Preliminary report finds N.J. cap on police, fire salaries helps keep costs down

Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (Phil Gregory/WHYY)

Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (Phil Gregory/WHYY)

A New Jersey task force reports that a 2 percent cap on arbitration awards for police and firefighter salaries has helped reduce the rate of property tax increases. But at least one legislative leader is not quite convinced.

Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon, R-Monmouth, was appointed to the task force by Gov. Chris Christie  to help studying the impact of the cap that’s set to expire at year’s end.

It’s saved taxpayers more than half a billion dollars since 2011 by containing police and firefighter labor costs, O’Scanlon said.

“Every single municipal official and public worker looks to these contracts to inform all labor negotiations. So, it’s probably double or triple that number in absolute savings from this policy,” O’Scanlon said.

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And, he said, there’s no evidence the cap hurts towns’ ability to recruit qualified candidates for police and fire positions.

“The number of people applying for these jobs is up. The quality of the people applying for these jobs is up. Crime rates are down,” O’Scanlon said. “There is no collateral negative impact from this policy.”

The Policemen’s Benevolent Association has claimed the information is one-sided because it was released without support of the task force members appointed by the Democrat-controlled Legislature.

Assembly Speaker Vinnie Prieto, D-Hudson, said he wants to see a final report before deciding whether to schedule a vote to make the cap permanent.

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