As reported in the Star Ledger on October 26, 2010, Governor Chris Christie joined with the Democratic Essex County Executive, Joe DiVincenzo, to stop a legislative effort to water down his proposal to cap public employee raises.

Democratic lawmakers were trying to pass a bill that would have allowed exceptions to Christie’s proposal for a so-called “hard cap” on salary increases in public worker contracts. The bill, introduced last week, was not only opposed by Christie, but DiVincenzo and some mayors as well. The Assembly had been scheduled to vote on the bill, but the bill was forced to be tabled after a determination that key support from Democratic members was lost. Therefore, an announcement was made that the bill was being shelved after a frenzied week of lobbying by DiVincenzo and others aligned with the Governor.

Speaker Sheila Oliver and Senate President Stephen Sweeney summoned reporters to a news conference last Thursday to announce their proposal to reform the rules governing salary arbitration for public worker unions. In short, arbitration is a process that allows an “independent referee” to decide salaries when government entities cannot work out their differences with labor unions like those that represent police and firefighters.

The Oliver-Sweeney bill called for arbitrators to, among other things, take into account new statutory caps on property tax hikes and the economic climate of the region. However, it did not include a “hard cap” on pay raises which Christie and DiVincenzo are pushing.

Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak repeated the governor’s support for a tough salary cap and issued another call for the Legislature to pass the tax-control measures proposed by Christie as part of his “tool kit” agenda. “A hard cap would bring meaningful collective bargaining reform and is essential to finally control property taxes for every New Jersey homeowner,” Drewniak said. “Gov. Christie urges the Legislature to fulfill the commitment it made when it passed the 2 percent property tax cap and enact real arbitration reform and the other necessary tool kit bills without further delay.”