Chris Christie

Chris Christie is Running as a Budget Reformer. But His Own State Budget Is a Wreck.


Photo credit: Gage Skidmore / Foter / CC BY-SA

Two years ago, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie looked like the early-early-early frontrunner in the 2016 GOP presidential race. The New York Times profiled him as the establishment candidate, but his no-BS demeanor and style of rhetoric appealed to large swaths of the party's base as well. 

But Christie's proto campaign crashed before it even got off the ground. He was foiled in part by the aura of scandal surrounding Bridgegate, and in part because he was better positioned for a 2012 run. As Jonathan Last of The Weekly Standard points out in this morning's Transom* newsletter, "Had he jumped into the race late, he would have had a very good chance of toppling Mitt Romney by consolidating the anti-Mitt vote and siphoning off a good deal of establishment support." You could say he peaked too early, hoping to consolidate 2016 Republican establishment support before the race even began. But in another sense he peaked too late—gathering steam in 2013, the year after a presidential election. 

And, as Last points out, there's another problem with what now remains of the Christie campaign: He's not just a tough-talking candidate, he's also a governor, and his home state isn't doing so well. The state's economy lags behind others; it still hasn't made up for jobs lost in the recession. And, perhaps relatedly, its budget is a mess too.

New Jersey is one of just three states (along with Illinois and Pennsylvania) that a new report on state fiscal health from The Mercatus Center flags for its underfunded pension programs. The report by Eileen Norcross ranks states in a variety of budget-related categories, and notes that Jersey is among a handful of budget-challenged states "with large long-term debts, large unfunded pension liabilities, and structural budgetary imbalances." This helps ensure that it stays at the bottom of the barrel on many measures of fiscal stability. Indeed, in the Mercatus report, Christie's state ranks as the worst of the nation on budget solvency and long-term solvency. New Jersey ranks next to last on "fiscal condition." 

This sort of performance is already potentially deadly in a race that already features one union-battling governor who is running on his record of state budget and economic accomplishments. It's even more of a drag for a candidate who has said he wants to make national budget troubles, and in particular entitlement reform, a key campaign issue. (Entitlement spending is "growing the deficit and slowly but surely taking over all of government," he said in April. "In the long term, it will steal our children's future and bankrupt our nation.") I welcome any attempt to inject discussion of meaningful entitlement reforms into the presidential debate, but it's hard to take Christie's no-nonsense budget reformer pose very seriously when he has so obviously struggled to get his own state's fiscal house in order. 

(*I'll be writing this Friday's edition.)

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  1. I really can’t think of a more loathsome public figure than this FaFu. I really can’t.

    1. Really? Christie absolutely sucks, but I can think of several offhand who are worse.

      1. Can’t think of a one. Not even any Democrats (which Christie is one, anyways).

        1. Hillary and Sanders are worse. Really.

          1. Yeah, I don’t like Christie at all, but at least he’s not an admitted felon or socialist.

            1. “admitted” sure… but were I a betting man, I bet there are felonies he has committed- given that EVERYTHING is a felony now.

              1. He’s a lifetime NJ politician, you don’t have to dig up obscure federal laws to find something illegal he’s done.

                Hell, there’s Bridgegate as the most public one in recent memory. Suuuuure, he ‘didn’t know’ what his subordinates were doing. But he didn’t clean house when found out either. While that’s (rightly) not enough for a court, its more than enough to know that, at a minimum, he was working this ‘deniably’ and/or he’s committing honest services fraud

              2. Oh, sure. He’s scum. But Clinton in particular seems like an extra-special scumbag.

            2. Yeah, Christie is worse than an admitted socialist. He’s worse than anyone who admits any fucked up ideology, because he won’t admit he even has an ideology, or that his ideology is just “statism”.

          2. I’m nowhere near as offended by them as I am Fat Fuck. Bernie, maybe, because he actually also holds office at this time, but Hillary is just an old bag looking desperately to get back into a rulership position. Bernie is actually so-so on guns.

        2. I find it hard to put anyone above the guy who actually supported terrorism.

        3. Every Democrat in Trenton is far worse.

    2. Alan Grayson. That steaming pile of dog shit is infinitely worse than Jersey Fats.

    3. He’s a loudmouth, corrupt bully, but I find the whorish busy-bodies more loathsome. Since I’m in NY, Schumer probably tops the list for me.

    4. You obviously don’t live in NY or NJ.

  2. Chris Christie has some…rather obvious self-control issues. Hypocrisy is not particularly surprising for him.

  3. He has an out when questioned. He can just say, “Hey, it’s New Jersey. You try to get anything done here beyond lining your own pockets.”

    1. In fairness to Christie, the New Jersey legislature has remained in firm control of the Democrat left for his entire term. You can’t really do much about public employee pensions and spending without the legislature on board.

      1. Exactly. I certainly don’t like him as a Presidential candidate, but everything described here requires some Legislative fix – which just isn’t going to happen here.

        Want to fix the NJ pension system? – start by promising less! Shift all new state employees to a 401k. Never going to happen.

        Think the Dems in Trenton are going to cut spending or stop transferring vast sums of wealth from the suburbs to the cities to be wasted on patronage?

        He’s the Governor of NJ, not the Dictator.

        1. Who are you to decide that Hoboken doesn’t need my taxes?

          1. That was one of the craziest things in the Abbott decision. Hoboken was declared “poor” and all the “rich” towns in Warren and Sussex counties needed to buy then a new High School with an Olympic pool.

            1. Hoboken is poor?! That is crazy.

              1. The decision was handed down 25 years ago or so; Hoboken wasn’t anything close to its current condition back then. But it speaks to the absurdity of policy made by judicial fiat – the place is now one of the 10 wealthiest municipalities in the state and I still see a portion of my taxes redistributed to their district.

                1. 25 years ago Hoboken was comfortably middle class with a few marginal areas. Gentrification was already well underway.

                  1. Yeah, I could barely afford to live there 17 years ago with the college kids taking over the main drag.

      2. Illinois and New Jersey are firmly in the hands of Democrats at the Legislative level. But there should be no excuse in Penna. Last four years with a GOP governor and GOP control of both houses. Couldn’t do pension reform, couldn’t sell the liquor stores. And then they lost the governorship anyway. Now, the GOP legislature is beating its chest again and the Dem governor just says he will veto anything he doesn’t like. Lesson: if you really want changes
        (and aren’t just big talkers) then push them through when you have control.

        1. Pennsylvania doesn’t need a full time legislature anyway.

  4. I propose a FaFu/Canadian FaFu buddy reality show, a la the Simple Life

    1. God, i love Rob Ford. It’s like Chris Farley faked his own death and made a new life for himself in America’s Hat.

  5. The front runners are mostly about name recognition, and with Christie enjoying a lot of that, and sitting near the bottom of the Republican polls, it’s clear that the Republicans know exactly who he is, and they want somebody else.

    Really, how do you think Christie’s schtick is likely to play in the West and in the South with Republican primary voters.

    Honestly, I don’t believe Christie is taking his own candidacy too seriously. He’s a Republican in a deeply Democratic state, and eventually someone within the Democratic machine is going to replace him. It’s like Custer’s Last Stand in slow motion.

    And he knows that. The only reason he’s running is because there’s nothing else for him to do. He’s hoping maybe he’s attractive as a Vice Presidential running mate, or that national exposure will help his Q Score, and maybe he can parlay that into having his own talk show.

    If Al Sharpton can get his own show, anything can happen.

    Really, we shouldn’t take his candidacy any more seriously than he’s taking it himself, and he isn’t really taking his own candidacy seriously. He may be a politician, but he isn’t that stupid.

    1. I think Christie is really hoping for the Attorney General slot.

      1. I’m hoping he gets Dept of Education. I think my wife’s head would explode.

    2. If he wins, I can picture the lunchtime food trucks parking on what used to be Michelle’s organic garden.

      1. That would actually be kind of funny.

      2. HHmmm…actually I’m not too far from the WH. If all the food trucks congregated there every day….my weight loss would probably come to a screeching halt.

    3. You know who else wasn’t taken seriously before he was elected?

      1. Davey Crockett?

      2. Sen., Al Franken?

  6. New Jersey has been downgraded 9 times by Moody’s under Christie’s tenure. Yeah, what a reformer.…..dys_c.html

    1. The legislature, under a Democrat super majority for decades, bears no responsibility? I’m no Christie fan, but he wasn’t elected King.

      1. I’m not saying that they don’t. But, you’d agree that Christie bears some responsibility. And it flies in the face of his narrative.

        1. Sure, Christie bears some responsibility, but he was never going to achieve any real fiscal reform with huge Democrat majorities in the legislature. And he really should have known that going in.

          1. As governor he has unique power of veto. As I mentioned below, he either should not have run, or firmly vetoed everything until he was kicked out, then come back in say, 12 or 16 years and say, see I told you so, rather than play the usual game of politics.

            However, since you don’t want marginal milqtoast reform that NJ Dems would eventually to prolong the pain, you need a boogieman to oppose — someone who constantly proposes all of the real solutions, but is never elected. Only then will the voters the Dems legislature can learn how bad the results are from what they really want. It’s like minimum wage. WTF is up with this piddling increase to $15 over $5 years. You need someone to stir the pot some more.

            1. They have legislative veto override in NJ. Veto only gets you to where your compromise works for the minority of the legislature you need to sustain your veto. With such an overwhelmingly Dem leg., that means you can shave off only a little bit from what the majority want. Try to veto that, & you wind up with what the majority want with 0 shaved off.

  7. Please name the more fiscally conservative candidate who could have possibly been elected Governor of NJ – and describe how s/he would have accomplished more with huge Democrat majorities in the Legislature.

    I like Steve Lonegan but he wan’t winning a general election and the Dems would be even less likely to cooperate with him.

    1. I hate it when I have to defend Christie! I don’t like the guy, but this is one stupid article.

    2. While NJ is uniquely fucked up, is federal reform that much easier?

      1. It should be, considering that the Democrats are fairly far from majorities in either federal chamber. Military appropriations can be for no more than 2 yrs. at a time, & that’s a sizable chunk of the budget. Other appropriations come due on course, and if you want to increase spending over any existing authoriz’n, that takes an act of Congress. Plus, with so many seats solidly gerrymandered & no reapportionment due until 2022, how many districts do you either need to pay back or have hope of buying off? So there’s no shortage of handles reformers can grab. It’s not like Greece.

    3. Should have left it Dem then you wouldn’t have a wish washy wannabe fiscal conservative GOP candidate as a mainstream candidate and NJ dems would have no one else to blame but themselves. Since as you mentioned he hasn’t accomplished much because of obstacles from the legislature it means it would’ve been more productive for the state (i.e. lots of pain and suffering until the voters learn) and himself if he did not run there. If he stuck to his guns and vetoed every spending proposal, then we could at least give the fat man credit for consistency. But that’s not what happened. Almost every politician compromises then hopes other people never remember those compromises and on that basis arguments against Christie have merit.

      1. That the other place where Christie gets way too much credit. Can anyone name who he ran against?

        After Corzine, McGreevey, Toricelli, Sharp James and Menendez – who should all be in jail (I think James is) – the NJ Dems are pretty much running on empty. There are plenty of mid-level hacks down in Trenton but no big names unless Booker wants to run for Governor next time.

  8. Now that I think about it, I’m a little upset that “Jersey needs to ‘shore’ up its own budget” wasn’t in the headline.

    So many opportunities for puns, so little courage to take advantage.

    1. Surely Chris2 gets bored walking back his fiscal conservatism with the trend on, so he’d rather turn piker on new work issues.

  9. It always makes sense for governor of NJ to run for prez, ’cause you got momentum the yr. after you got elected, & when you lose for prez you still got another 3 yrs. as governor. & you better get out of Chris2’s way when he’s got momentum!

    1. Give them a little time to rise to 2Chilly’s headline/alt-text greatness.

  10. it still hasn’t made up for jobs lost in the recession.

    Which is pretty amazing from where I’m sitting: in the middle of a huge financial complex in Jersey City that sprang up after half the industry decamped to NJ from NY. Also, towering condos popping up like wildflowers everywhere.

    Mabye the rest of the state is just so much worse?!

    1. I see a mixed bag. A steady flow in from NY which sucks even worse. A steady flow out to PA and southern states. Pharma is still big but consolidating. BASF keeps shedding people or moving them out.

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