N.J. Assembly to vote on cap for police, firefighter raises

Posted: June 15, 2014

TRENTON - Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto said Friday that he had reached a deal with Gov. Christie to renew a cap on police and firefighter raises that expired in April.

The new bill, scheduled for a vote Monday in the Assembly, would extend the 2 percent cap on raises awarded in arbitration through 2017. It would be retroactive to April, when the cap expired.

"This is a key step toward finalizing an agreement on this important issue for both taxpayers and the police and firefighters who sacrifice so much to protect our safety," Prieto (D., Hudson) said in a statement late Friday.

"I've been in regular and productive discussion with the governor's office and am confident we've reached common ground on this bill that, above all, protects taxpayers," he said.

Christie's spokesmen did not respond to a request for comment.

Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R., Union) said: "This legislation is a key reform which helps local governments control costs and prevents property taxes from skyrocketing. Compromise is good government, and the speaker has shown leadership in resolving this issue."

Christie and others have said that the cap, signed into law in 2010, has helped slow property-tax growth because public safety workers' salaries take up a significant part of local budgets.

The Republican governor assailed Prieto and other Democrats for not renewing the law immediately, and local government officials warned that municipal budget costs would soon exceed revenues because a separate, permanent cap limits their ability to raise property taxes.

The Democrat-controlled Senate passed Christie's preferred version in March, but the Assembly, also controlled by Democrats, did not vote on that bill.

Instead, it passed a proposal that would allow for bigger raises in certain cases - for example, if towns realized savings through increased employee contributions to health benefits. The initial Assembly bill also would have exempted some unions from the cap.

Those provisions are no longer included. The new bill would, however, change the way the cap is calculated so that the awards are compounded annually for each year of the contract.

It also would give arbitrators more time to render decisions.


aseidman@phillynews.com

856-779-3846

@AndrewSeidman

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