Over the past week my office has been inundated with calls and emails regarding several bills posted for today’s voting session. The public outrage regarding these bills stems from a combination of personal disdain for our Governor and intentional misinformation to the public by the press.
Although I will not be voting in favor of every bill posted today, I would like to at least provide a balanced view on what these bills do.
First, LEGISLATORS are not receiving raises. It is unconscionable that the press would allow the public to believe this untruth.
As a member of the legislature, I make $49,000 a year with no health benefits and no pension. We receive no reimbursements for gas, tolls, out of pocket expenses, etc. There has been no discussion regarding raising our salaries. Today’s proposal permits legislative offices to receive an additional $30,000 per year solely to pay staff. We currently receive $110,000 for all salaries which enables me to employ one full time and two part time staffers all of whom make less than the average starting salary of a teacher, a police officer or a municipal employee. The bill also permits a raise for our judges, who are prohibited from being able to make any outside income due to ethical restrictions. To put into context the judges’ salaries, a judge in NJ is paid less than the average first year associate at a large law firm. If our State was on a stronger fiscal footing, I would have no issues voting in favor of this bill as the salaries should be increased.
Unfortunately, as a result of our current fiscal situation I will be voting No.
The next portion of that bill that has everyone screaming foul is to permit the Governor of our State (whomever it may be) to be able to write a book.
This is where the personal dislike of Governor Christie has made everyone insane. Our full time federal representatives are permitted to do exactly the same thing. Indeed, just this year, our own State Senator Cory Booker received a $400,000 advance to write his own memoir and not a single member of the press, not a single constituent objected. If we are going to object let us at least be consistent. I know this isn’t going to be a popular opinion but I have no issues with allowing a Governor to write a book (and I would feel the same way regardless of whether it was Governor Christie, Corzine, Florio, etc.).
But as it is tied to the bill providing raises above I will be voting No.
Finally, the legal notices bill. The press has done a tremendous job over the past several days painting a picture that this bill was “revenge” by the Governor against the press.
This may be the case, this may not be the case. I haven’t been able to find one person to substantiate the Press claims of revenge. Rather, I have found a curious lack of reporting on the fact that variations of this bill have been voted on and supported by Democrats and Republicans for at least the past ten years. Indeed I personally sponsored versions of this bill over the past four years and I have a good relationship with the press. This premise of this bill was always to save governmental entities (and in turn taxpayers) money….not to punish the press. Many other states have evaluated and/or passed similar proposals. I am amenable to providing our remaining newspapers additional time to catch up with the 21st century and find alternate means of generating revenue but I do believe that mandating printed legal advertisements is a costly antiquated way of maintaining “open government.”
I will be abstaining on this bill, not because I think it is a bad idea, but rather I would have preferred giving newspapers a meaningful window of time prior to the implementation of the legislation.