The race is on.
We are two weeks away from the expiration of Governor Chris
Christie's infamous arbitration cap.
There is at least one bill on the table which would permanently
extend the cap.
Time will tell.
A cap on raises for police and firefighters — a temporary, but key
component in Governor Christie's 2 percent limit on property tax
increases — expires in two weeks and Republicans are looking for a
quick and permanent fix.
Democrats gave the salary cap near-unanimous support three years ago
but now are not saying if they would support keeping it.
In 2010, Christie signed a law that capped increases in tax rates at
2 percent; before that they had averaged nearly 8 percent a year.
He also signed a law that capped raises awarded to police and
firefighters in salary arbitration at 2 percent. But Democrats in
the Legislature fought to make that temporary; it expires April 1.
Police and firefighter contracts can be a significant share of a
municipal budget. Before the cap was in place, unions were often
given raises of around 4.5 percent. That figure is now 1.9 percent
after the cap, according to a report released Wednesday by a task
force that studied the law.
Assemblyman Declan O'Scanlon, R-Monmouth, proposed a bill Wednesday
to permanently extend the cap.
Because the cap on increasing the property tax levy does not have an
expiration date, the arbitration cap should be permanent as well,
"The math was then and is now the same," O'Scanlon said. "You can't
have a cap on a municipality's ability to generate revenue and not
have a commensurate cap on arbitration awards."
When the bill to put in temporary arbitration limits was passed in
2010, only one Democrat, Assemblyman Charles Mainor of Jersey City,
voted against it.
State Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, voted for the
temporary arbitration cap. His spokesman declined to comment
Wednesday on O'Scanlon's proposal.
Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto, D-Hudson, also voted for the
original arbitration cap. His office did not return calls for
comment. "How can you not have something like this in place when you
have a 2 percent cap on your tax levy?" said Fanwood Borough Mayor
Colleen Mahr, a Democrat. She said if the cap was not in place,
other services may need to be cut.