There are nearly twice as many people making $100,000 or more per year in New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's administration than under his predecessor, according to an analysis by The Associated Press, which the governor's office disputed Monday.
The AP analysis found that while Christie, a Republican, is proposing laying off 1,300 state workers, he is spending nearly $2 million more on annual salaries than his predecessor, former Gov. Jon S. Corzine, a Democrat.
According to an Asbury Park Press online database of 2009 public payroll records, 18 people made $100,000 or more in 2009 under Corzine. According to payroll records posted on Christie's website on April 8, 34 people in his administration make six figures -- including the governor himself, who makes $175,000 by law.
Corzine's payroll was $7 million last year for 103 employees listed under the governor's office, according to the database.
Christie's payroll is $8.9 million for 117 people. That figure doesn't include Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, who makes $141,000 -- the same as all cabinet members because she also serves as the secretary of state.
Using Christie's figures and those from the Asbury Park Press, the average salary under Corzine was $67,961; the average under Christie is $76,068.
Christie spokesman Mike Drewniak disputed the difference in salaries, saying Corzine parked staff members in other departments to make it look as though there were fewer people on his payroll.
In a statement Monday night, Drewniak said the newspaper's database, which uses numbers provided by the state, didn't include a dozen Corzine employees who were listed under other agencies, including nine who made more than $100,000.
Drewniak said that the difference adds up to more than $1.1 million. He did not immediately provide the names of those employees.
"We have gone to great lengths to be open and transparent in all regards, including in the reporting of salary and personnel," Drewniak said in the statement.
Using Drewniak's figures, seven more staffers are making $100,000 than under Corzine, and $600,000 more per year is being spent on salaries.
Drewniak defended the Christie administration's staff salaries, saying the front office and press office also staff the lieutenant governor, a new position this year. Also, because Corzine was single, no staff was needed for a first lady. According to the governor's office, two people are assigned to work for first lady Mary Pat Christie; Cam Henderson, the director of protocol, makes $125,000 annually and Casey Girardi makes $65,000.
Corzine and his spokesman were in Asia on Monday and couldn't immediately be reached by telephone for comment.
Sen. Paul Sarlo, chair of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, said the salary findings were a concern.
"I've always maintained that as we go through this budget process we are going to make sure there is a shared sacrifice by all here," said Sarlo, a Democrat.
Facing a nearly $11 billion structural deficit, Christie has proposed a $29.3 billion budget that slashes education spending by $819 million, foregoes pension payments, cuts aid to cities and towns by $450 million and calls for a 2.5 percent local spending cap. He has pressured teachers to accept a one-year wage freeze and contribute 1.5 percent of their salaries toward health case costs.
Steve Lonegan, the more conservative Republican candidate Christie defeated in the GOP gubernatorial primary last June, said the governor was being hypocritical in asking towns, cities and teachers to tighten their belts while growing the size of the governor's office.
"The governor is telling local communities to tighten their belts while he is overspending," Lonegan said. "The governor needs to lead by example."
AP researcher Brooke Lansdale in New York contributed to this report.