As reported by on February 4, 2011, the effort to reform the State of New Jersey’s civil service system stalled as Governor Chris Christie conditionally vetoed a bill to overhaul the system and Democratic legislative leaders declared they will not agree to his proposed changes. 

Christie called the Democrats’ bill “tepid, ineffective and meaningless” and said it would not save property taxpayers’ money. “The Legislature has sent me special interest approved ‘reform’ that will do nothing to constrain property taxes,” said Christie in his veto message. “The time for real reform of civil service is overdue.”

The Governor proposed allowing the State’s 193 towns in the Civil Service system, rules that govern the hiring, promotion and firing of employees, to opt out of it through voter referendum. Democrats had balked at this, saying it would open the door to more political cronyism and nepotism. 

Senate President Stephen Sweeney said he was willing to compromise with the Governor after they passed the bill, but Christie “didn’t want to give an inch.” Sweeney said he will not put Christie’s conditional veto up for a vote in the Senate, and will not start from scratch on another civil service reform bill. “I’m not going to beg the governor to try to find reform. We’re equal branches of government,” he said. “This was the first time the governor was not willing to compromise on something. What he’s going to find out is when there’s no compromise, there’s no legislation.”

Changing the State’s Civil Service system is the biggest remaining piece of Christie’s proposed “tool kit” to help towns curtail property taxes. Starting this year, towns face a 2 percent limit on property tax increases. In addition to the 193 towns, most state workers and 20 of the State’s 21 counties are in the Civil Service system.

The Democrats said their bill was “real reform” because it allowed local leaders to move employees between departments and set up a task force to reduce the number of employee titles and give towns more flexibility in assigning work duties. In his veto, Christie struck language about creating the task force on civil service titles, saying it would add an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy.