By Lauren Wanko
On the steps of the Trenton War Memorial this morning, Gov. Chris Christie had a message for Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto.
“It’s time for the Assembly speaker and his leadership, all of whom voted for this bill, to stand up and reinforce our support as a government for taxpayers to our state,” Christie said.
Flanked by 120 mayors, county and state officials, Christie today pressured the Assembly speaker to post the governor’s version of the interest arbitration renewal bill. That legislation caps police and fire base salary awards at 2 percent — and the Senate’s already passed it. But the Assembly hasn’t even posted it for a vote, although it did approve a less stringent bill that caps
salaries at 3 percent.
Assembly Speaker Prieto in a statement says the governor’s rally is very unproductive and unfair to taxpayers who deserve better, adding, “It’s disappointing that the governor and local officials have chosen to hold rallies rather than sit down and negotiate with the Assembly to resolve this matter. I’ve asked the representatives of local officials to join me for discussions, but they have so far refused to offer any solutions.”
“There is a place for an interest arbitration cap and the leadership in the Assembly feels it needs to be fine tuned a bit and that’s what the intention is,” said Assemblyman John Burzichelli.
The governor says without the 2 percent cap, there will be significant service cuts throughout municipalities and counties because officials will have no other way to balance the budget. Professional Firefighters Association of New Jersey President Dominick Marino says the governor wants to dictate, not compromise.
“He’s putting fear into everybody and wants them to be fearful so they come back and do something. That’s not the way we operate. We compromise, we talk, we negotiate,” Marino said.
Marino says the 2 percent cap doesn’t give employees the ability to bargain in good faith and they should be able to negotiate fairly with their employers.
“And not have a hammer over our heads and say you can’t get anything more than this,” said Marino.
“The reality is when the fireman comes into your home during a fire and saves you, the idea they’re limited to a 2 percent raise and they have no opportunity for growth is something I think also taxpayers want to be aware of,” said Joe Cryan.
Mayors today say without the cap, residents will suffer.
“In Perth Amboy’s own case, if this cap is not extended, my heavily burden residents will cease to see continued reductions in their property tax levy,” said Perth Amboy Mayor Wilda Diaz.
“If you’re gonna put a 2 percent cap on the levy, which we should and which has worked over the course of the last three years, then you need to put a cap on those things that drive the levy the most and that is the expense of employees in the public sector,” Christie said.
Gov. Christie says if Assembly Speaker Prieto posts the bill, it will pass.