New Jersey lawmakers pass pay raises for themselves, the governor and other officials

New Jersey lawmakers on Monday passed legislation to boost their annual salaries from $49,000 to $82,000, along with raises for the governor and other top officials.

The Democrat-led Legislature approved the bill a day before a new session starts and when lawmakers take their oaths of office. If signed by Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy, the bill won’t go into effect until 2026, after Murphy leaves office and lawmakers face voters in the regular 2025 general election.

Lawmakers haven’t voted themselves a raise since 2002, and some argued that the 67% increase is needed to keep up with rising costs. They also said they sometimes had to dip into their own pockets to perform the duties the job requires.

“I’m sponsoring this legislation because it is necessary, not to give myself a pay raise,” said state Sen. Dick Codey, who’s retiring after the current session and won’t get the pay increase.

The measure advanced out of committee over strong objections from Republicans, who questioned the soundness of a pay raise.

“Raising salaries … is crazy,” said GOP Assembly member Brian Bergen during a recent committee hearing. “Making $82,000 a year is an absolute insult to the people you represent.”

Republican Assembly member Jay Webber said Monday during a debate on the floor that he wouldn’t accept the pay raise if he’s still in the Legislature if the measure is approved. Webber said he opposed the measure, in part, because constituents couldn’t vote themselves a pay raise if they wanted to.

The legislation also increases the governor’s salary from $175,000 to $210,000 annually and boosts the top rate for Cabinet and other top officials to $210,000 from $175,000 as well. It also boosts the amount lawmakers get specifically to pay their staff, from $135,000 to $150,000. Legislators, unlike in some other states, don’t get a per diem rate or car mileage reimbursements.

Democrats expanded their majority in last year’s legislative election, netting seven new seats. The new session that takes office Tuesday will have 52 Democrats and 28 Republicans in the Assembly. In the Senate, Democrats will hold a 25-15 seat edge over the GOP.

Just how much the measure would cost taxpayers wasn’t clear. A fiscal note, typically added to legislation that could increase the state budget, was listed as “not currently available” on the Legislature’s site.

New Jersey’s Legislature is considered part-time, meeting regularly from January to June and typically taking time off over the summer and in the lead-up to elections before returning for a lame duck session.

Voters had mixed views on the pay hike. Some thought it was fair, inline with their belief that all work should be adequately compensated.

“You should pay people for what they’re worth,” said Arthur K. Brown, 56, who was waiting at a bus stop Monday in Trenton. “If these people are working, you wan them to get better, I think give them money.”

Michael Ray, 71, a trumpet player who works at an audio-visual studio in Trenton, objected to the salary increase.

“I don’t think they need any more money,” he said. “I’m not for it. Everybody’s broke.”

Just a few blocks from the statehouse where the vote unfolded, Ray cast a glance toward the building and said he knows lawmakers typically wait till the last minute to pass a budget. “It’s a travesty,” he said.

Terrence Brown, 53, a janitor on his way to work and waiting at the same station as Arthur K. Brown — no relation — did not begrudge the legislators seeking a pay raise. Pay increases should be more widely given, he said.

“Everybody deserves a raise, not just them,” he said.

  • January 9, 2024
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