Chris Christie joins the Republican field for president with an announcement at his former high school. Christie, the current governor of New Jersey, has worked to improve New Jersey’s fiscal situation. Christie earned a respectable grade of “B” on both the 2012 and 2014 Cato’s Fiscal Policy Report Cards, partly due to his repeated vetoes of the legislature’s tax increases.
Christie has vetoed personal income tax increases five times in six years, including just last week. The 2015 version of the tax increase would have raised the top personal income tax bracket from 8.97 percent to 10.75 percent on income over $1 million. It was coupled with a 15 percent surcharge on corporate income taxes. Together, these two tax increases would have raised $1.1 billion, an enormous tax hike.
Christie has tried to lower taxes on New Jersey residents several times. In 2012, he proposed a 10 percent cut to personal income taxes. He also has signed into law some business tax cuts, including a large package in 2011 that featured an energy tax cut.
However, Christie has promoted misguided tax policies as well. This year, he pushed to increase the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit to 30 percent, up from 20 percent. He pushed to increase taxes on e-cigarettes in 2014. He supported a number of targeted tax credits to encourage companies to stay in New Jersey. He created the “Grow New Jersey” tax credit which provides $5,000 to companies for each job created or retained in the state. Such tax provisions made the code more complex and do not generate broad-based growth.
Christie used his brash personal persona to garner support for spending cuts. In 2010 and 2011, he had a number of public debates with union officials over pay and benefits for state workers. It culminated in reforms to the state pension system in 2011. The plan raised the retirement age, eliminated cost of living adjustments, and required state employees to contribute more to the system.
Despite the pension reform, the state’s budget has increased during Christie’s tenure, growing 15 percent from fiscal year 2011 to fiscal year 2015. New Jersey also has the fifth-highest debt and unfunded pension liabilities per capita in the nation. And it has spent $5 billion in economic development subsidies since Christie took office.
Chris Christie has been an important check on the Democrat-controlled legislature in New Jersey by limiting tax increases and forcing through pension reform. However, he has supported economic development subsidies and several poor tax policies.
Note: Chris Christie joins a large presidential field comprised of a number of current and former Governors. Analysis of each governor’s fiscal record is available via the links below: