Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto is trying to coordinate negotiations around the Arbitration Renewal Bill, which would update the law surrounding pay increases for police officers and firefighters during arbitration. Gov. Chris Christie vetoed the bill and is now rallying for his version of it. He conditionally vetoed the bill that legislators set before him. Prieto told NJTV News Managing Editor Mike Schneider that he wants to have everyone sit down, including Christie, to negotiate the bill until a decision is reached that everyone can be happy with.
“I am looking to post a bill of something that is a fair compromise, that everybody has a seat at the table, and I have been looking to sit with all of the parties to negotiate something that works for everybody, keeping in mind the taxpayers and also acknowledging police and fire in what they do as first responders and put their life on the line every time they go out,” said Prieto.
Prieto said that he is open to suggestions and has asked everybody to be part of the solution and bring him ideas for a measure that everyone can live with. The previous law expired on April 1, so Prieto said that he is committed to putting something forward in a timely fashion.
He said that he wants to be able to give something back to police and firefighters because they are paying more into their health benefits and pensions. He said that he thinks the bill is something that is needed for the municipalities but also wants to show good faith to first responders.
“We have to acknowledge that this is not the same as every other job that is out there, so we want to be mindful of it. Instead of having rallies today, they should have been here with me talking and discussing and bringing ideas of what could be done,” said Prieto.
Prieto said that he put a bill forward to Christie and anything can be negotiated from that point. He said there is already the blueprint of what was proposed and there are items that could be talked about and negotiated.
Prieto said that one of the items that he has been looking at is health benefits because at least a portion of those health benefits should be able to be outside the cap. He said that he is not singling anything out because he is wide open to make sure that this happens.
“This bill will get done as long as we negotiate it in a fair way. I would say that Sen. [Mike] Doherty, he was one of the sponsors of the bill so obviously it needs to be negotiated. He was good with the bill we sent to Christie. So at the end of the day, I am not making them choose to be able to cut services. Right now there is a time frame to get this done in within that time frame that it doesn’t hurt anybody at this point in time. I am here waiting to work with everybody to get this done and to work it out with Christie,” said Prieto.