New Jersey lawmakers took a forward Monday toward awarding the state’s justices, judges, cabinet officers and county prosecutors with salary increases.
The Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee on Monday voted 9-3 to recommend passage of the bill, S-1229, which 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.
Republican Sens. Dawn Addiego of Burlington County, Anthony Bucco of Morris County and Declan O’Scanlon Jr. of Monmouth County voted against the bill. Voting in favor were Committee Chairman Paul Sarlo and Vice Chairman Brian Stack, as well as fellow Democrats Nilsa Cruz-Perez, Sandra Cunningham, Patrick Diegnan Jr., Linda Greenstein, Teresa Ruiz and Troy Singleton. One other Republican, Sen. Samuel Thompson, voted yes, while another, Steven Oroho, did not vote.
The bill was moved without discussion. Appearing in favor of the measure, but not testifying, were representatives of the judiciary’s Office of Government Services, the New Jersey State Bar Association and labor unions. None appeared in opposition.
Committee members were provided a copy of a letter recently issued by Chief Justice Stuart Rabner, in which he 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.”
The bill 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.
To be enacted, it must be approved by the full Senate and the Assembly, where there is no companion legislation at present, and be signed by Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy,
Murphy’s office has thus far declined to comment on the measure, though Scutari has said he anticipates the governor’s approval.
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.”
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. 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.
David Gialanella contributed to this report.