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New Jersey's General Assembly votes on toothless reforms today



October 25, 2010

So much for reform.

This afternoon, the New Jersey General Assembly will vote on Assembly Bill 3393, a measure that would make several changes to the process by which municipal governments and police and fire unions negotiate contracts. Among the changes in the bill is a new method for choosing an arbitrator, including new requirements for arbitrators and a new appeals process. Additionally, arbitrators will be required to consider the impact of their award amount on the governing authority, but there is nothing in the bill to require restrain the awards.

Although Assembly Bill 3393 is being called a "reform," it is a toothless reform at best.

New Jersey police officers and firefighters use arbitrators to settle disputes arising from their contracts. But over the years, the arbitration process has been abused. Over the past 30 years, the salaries of police officers and firefighters have risen faster than all others, according to the New Jersey League of Municipalities. These increases in salaries have been the primary driver of increased government costs, which have led to New Jersey's highest in the nation property taxes. Although New Jersey passed a historic 2% property tax cap earlier this year, those taxes will continue to rise unless the cost of government is brought under control. The only way to do that is to enact a cap on the arbitrators awards like the cap on property taxes.

Unfortunately, New Jersey's General Assembly seems more interested in protecting the union interests rather than the taxpayers interests. By moving toothless legislation, the General Assembly does not address the underlying problem of controlling the costs of government. What it does do is rob the effort to reform New Jersey of momentum, which is badly needed in Trenton given the unsustainable fiscal situation in the Garden State.

Hopefully, the State Senate will demonstrate that it has a better understanding of the problems facing New Jersey. Stay tuned...


 

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