Gov. Chris Christie said New Jersey police officers and firefighters remain are still very well-paid in explaining why the cap on the raises they can awarded by an arbitrator should be extended.

The 2 percent interest arbitration cap expires Dec. 31. Christie, and his appointees to a task force commissioned to study the issue, want it extended indefinitely. Union officials on the task force want its final report to include other ancillary data about first-responder compensation and property taxes.

“Our police officers are still the second-highest paid police officers in America, and our firefighters are the highest-paid firefighters in America, after the cap has been in place for five years,” Christie said New Jersey 101.5’s “Ask the Governor” Monday.

Christie slightly misstated the average salaries, saying they were around $98,000 for firefighters and $99,000 for police officers. The task force report said the averages were $99,674 for firefighters and $93,360 for police officers in 2016.

His larger point was the same, regardless.

“So do we really need them to have even bigger raises? It seems like a pretty good salary,” Christie said.

Last Monday, the task force met and deadlocked 4-4 on whether to release a report recommending lawmakers extend the arbitration cap. Days later, the panel’s Christie-appointed members released the report and supporting data anyway.

Christie said the data showing the arbitration cap had saved taxpayers $530 million in reduced police and firefighter salaries, part of an overall $2.9 billion impact from the 2 percent cap on property tax levies, had been in a report the task force’s union officials had for a week before the meeting.

He said Ed Donnelly, president of the New Jersey Firefighters Mutual Benevolent Association, conceded at the meeting he hadn’t read the report before recommending additions and voting against it.

“Let’s understand what this is: This is politics, man. This is bareknuckle, union politics where they want the ability to once again get unlimited raises on the backs of the taxpayers,” Christie said.

Donnelly, in an interview last week, called the report “a sham” and said information about the impact on property taxes of the additional money public workers, including police officers and firefighters, have been paying toward their health benefits. He said for some workers, that approaches $12,000 a year.

“We believe that we are not at an impasse. We believe that there is more work to be done. We’re willing to come back to the table to get that work done. And we believe that we have a time frame to do it in,” Donnelly said. “I really don’t see us as being unreasonable. I really don’t see us as trying to sabotage this.”

Donnelly said the report didn’t need to be issued more than three months before the due date.

“The deadline is Dec. 31, 2017. I don’t think we need to get anywhere near as close to that deadline, but we have two and a half months to work on this thing and we should have been allowed to gather every bit of information that’s going to give a complete and concise picture to a final report.”

New Jersey: Decoded cuts through the cruft and gets to what matters in New Jersey news and politics. Follow on Facebook and Twitter.

Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5 and the editor of New Jersey: Decoded. Follow @NJDecoded on Twitter and Facebook. Contact him at

More From New Jersey 101.5 FM