N.J. Assembly OKs restoring 2 percent cap on raises for N.J. police, firefighters

The New Jersey Assembly has approved restoring a cap on pay increases for local police and firefighters.

Despite outcries from mayors and Gov. Chris Christie, the cap that prevented police and fire contract arbitration awards from growing more than 2 percent a year expired at the end of March.

Fire and police costs are the biggest chunk of municipal budgets, said Bill Dressel, executive director of the New Jersey League of Municipalities.

“If you control the increases, then you’re going to be getting a greater control of your property tax increases,” Dressel said. “And I think that is a significant reform initiative that will be preserved.”

The new measure reinstates the cap at 2 percent through 2017, but allows the awards to be compounded each year, said Assembly Speaker Vinnie Prieto, D-Hudson.

“In my eyes probably, it’s not enough. I wish I would have been able to get them more,” he said. “But, at the end of the day, getting them something was the goal, to be able to say, listen we know what you do, we care about you, and it’s important for us to get you something.”

The measure also extends how long an arbitrator has to make a decision andfor appealing that ruling.

Prieto says restoring the cap will help towns rein in growing property tax bills.

The Senate is expected to approve the compromise legislation later this week.

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