As reported by nj.com, the state’s highest ranking government officials will not be getting a raise any time soon. Republican legislative leaders and Governor Chris Christie’s office announced they would withhold appointments to a seven-member commission that meets every four years to set salaries for a broad range of officials from the governor on down. The move by the governor, Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean, Jr., and Assembly Minority Leader Alex DeCroce deprives the panel, known as the Public Officers Salary Review Commission, of the quorum it needs to function.
A spokesman for the governor, Michael Drewniak, said the officials, including the governor, lawmakers, cabinet officials, state Superior Court judges, state Supreme Court justices, and several other positions, will have to wait at least four more years for a raise. Senate President Stephen Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver withdrew their appointments to the panel as well. Winnie Comfort, a spokeswoman for the state judiciary, said Chief Justice Stuart Rabner made an appointment to the panel, but there was no need to withdraw it.
New Jersey lawmakers earn $49,000 a year with the exception of the Senate President and Assembly Speaker who make $65,333. Lawmakers last received a raise in 2002, when their salaries rose from $35,000 to $49,000, according to the librarian of the Office of Legislative Services, Peter Mazzei. Cabinet officials, who earn $141,000, also got their last raise in 2002. Judicial salaries, which range from $165,000 for Superior Court trial judges to $192,795 for the Supreme Court Chief Justice, last went up in 2009.
The lack of a salary increase means high-level state employees will not be able to offset an increase in the cost of benefits, which takes effect October 14. The increase, recently approved by the Legislature and signed into law by Christie, has the highest-paid workers contributing as much as 30 percent of their health benefit premiums.
In July, state Superior Court Judge Paul DePascale filed a lawsuit against the controversial overhaul of pension and health benefits, contending it unconstitutionally “diminishes” judges’ salaries. A group of state employees who filed a separate lawsuit against the new law hopes to combine the two legal actions.