As reported in the Newark Star Ledger, the New Jersey State Legislature is in the process of acting to renew the 2% Interest Arbitration Police and Fire Salary Cap. The State Assembly’s budget committee voted to approve bill (A3067), sponsored by Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson), that would temporarily extend an annual salary cap on interest arbitration awards. The Senate’s state government committee also approved its own version of the bill (S1869), sponsored by Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester). It is expected that the bills will move the Senate and Assembly Floors this week.

In 2010, as part of Governor Christie’s self professed "tool kit" which was supposedly aimed at slowing the growth of property taxes, the Legislature enacted a 2% salary cap on interest arbitration awards. The current version of the law is set to expire on April 1, 2014. Under the proposed Assembly bill, the 2% salary cap would be extended until 2017. That’s short of the permanent cap that Gov. Chris Christie and the state League of Municipalities have called for. But it is also against the wishes of police and fire unions, who had called for the cap to be scrapped altogether.It is our understanding that the Senate bill closely mirrors the Assembly version.

In a report issued last week, unsurprisingly, a state panel tasked with examining the law was split 4-4 on whether to renew the cap. The task force was made up of four police and fire union officials, three Christie administration officials and one Republican assemblyman.

In an interview, Prieto said the bill incorporates the task force’s few unanimous recommendations: Increasing maximum pay of arbitrators from $7,500 to $10,000, giving arbitrators more time to make a decision, and giving the Public Employment Relations Commission more time to consider appeals of arbitration decisions. However, the bill will also includes some concessions to the unions, to include enlarging the cap to 3% in certain circumstances, while also allowing some unions to bargain for raises in wages without any restrictions at all.

As always, we will keep you updated as these two bills move through the Assembly and Senate.