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Fact checking the governors’ RNC speeches

at 03:00 PM ET, 08/30/2012


(J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Tuesday’s RNC events featured speeches from several popular Republican governors who took turns hammering President Obama and promoting GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who was nominated that same evening. The list of speakers included New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley. Let’s take a look at their statements.

“They said that it was impossible — this is what they told me — to cut taxes in a state where taxes were raised 115 times in the eight years before I became governor. That it was impossible to balance the budget at the same time with an $11 billion deficit. But three years later, we have three balanced budgets in a row with lower taxes.”

— New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, keynote speech at Republican National Convention, Aug. 28, 2012

Christie said 115 revenue hikes took effect before he became governor. That’s only correct if you consider all revenue increases to be tax hikes, because he’s lumping in a lot of fees and other charges that were implemented from 2002 through 2009.

It’s interesting that Christie would count all forms of revenue hikes from his predecessors as tax hikes, because GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney increased fees but claims to have never raised taxes as governor of Massachusetts. So Christie is defeating Romney’s argument, in a sense.

Christie said he faced an $11 billion deficit during his first year as governor, but this alludes to a $10.7 billion “structural deficit,” which is how much the state was projected to fall behind in 2011 with existing services and revenue levels.

New Jersey’s constitution requires a balanced budget each year, so the state had no choice but to adjust its spending on services so that they would match projected revenues. As governor, Christie helped lead the way with his budget proposals, which happened to favor spending cuts over new taxes. But it’s not as though he could have just racked up debt like the federal government — that’s not an option for the state.

For what it’s worth, New Jersey’s nonpartisan Office of Legislative Service projected a structural deficit of $10.5 billion for 2012, so you can see what’s happening here: Christie hasn’t really gotten rid of the “deficit,” he just addresses it every year. To deal with the issue on a more permanent basis would require changes in the state’s legislatively mandated service levels — which can be overridden when the budget is out of whack.

Christie earns two Pinocchios for blowing the Garden State’s balanced budgets out of proportion and for referring to all forms of revenue increases as tax hikes when the GOP presidential nominee he stood up to support on Tuesday doesn’t count them that way.







(Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
“I was chairman of the Budget Committee when we balanced the budget in ‘97. And I look with horror up at that clock that shows $15 trillion in the national debt.”

— Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Republican National Convention speech, Aug. 28, 2012

Kasich is following an example set by former GOP primary candidate and House Speaker Newt Gingrich in trying to claim a large share of the credit for the balanced budgets of the late 1990s — Gingrich earned Three Pinocchios for that move in a previous column.

It’s true that Kasich was chair of the House Budget Committee in 1997 and that Congress worked with the president to balance the federal budget that year. But economists generally agree that the balancing was due to a variety of factors, including the tax hikes of 1993, the entitlement reforms of 1996 and a booming economy that made the earlier tax hikes especially effective.

Kasich doesn’t mention that no Republicans voted for the tax increases that were included in the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993. Furthermore, President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, helped negotiate that legislation, along with the welfare reform package and the provisions that resulted in a balanced budget in 1997.

Beyond all that, two of the seven budgets Kasich helped craft as chair of the Budget Committee from January 1995 until January 2001 ended up running deficits, so the former congressman can’t claim to be so horrified by a growing national debt.

Kasich earns Three Pinocchios, same as Gingrich.






(J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
“Boeing started a new line for the 787 Dreamliner, creating a thousand new jobs in South Carolina, giving our state a shot in the arm when we truly needed it. At the same time, they expanded their job numbers in Washington state by 2,000. Not a single person was hurt by their decision, not one.

“And what did Obama and his National Labor Relations Board do? They sued this iconic American company. It was shameful and not worthy of the promise of America.”

— South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, Republican National Convention speech, Aug. 28, 2012

Haley brought up the Boeing issue to support her argument that Obama has done “everything he can to stand in your way” of success. She was referring to a lawsuit the National Labor Relations Board filed in 2011 to force the airline manufacturer to bring a new South Carolina-based production line back to a unionized plant in Washington state.

We wrote about his issue as part of a column that dinged Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) for statements she made about the president’s policies hindering economic growth.

To review, Boeing announced plans in 2007 to create a second production facility in Washington state to address a growing backlog of orders. But the company changed its mind in 2009, choosing instead to meet its increased demand by opening a new non-union plant in South Carolina.

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers accused Boeing of opening the Carolina plant to punish the union for a 58-day strike in 2008. This in turn prompted the labor-relations board to file a complaint that could have forced the company to bring the new work back to Washington.

Boeing said during the dispute that the South Carolina expansion did not cost any jobs in Washington. In fact, the airplane manufacturer said it added 2,000 new positions in the Evergreen State after the company announced its Carolina plans.

SEC filings seem to support Boeing’s claim, showing that union membership within the company increased one percentage point as the airplane manufacturer added 3,400 jobs between December 2009 and December 2010. This supports the gist of Haley’s comment about the Carolina expansion proving harmless to union employees, but the governor goes too far in saying “not a single person, not one” was affected by the move.

The NLRB dropped its controversial case after Boeing agreed to a generous contract extension for its unionized workers in Washington, perhaps because the lawsuit drew so much criticism. We noted in our last column about this issue that the Obama administration showed a willingness to compromise with public pressure mounting, contradicting the notion that the president will stop at nothing to supposedly hinder success.

Haley earns one Pinocchio for her remarks about Boeing.

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    About the Blogger

    Glenn Kessler has covered foreign policy, economic policy, the White House, Congress, politics, airline safety and Wall Street.

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