As reported by various media outlets, Governor Chris Christie announced a 33-bill legislative package on May 10, 2010 that plans to place stricter limits on property tax increases and a put a permanent 2.5 percent limit on annual raises for public workers.
Christie also discussed several potential reforms, including raising the retirement age to 65 from 62; having public employees pay more toward their pensions and allowing towns to discard some civil service rules.
Union leaders have criticized many of the proposals, doubting that they will save much money. They also fear that allowing towns to opt-out of civil service will open the system to more hiring decisions based on patronage.
The proposed legislation includes: (1) a constitutional 2.5 percent cap on the annual increases in municipal, school, and county property tax levies; (2) a 2.5 percent limit on the annual increases of public employee contracts, including wages, health benefits, vacation time, and other perks; (3) limiting the amount of unused sick time that current employees can cash out at $15,000; and (4) allowing towns to opt-out of the civil service system through an ordinance or a petition by 15 percent of the voters.
These new legislative proposals have the potential to impact every public employee in the State of New Jersey. Specifically, the proposal regarding the 2.5 percent limit on the annual increases of public employee contracts, which would affect all public employees, seems to usurp the purpose behind the collective bargaining process and the concept of organized labor. As such, this legislation must be followed closely by all New Jersey Public Safety Officers. Please continue to check this blog periodically to ascertain updates regarding this legislation and its ultimate progression.