Sponsors a critical bill before he reads it
Legislature in poised to pass a “cap” that doesn’t control costs
State Senator Mike Doherty (R-Warren) told MMM that he hadn’t read a bill of which is he is a primary sponsor, the day after it cleared the Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism and Historic Preservation Committee.
We’re not talking about an insignificant bill like designating “I’m from New Jersey” as the State Song, or the establishment of special license plates for honorably discharged veterans, two other bills that Doherty sponsored.
We’re talking about the extension of the 2% cap on arbitration awards for police and firefighters unions, the provision of the 2010 reform legislation that slowed the growth in New Jersey’s property taxes and made the 2% cap on those taxes work.
Doherty joined Senate President Sweeney in sponsoring legislation that exempts contracts that have already been subject to the cap from being subject to it again when they are up for renewal and raises the cap to 3% on contracts that have not yet been subject to renegotiation.
Doherty said, “I don’t see what the big deal is, the original bill had one bite at the apple, this bill extends that. Is it a perfect bill? No, but this is the way Trenton works. A bill that passes is better than no bill.”
Not really, Senator. A bill that passes the same as no bill, except it deceives the public into thinking the legislature is continuing fiscal reforms when they are actually engineering massive chaos in municipal governments.
Doherty said he hadn’t read the bill when we questioned him on specifics. He said he was relying on analysis of the bill from Republican legislative staffers and referred questions to Republican Senators Steven Oroho and Sam Thompson, members of the committee that unanimously cleared the bill.
It is also apparent that the Republican State Senators who are on record supporting the Interest Arbitration give back, Doherty, Oroho and Thompson, did not read the the Final Report of the Police and Fire Public Interest Arbitration Impact Task Force dated March 19, 2014. If they had, they would have realized that the bill Sweeney and Doherty sponsored in the Senate and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto and Majority Leader Lou Greenwald sponsored in the Assembly gives labor everything they asked for without taking into consideration the concerns and recommendations raised by Governor Christie’s appointees to the Task Force.
That’s the way Trenton works, as Doherty said. Labor writes a bill and the legislature passes it. It’s no wonder New Jersey is in such a fiscal mess.
The Interest Arbitration Bill that Doherty is a primary sponsor of and that is scheduled to be voted on in the Senate and Assembly today will blow a hole in the 2% property tax cap that has halted the growth of property taxes in New Jersey since 2011, if it becomes law.
Public safety contracts are the largest cost of most municipal governments. Property taxes are the primary source of revenue for municipal governments. In 2010 the legislature and the Governor enacted a 2% property tax cap and capped arbitration awards on police and firefighter contracts at 2%. The arbitration cap expires on April 1.
The Sweeney-Doherty bill would eliminate any cap on arbitration awards for the vast majority of police and firefighter contracts through 2017 and raise the cap to 3% on contracts that have not been negotiated since January of 2011. The math can’t work without reductions in forces and/or cuts elsewhere in municipal government.
People will die because younger police officers will be laid off in favor of older, more expensive, police officers. That’s what happened in Newark that lead to the city’s spike in gun violence. Forget about combating the heroin epidemic with local police officers. Municipalities will stop collecting garbage, leaving residents to hire their own garbage contractors. Municipal government offices will open only 3 or 4 days per week. Property taxes will continue to rise 2% per year, with a reduction in services. That’s how the math will work.
At his Town Hall Meeting in Keansburg last week, Sweeney told MMM that he wanted to use the Interest Arbitration bill to encourage municipalities to “consolidate, and if not consolidation, to share more services.” The bill before the Senate and Assembly today will accomplish that. However, the bill is not called “The Consolidation and Shared Services Act.” It is called a bill that “Revises certain laws governing police and fire interest arbitration; extends two-percent cap on base salary awards.”
But it doesn’t extend the 2% cap on base salary awards. It eliminates the cap for most and raises it, once, to 3% for those he didn’t get their 2% raise yet.
Consolidation of municipalities and/or increased shared services may well be a worthy goal. In theory it is great. However, Sweeney is accomplishing the goal in a deceitful and backhanded manner with no planning. Most of the legislature, including Doherty, Oroho and Thompson are unwittingly going along with it, thinking they are extending a reform with minor adjustments. Most of the legislature has been duped. New Jersey residents are being duped again.
Just like ObamaCare, that Democrats in Washington voted for before they knew what was in it, Trenton Democrats and some unwitting negligent Republicans will vote on a bill today that will drastically alter New Jersey, if it becomes law.
We can only hope that Governor Christie has some magic left to negotiate a sensible extension of the Interest Arbitration Cap. It will take magic, because the cap expires next Tuesday without this new bill. If Christie vetoes the bill, the Interest Arbitration Award Cap is gone entirely. Either way, barring magic or transformational leadership on Christie’s part, municipal governments are headed towards chaos.