time to do anywhere near the damage Christie has.

      History will show massive debts piled up under Christie who points to how much he put into the pension systems over prior governors but ignores how much the liabilities swelled under him even after those contributions (my guess is about $100 billion if it does not get reneged on). Add that to the regular debt he accumulated (and got local governments to accumulate), the ethical vacuum he fostered, and the absolutely dismal way he handled the ceremonial aspects of the job (ie. representing New Jerseyans to the rest of the country) and he hits bottom.


      • Posted by bruce paterson on November 19, 2017 at 7:41 pm

        JB1-it would be interesting to run comps on the debt-we do understand he become owner of the ballooning pension underfunding, but the other debts you need to comp. To me, christie was probably the best governor we had in 25 years regarding addressing underfunding and property tax and even in the beginning the rampant corruption….. unless someone can come up with some other governor and explanation why. Even Cody was bad/duplicitous for those 5 months as protem gov where he said he wanted to stop the pension padding while looking the other way while his brother robert codey padded his pension from $60k/year to $100k in exactly one years time thanks to the union county goverts overt corruption action for his pension padding.


      • Posted by Tough Love on November 19, 2017 at 9:24 pm

        Quoting ……….

        “History will show massive debts piled up under Christie who points to how much he put into the pension systems over prior governors but ignores how much the liabilities swelled under him even after those contributions (my guess is about $100 billion if it does not get reneged on). ”

        Ok, we know you really dislike Christie, but he did WAY WAY more to try to reign in NJ’s out-of-control Public Sector pensions than the 5 governors before him (all taken together). And as far as the “swelled liabilities”, he had ZERO control over that, the formulas/provisions locked in place for current workers (including their FUTURE service).


        • Posted by Anonymous on November 22, 2017 at 4:11 pm

          The percentage of the payment he made was lower than majority of the other Governors percentage is Left To Tell the Truth


  4. Posted by bruce paterson on November 19, 2017 at 7:29 pm

    FWIW: my garwood taxes by points from my tax bills: muni: 2.823-3.292: +16.6%, union county: 1.450-1.865: +28.6%, BOE: 3.668-4.273: +16.5%, overall net increase: +18.6%. The union county portion was the highest increase, but we all know that is because that level’s corruption costs more.:


  5. Posted by Tough Love on November 19, 2017 at 9:15 pm

    Quoting ………… “Cost-of-living-adjustments on pensions were eliminated (the only cost savings of any note in those 2011 faux reforms) with the approval of an accommodating judiciary”

    Saying ………. “the only cost savings of any note” ………. doesn’t do the COLA-freeze justice. The DIRECT/REAL Saving to NJ’s taxpayers from the one item has been HUGE, in the 10’s of $ Billions.


  6. Posted by George on November 20, 2017 at 9:09 am

    Christie stopped or maybe just delayed the tunnel and passed the gas tax.

    In other news: The Guardian thinks taxing rich does not make them move.

    In New Jersey, governor Chris Christie simply stated: “Ladies and Gentlemen, if you tax them, they will leave.”

    If you tax the rich, they won’t leave: US data contradicts millionaires’ threats

    Does raising taxes on the rich really trigger their migration to more obliging states or countries? This study of every million-dollar earner in the US shows otherwise


  7. I think Christie should get credit for doing the right things on property taxes and pensions too.

    Christie wasn’t a master of legislative negotiation, nor an original policy thinker, but by defeating a very liberal governor in 2009 Christie showed the legislature (and Supreme Court) that New Jerseyans were becoming truly fed up with property taxes and wanted real relief.

    Christie’s victory is what convinced the Democratic majority to finally pass a real tax cap that I think really has worked more than any strategy attempted previously. Prior to Christie, the Democratic attempt to restrain property taxes was to increase state aid, but this never worked because increased state aid just got spent. Since school spending = bigger pension obligations for the state, increasing state aid was a way the state just dug its hole deeper.

    Under Christie property taxes increased by a little over 2% a year, which is close to inflation. In the eight years before him they increased by >6% a year.

    Since the tax cap has reduced salary increases for government workers and the number of government workers, ultimately it benefits the pension system because final salaries are lower and the number of pensioners will be lower.

    What I think is remarkable about Chapter 78 is that it provides Generational Equity that has been so rare in pension reform deals.

    In many other places, “pension reforms” just cut the future pensions of workers not yet hired, so younger workers end up working longer at lower take-home pay to fund the pensions of people whose only virtue is that they are older.

    There’s some of that multi-tier, differential sacrifice in NJ too, but since COLAs were suspended, current pensioners give something up too. This spares younger workers from being screwed over as badly. It even spares their jobs altogether.

    So Christie failed relative to what he should have done and could have done, but I think he looks decent compared to all of his recent predecessors, the legislature, & Supreme Court who shirked their responsibilities even more or made the crisis even worse.


  8. Posted by Tougfh Love on November 20, 2017 at 12:56 pm

    Interesting ……..

    Arizona Senator stated (referring to the Republican party and Pres Trump):

    “It is time for our complicity and our accommodation of the unacceptable to end,”

    Gee, that sounds like something our Elected Officials should be saying about the ludicrously excessive pensions & benefits now granted America’s State & Local Public Sector workers.


  9. He inherited a crisis due to fast future selling, acted like he was the man to tell the truth and solve it, but ended up ducking and leaving behind a bigger crisis.

    And then he ran for President.


  10. […] combination of naïveté (of course Christie made everything much worse with his politics-first mindset) and gratitude (for failing to cut his […]


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