Not too long ago, Chris Christie, the obstreperous governor of New Jersey, liked to tout something he called a “Jersey Comeback”. But that phrase somehow didn’t make it into his keynote speech at last month’s GOP convention. And no wonder: unemployment in the Garden State is at a 35-year high of 9.8% – the fourth-worst in the nation – and unlike in the Rust Belt states or other hard-hit regions, in Jersey unemployment is still climbing. Poverty rates are also at their highest in years, according to new census figures. And this week, all three of the big credit rating agencies lashed the state’s economic performance, with S&P cutting its rating to negative and warning that Christie’s budget was a thing of make-believe.
New Jersey, in fairness, is a tricky state for jobs. Many Garden State folks work in New York or Philadelphia; the state government can only do so much. But if the jobs picture is complex, the fiscal disaster is made to order in Trenton (seat of the Christie administration).
Christie’s ludicrous budget, which he touted at the convention as a model of good governance, relied on an annual growth projection of 7.2%, higher than anywhere in the nation save California. Some might call that optimistic, others downright fantastical.
Not only is projected growth coming in below that figure, by nearly a point, but even if growth had met Christie’s target, that would still leave the state short $258m, thanks to across-the-board corporate tax cuts. There was never anything balanced about Christie’s “three balanced budgets with lower taxes”, as he called them at the convention. And Jersey, it’s now clear, is not coming back from anywhere.