TRENTON — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Democrats who control the Legislature announced a deal Thursday capping contract arbitration awards for police and firefighters at 2 percent, a move many view as needed to help municipalities control costs and stem the rate of property tax increases.
Christie and legislative leaders of both parties stood together to announce the agreement shortly before Senate and Assembly committees were to take up their own arbitration reform plan. It was a display of bipartisanship not often seen at the Statehouse in recent months.
The two sides had been trying to strike a deal that reins in arbitration awards and makes the process fairer to towns and cities that soon will be forced to cap spending increases at 2 percent a year.
“This has been the product of an extraordinary amount of hard work and conversation not just over the past couple of weeks but really over the past couple of months,” Christie said.
The agreement caps salary awards, including longevity pay and automatic step increases, for police and firefighters whose unions engage arbitrators to settle contract disputes.
It also fast-tracks the arbitration process so cases are settled within 45 days instead of dragging on for months or years, and caps the amount arbitrators can charge at $7,500 per case.
Pension and health care costs are not included in the cap.