gavel and money Credit: RomanR/

New Jersey lawmakers took another step toward awarding the state’s justices, judges, cabinet officers and county prosecutors a raise.

The Assembly Appropriations Committee on March 22 voted 6-3 to approve A-3685, sponsored by Speaker Craig Coughlin, D-Middlesex. The three Republicans on the committee—Kevin Rooney of Passaic County, Harold Wirths of Sussex County and Samuel Thompson of Ocean County—voted against the bill.

Earlier this month the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee voted 9-3 to recommend passage of the bill’s sibling, S-1229.

The legislation would give members of the judiciary $8,000 raises over the next three years, and then provide for raises based on changes in the Consumer Price Index.

The legislation is moving largely without discussion and has powerful backing: S-1229 is sponsored by Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester; Budget and Appropriations Committee Chairman Paul Sarlo, D-Bergen; and Senate Judiciary Chairman Nicholas Scutari, D-Union.

In a recent statement, Sweeney said raising pay is “the right thing to do to attract the best and the brightest to key, public service positions” because those salaries have been “losing ground against the private sector, their counterparts in the federal judiciary and neighboring states.”

Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy’s office has thus far declined to comment on the measure.

In a letter to lawmakers earlier this year, Chief Justice Stuart Rabner wrote: “We fully understand the economic realities our state faces. At the same time, the fact remains that New Jersey judges have not received any pay increase at all for all of nine years.”

Rabner, in his letter, called the proposal “a responsible and fair way to both address the serious issues we face today and to set a sensible course for the future.” Judiciary salaries have not changed since 2009. And because of 2011 statutory changes in the amount judges have to pay into their pension and health benefits systems, judges are taking home less pay than they were years ago, Rabner also noted.

The Legislature last considered a pay raise for judges in 2016, but it was never put to a full vote in either the Assembly or Senate.

Currently, the chief justice of the Supreme Court is paid $192,795 a year. Associate justices are paid $185,482; Appellate Division judges, $175,534; assignment judges, $171,73; and trial judges and Tax Court judges, $165,000.

Also under the bill, the state’s 21 county prosecutors would receive the same pay as trial judges, and cabinet officers would see a salary increase from $141,000 to $175,000 a year.

David Gialanella contributed to this report.