By David Cruz
It looked like another impasse in what is becoming the season of the impasse in Trenton. On one side, the hard-charging Republican governor, mobilizing supporters from town halls to the statehouse, calling for restoration of the two percent salary arbitration caps for cops and firefighters. On the other side, the new Assembly speaker – eager to be taken seriously as a negotiating partner. The result? Compromise.
“We did get something of a compromise and I think it’s a good day for both the taxpayers and both our first responders – police and fire – that we’re making sure that we’re taking care of them in giving something back to them,” said Asm. Vincent Prieto.
The two percent salary arbitration cap was part of the governor’s so-called toolkit for municipalities to help them curb local taxes, but the provision was killed by Prieto despite being renewed by the Senate. The compromise restores the caps, but allows any raises to be compounded over the length of a contract. It also gives all parties more time to come to an agreement before they go to an arbitrator. Lawmakers from both parties praised the deal.
“You’re talking about instead of 6 percent over three years, maybe 6.1 or 6.2 percent a year. It’s not a lot but it’s enough to have compromise between democrats and republicans and I think most municipalities and amyors are happy. You know, this is what Trenton should be about, working together to get it done,” said Asm. Jon Bramnick.
“It’s the right policy. It’s essential policy if we’re really going to claim to our constituents that we’re serious about helping them and their governments control their property taxes. It’s essential. You cannot have a tax cap without a commensurate cap on these salaries,” said Asm. Declan O’Scanlon.
Prieto took some heat from within his own party for allowing the debate to get to this point after the upper house had already agreed to renew the governor’s plan. It was important, says Prieto’s predecessor, for the new speaker to assert himself.
“I think it was very important to Speaker Prieto that the governor understand that there’s no “deal” that goes on in this building without the General Assembly being an equal partner at the table,” said Asw. Shiela Oliver.
“We’ve been partners during all this and as I said, it’s part of the negotiations. This is something that I wanted to make sure that our voice is heard and our concerns and we have. Moving forward, this is great for the state of New Jersey,” said Prieto.
The bill will head to the Senate next, where Prieto said he expected it to be put up for a vote on Thursday. One legislative crisis down and another – the state budget – still to go with just two weeks left in the fiscal year.