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Bills pending in both houses of the Legislature would create a separate and enhanced pension plan for administrative law judges. The measures would offer retirement benefits similar to those of Superior Court, Appellate Division and Tax Court judges and Supreme Court justices – that is, 75 percent of the maximum salary earned during the last three years of service. ALJs, as executive branch employees, are part of the Public Employees’ Retirement System. The proposed law would make them members of a new Administrative Law Judges Retirement System unless they give irrevocable notice otherwise. They would contribute 5 percent of their salaries, which range between $105,750 and $122,325 a year. The Assembly bill, A-2265, is sponsored by Neil Cohen, D-Union, and David Russo, R-Bergen. “There has been a disparity for some time” between pension benefits for ALJs and other judges, says Cohen, citing a 1999 law that created a separate pension system for workers’ compensation judges. He says that ALJs’ workloads have increased sharply since the system was created in 1978. “They now issue findings of fact and are making determinations of law,” Cohen adds. The law would require ALJs to serve at least 10 years to vest for their pensions, but they will be given credit for time spent in the PERS system, Cohen says. The identical Senate version, S-286, is sponsored by Nia Gill, D-Essex, and William Gormley, R-Atlantic. The bills have been referred to the Assembly and Senate state government committees. Neither has scheduled hearings. On March 11, Cohen also introduced a measure, A-2511, to raise judicial salaries, which were last increased in 1999. Superior Court and Tax Court judges would be boosted from their current $141,000 to $148,050 in 2004 and $155,453 in 2005. Appellate Division judge salaries would rise from $150,000 to $157,500 in 2004 and $165,375 in 2005. Supreme Court justices, who currently earn $158,500, would be paid $166,425 in 2004 and $174,746 in 2005. As a result, the salaries of workers’ compensation judges and ALJs would also be increased, since their pay scales are by statute a percentage of Superior Court judges’ salaries. The same would apply to salaries of surrogates, sheriffs, county clerks and registers of deeds. The bill was referred to the Assembly Judiciary Committee.

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