Gov. Chris Christie defended a now-defeated plan to raise salaries for judges, as well as other government officials, saying New Jersey’s efforts to attract quality candidates for key posts will suffer without a pay hike.

Christie said judges’ take-home pay today is lower than it was than in 2003 because of increases in what they pay toward their pensions and health benefits. Those reduces the $165,000 base salary to less than $140,000, he said.

“The idea somehow that judges are overpaid is ridiculous,” Christie said.

Christie said starting salaries for lawyers in the New Jersey area is $195,000 for a first-year associate.

“You don’t want judges out there, lawyers becomes judges who think that getting $140,000 a year is a raise,” Christie said. “If you can’t make $140,000 as a lawyer with the experience to actually be on the bench, you’re not that good a lawyer.”

The proposal scuttled in the Legislature Monday would have raised judges’ salaries 3 percent in 2017, 3 percent in 2018 and to keep pace with inflation going forward.

“You want to appear before stupid judges? Then don’t raise their pay anymore. Because the people you will get in the main applying for these jobs will be people who see it as a step up in pay for them,” said Christie.

The raises for judges would have raised pay for around 85 county officials and more than 100 administrative law and workers’ compensation judges, whose pay is tied to what a Superior Court judge is paid.

Christie also defended what he said would have been the first raise for Cabinet officers in 40 years, from $141,000 to as much as $175,000. He said people turned him down for positions when he was creating his administration seven years ago, citing the salary.

“If you want to attract a top-notch treasurer and keep them for a long period of time, you’re not going to do it for $141,000 unless they’re independently wealthy.”

Christie said he had committed not to raise his Cabinet members’ salaries.

The bill also would have allowed Christie to profit from writing a book while governor. That would require a change in state ethics law that he said was put in place in 2008. Christie suggested that Gov. Jon Corzine signed a law barring outside earned income but allowing passive income because his income at that time came from investments.

“As for me, it’s fine. I’ll write a book in a year. I’m out of office in 391 days,” Christie said.

“Obviously the haters out there made it personal about me, not only haters in the Legislature but haters on this radio station,” he said. “That’s OK. That’s fine.”

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

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