Christie book deal could cost NJ taxpayers $10.6M a year
New Jersey 101.5 video
TRENTON — Legislation that would increase the salaries of lawmakers' staff, judges and other officials while permitting Gov. Chris Christie to profit from a book deal could cost taxpayers more than $7 million next year and more than $10 million in 2018 and later years.
The Office of Legislative Services published its estimate Friday. The legislation is on a fast track for Christie's desk, with final votes expected Monday in the Democrat-led Legislature. Lawmakers advanced the bill Thursday without first having the cost estimates.
The office estimates costs of $7.45 million this year and at least $10.6 million a year beyond that for county and state taxpayers.
The legislation changes a law barring the governor from drawing income beyond his $175,000 per year salary and permits him to profit from book sales. There are no apparent additional costs to taxpayers for allowing the governor to profit from a book deal while he's in office.
Christie, who is term-limited, hasn't announced any details about a possible book. His term ends in January 2018.
The legislation also includes an increase of $30,000 to $140,000 in appropriations for each of the state's 120 lawmakers to spend on staff. It also would allow the governor to pay Cabinet officials up to $175,000, up from $141,000.
Judges would get 3 percent raises in 2017 and 2018. Their salaries would be tied to the Consumer Price Index in 2019 and beyond, meaning future raises would be automatic. The legislation carries a cost for county taxpayers because the salaries of county officials like clerks, surrogates and sheriffs, are tied to judges' salaries.
The state's county prosecutors, whom Christie appoints, also would get pay increases, from $165,000, to as much as $175,000 by 2018.
The costs are a fraction of the state's nearly $35 billion budget, but come after Christie and lawmakers enacted an unpopular gas tax increase. That bill also included other tax cuts and a $2 billion infrastructure program.
Still, opponents of the book-and-salary legislation say the timing is bad after the pain of the 23-cent-per-gallon tax increase. They say it's a tit-for-tat deal between Democratic lawmakers and Christie.
Supporters say staff, judges and other officials haven't had raises in years, in some cases since 2002. They also say these issues have been discussed for years, and so it's not a surprise the legislation is moving quickly.
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