As New Jersey’s nonpartisan budget analyst testified before Assembly lawmakers about a $1.3 billion revenue shortfall, Republican Governor Chris Christie offered his own analysis of the speaker.
“Why would anyone with a functioning brain believe this guy?” Christie said yesterday, referring to David Rosen, who reported that the governor’s budget overestimates revenue collections through June 2013.
He’s “a joke,” a “handmaiden” for Democrats who control the Senate and the Assembly, Christie said. “The Dr. Kevorkian of the numbers.”
The comparison between Rosen, whose work in the Office of Legislative Services is overseen by a bipartisan commission, and a physician who assisted suicides in the 1990s was the latest in a litany of insults from the governor. His targets say that when the facts don’t favor him, Christie resorts to calling critics “jerk,” “idiot,” “numbnuts” and the like.
“This is yet another example of the governor’s reprehensible use of name-calling whenever things don’t break his way,” said Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald.
Rosen, 65, declined to comment on the governor’s remarks. The budget and finance chief, who isn’t answerable to Christie, has a doctorate in political science from Rutgers University and has worked on state spending plans since 1991.
Christie’s criticism was memorialized on video and distributed by his office hours later. Aides have posted comments about other detractors on Google Inc.’s YouTube, the video-sharing website. The governor’s personal channel, which has helped make him a national political figure, has attracted more than 4.8 million views.
Christie, 49, has called union leaders “political thugs.” A Navy veteran who argued with him at a town-hall meeting was an “idiot.” Last year, he urged reporters to “take the bat out” on a 76-year-old senator for collecting both a public pension and a paycheck as a legislator while knocking others for similar practices.
This time, Christie was in “full-fledged panic mode, lashing out at anyone who dares question him and present facts that show his so-called New Jersey Comeback is a cruel myth,” Greenwald, a Democrat from Cherry Hill, said in a statement.
Christie has traveled the state to promote his “Jersey Comeback,” a turnaround he has said will let the state raise spending while cutting income taxes by 10 percent over three years. The $32.1 billion budget for fiscal 2013 that he proposed in February hinges on a 7.3 percent revenue gain, the most since before the recession that began in December 2007.
Revenue may trail Christie’s targets by $668 million in the year ending June 30 and by $635 million in the next year, Rosen told lawmakers yesterday.
The shortfall over the two year-period is more than twice the $537 million that Rosen projected in March. New Jersey revenue is increasing at a pace that is “a good deal more modest than had been anticipated” in the budget, Rosen said.
Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff told lawmakers the two-year shortfall will be $676 million, about half of what Rosen estimated. Christie’s tax cut won’t be abandoned because of the lower collections, Sidamon-Eristoff said.
Christie’s smaller revenue echoes the situation in California, where Governor Jerry Brown, a Democrat, had to cut deeper into his fiscal 2013 spending plan as tax revenue came up short, swelling a projected deficit to almost $16 billion. Brown is seeking to temporarily raise sales and income taxes while cutting state payrolls and services to the needy.
Moody’s Investors Service warned that New Jersey’s missed revenue targets are a “credit negative” after Sidamon-Eristoff said last week that April receipts from income and corporate taxes were $230 million less than projected. Standard & Poor’s said in February that Christie’s budget is “structurally unbalanced” because it’s built on “optimistic” revenue assumptions.
“The governor may not like the budget projections, but that’s not Dr. Rosen’s fault,” Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, a Democrat from East Orange, said in a statement. “The governor has apparently lost control of himself. It is not acceptable for the governor of the state of New Jersey to act this way.”
Kevin Roberts, a spokesman for Christie, said the comments by Oliver and Greenwald were “silliness.”
Rosen is presenting his revenue outlook today to the Senate Budget Committee, followed by Sidamon-Eristoff. Senator Paul Sarlo, chairman of the panel, opened the hearing with empathy for Rosen. Neither Democrats nor Republicans in the Legislature agree with the substance of Christie’s attack, Sarlo said.
“Your experience and credibility stand for itself,” Sarlo said to Rosen, who didn’t speak about the incident.
Christie didn’t directly address the lack of revenue in a speech to business leaders in Trenton yesterday. He said Sidamon-Eristoff would give the “measured, professional testimony he’s given for every year since I’ve been governor.”
“By the way, he’s been right,” Christie said. “And when he’s wrong, you know how he’s been wrong? He’s underestimated revenues. Each year we’ve had more money than we thought we were going to have when I’ve been governor.”
Residents are due some tax relief, the governor said.
“If taxes do not get cut this year, it is the responsibility of one set of people, and that’s the legislative Democrats,” he said.
Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth Polling Institute at Monmouth University in West Long Branch, said the attack on Rosen may make even fellow Republicans “a little uncomfortable.”
“Everything is kind of crashing down on his ability to push this tax cut through, which was going to be his hallmark going into the 2013 election campaign,” Murray said in a telephone interview.