Pay raises for the bench and other officials are a signature away now that both chambers of the New Jersey Legislature approved a measure boosting the salaries of the state’s justices, judges, cabinet officers and county prosecutors.
The Senate on Thursday voted 23-14 to approve the measure. Hours later, the Assembly passed the companion bill in a 45-23 vote. The votes were split along party lines, with Democrats voting in favor. The measure, in order to take effect, must be signed by Gov. Philip Murphy, a Democrat.
The bill, S-1229, sponsored by Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, would give judges $8,000 raises over the next three years, and then provide for raises based on changes in the Consumer Price Index.
The bill garnered support from the judiciary and the New Jersey State Bar Association.
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, Chief Justice Stuart Rabner pointed out to lawmakers in a previous letter supporting the measure.
The Legislature last considered a pay raise for judges in 2016. However, the measure was tied to a provision that would have allowed Republican Gov. Chris Christie, following his failed attempt to win his party’s nomination for the presidency, to profit from an autobiography. The measure, after significant public protest, made it through various legislative committees but 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.
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.
“We fully understand the economic realities our state faces,” Rabner wrote in his letter to lawmakers earlier this year. “At the same time, the fact remains that New Jersey judges have not received any pay increase at all for all of nine years.”
“This bill offers a responsible and fair way to both address the serious issues we face today and to set a sensible course for the future,” Rabner said.