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(TRENTON) – Property tax reform legislation Assembly Democrats Lou Greenwald, Joan Quigley, Upendra Chivukula and Elease Evans sponsored to revise the arbitration system for police and firefighter salaries was approved Monday by the Assembly.
The legislation (A-3393) – the makings of which were unveiled Nov. 23 by Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney (D-Gloucester/Cumberland/Salem) and Assembly Speaker Sheila Y. Oliver (D-Essex/Passaic) – was approved 74-1.
“This legislation is exactly what New Jersey has needed – reform that is both fair to taxpayers and the courageous police and firefighters who protect public safety,” said Greenwald (D-Camden). “When we began advancing this legislation, we wanted a reasonable approach that would help control property taxes but protect the rights of police and firefighters. This plan does exactly that to everyone’s benefit.”
“Our unwieldy arbitration system has led to questionable decisions that have helped drive up property taxes in our state and it’s time for it to change,” said Quigley (D-Hudson/Bergen). “This bill ensures that the interests of property taxpayers are finally protected while also ensuring a fair system for our the police and firefighters who protect our safety. It’s a sound approach that will benefit our state in the years to come.”
“This bill is a great step toward long-term property tax reform,” said Chivukula (D-Somerset/Middlesex). “It will bring relief to taxpayers while ensuring fairness for our brave police and firefighters. It’s a win-win for everyone.”
“This long-awaited reform is commonsense,” said Evans (D-Passaic/Bergen). “It will bring much-needed property tax relief while respecting the rights of police and firefighters who protect us daily. I look forward to it becoming law and benefiting our state.”
“New Jersey taxpayers want reform that controls property taxes while also respecting the hard-working police and firefighters who bravely keep us safe day after day,” Oliver said. “This agreement accomplishes those goals. That’s why we were able to build a strong and wide-ranging consensus around it.”
The legislation would, among other things:
· Impose an average 2 percent cap on salary increases for all police and firefighter arbitration awards from Jan. 1, 2011 to April 1, 2014 to allow the state to gauge its effectiveness.
· Only affect interest arbitration, not collective bargaining.
· Require pay for longevity, length of service, salary increments and other similar compensation to be included in the cap.
· Require all contracts that expire in the three-year window to adhere to the cap. This will prevent the purposeful stalling of contract negotiations.
· Cap arbitrator compensation at $1,000 per day and $7,500 per case.
· Increase ethical standards and training for interest arbitrators.
· Randomize the selection of interest arbitrators.
· Create a task force to examine the impact of interest arbitration reform and the effectiveness of the cap on restricting municipal spending. The governor will appoint four members and two members will be appointed by the Senate President and Assembly Speaker. The task force will provide recommendations no later than December 31, 2013.