Sweeney & Oliver Introduce Plan To Cap Police & Firefighter Arbitration Awards

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TRENTON — Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Sheila Y. Oliver announced a plan to cap salary arbitration awards for police and firefighters at an average of two percent per year for at least the next three years.

Gov. Chris Christie had called for a two percent per year cap on raises awarded in arbitration as one of the components of his tool kit to reduce municipal property taxes. Under the Democrats’ proposal, arbitrators could award higher annual raises, as long as they did not exceed an average of two percent per year over the length of the contract.

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“What New Jersey taxpayers want and need is reform that both controls property taxes and treats fairly the brave men and women who protect our safety and our lives,” said Oliver (D-Essex/Passaic). “We’ve built a strong consensus around a responsible plan that will help taxpayers and protect the rights of police and firefighters. It’s now time for everyone to finally put the theatrics aside and join us in doing what’s best for New Jersey.”

The plan was endorsed by key mayors.

“For mayors, our concern has always been that arbitration must be narrowly tailored to the requirements of the new two-percent cap,” said Lambertville Mayor David DelVecchio, former president of the League of Municipalities and incoming president of the state Conference of Mayors. “This proposal will still allow arbitrators to be creative in how they decide cases, but require them to take local fiscal concerns into account and always work within the cap. It’s a good deal for local officials, public employees and, most importantly, property taxpayers.”

“If municipal officials are to be held to a 2 percent cap, then so should arbitrators,” said Buena Vista Mayor Chuck Chiarello. “Mayors and councils who already are trying to work their budgets within the constraints of the cap should not see their efforts blown-up by excessive arbitrator awards. This plan will help protect essential services — and essential employees — from being put on the chopping block, and that’s a good thing for property taxpayers.”

The legislation would:

  • Impose an average 2 percent cap on salary increases for all police and firefighter arbitration awards;
  • Sunset the cap in three years — the average length of police and firefighter contracts — 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 2 percent 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;
  • Change the process for selecting an arbitrator for interest arbitration to ensure a more varied and impartial group of arbitrators makes decisions;
  • Change the process by which judgments are appealed and speed up the timeframes under which arbitration must be resolved; and
  • Require arbitrators to meet stringent professional responsibility, impartiality and ethics guidelines.

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