A new report released yesterday by New Jersey Policy Perspective (NJPP), a liberal Trenton think-tank says the Garden State is moving in the wrong direction because public sector job losses are hurting the economy.

Senator Frank Lautenberg
Kevin McArdle, Townsquare Media

Long a thorn in Chris Christie's side, U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg is using the study to take well-aimed political potshots at the Governor.

The study contends that if not for the loss of public-sector jobs, New Jersey's 2011 unemployment rate would be more than a full percentage point lower -- 8 percent instead of 9.3 percent and that rate would be even lower when accounting for the effect of public-sector job loss on private-sector employment.

"New Jersey's agonizingly slow recovery from the Great Recession turns out to be as much a product of deep cuts in public-sector jobs as it is the snail's pace of private-sector job creation, but New Jersey is in no financial condition to reverse this trend on its own," says NJPP president Gordon MacInnes. "This report argues strongly for a federal response to restore both public services and jobs. This can be done by insuring that federal aid is matched by New Jersey's assurance that jobs are tied to incentives to create more efficient government services at the state and local levels."

NJPP's report says that since the recession began in 2007, 20,800 public sector jobs have been lost through layoffs and attrition. It goes on the state that another method for measuring the full impact of the recession is to compare actual jobs with the number of jobs that would have been created had the recession not it. Using that math the study says based on normal growth between 2000 and the start of the recession New Jersey would have created an additional 40,400 jobs meaning the "potential" loss of public sector jobs since the recession was 61,200 through 2011. That means the drop in the 2011 unemployment rate the study cites is based on over 40,000 jobs that never really existed.

"This is shocking," says Lautenberg. "Governor Christie's attacks to public workers have caused a whole percentage point to our unemployment rate."

Michael Drewniak, Christie's spokesman says, "This is partisan blather, based on a stunningly unrealistic worldview that all things can be solved by bloated, ever-expanding state and local government and all the costs that come with it. Governor Christie is proud of his record in reining in New Jersey's out-of-control government spending and his policies to put the state on a sustainable fiscal path leading in the long term to a healthier and more pro-growth economic climate for New Jersey."

The report lays out three key recommendations on how to create a more holistic economic development strategy that includes both the private and public sectors.

Specifically, NJPP recommends that: The federal government provide targeted financial assistance to state and local governments that meet specific criteria promoting efficiency in public services; The state take employment effects into account when considering and proposing budget cuts; and The Governor and the legislature pursue joint public-private investment strategies.

What was to be a Lautenberg-led press conference explaining the study quickly turned into an anti-Christie rally in a room packed with public workers. New Jersey's senior U.S. Senator seemed to fully understand that he had the crowd on his side as he launched into an almost 7-minute tirade against Christie.

"Not only are Chris Christie's policies putting our communities in danger and undermining public education, but he's also undermining New Jersey's economy," says Lautenberg. "He's attacking teachers, police officers, firefighters. What's the purpose?"

Drewniak explains, "As to NJPP and their truly specious correlation between crime and necessary budget cuts: Uniform Crime Report statistics show that the total crime index averaged 221,562 for 2006-2009. Compare that figure to 2010, and it shows the average at 210,817, down 5 percent. Similarly, if you take the UCR violent crime stats average for the four years prior to the Governor taking office, the average is 28,615 compared to the 2010 figure of 27,174, also down 5 percent."

NJPP says, "We made no correlation at all in the study between crime and budget cuts. That was a correlation made solely by labor officials at the event yesterday and it appears nowhere in our report."

To wild applause, Lautenberg said to the union-dominated throng, "I say if the Governor wants to fire a public worker, he ought to start by firing himself."

"Anyone who's not sleep walking can see that this is a partisan study, full of dubious conclusions supported by specious rationales and if they wanted to give it credibility, they blew that big time by carting out an angry partisan like Frank Lautenberg to support its findings," says Drewniak. "I mean, can we please remove the phrase "non-partisan" from the New Jersey Policy Perspective press releases and website? It's a joke."

"Public-sector workers are essential to our economy and our communities, and the NJPP report lays out a blueprint for how to put people back to work and strengthen the middle-class," says Lautenberg. "We will continue working with President Obama to pass the American Jobs Act and put more teachers, cops, and firefighters on the job in New Jersey."

Lautenberg also used the event to jab Christie about his frequent out-of-state campaigning. He said people think, "Teachers don't count so much. Well, who says that? It's the gallivanting Governor. Because things are going so well here, what the hell does he have to hang around here for?"

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