Budget committee breaks for more talks on arbitration

The Assembly Budget Committee broke for recess about 2:30 p.m. as the final bill on the schedule had not yet been hammered out.

Committee members were still trying to come to an agreement on the arbitration reform bill due to be heard by the committee this morning.  The hearing was delayed more than three hours as Committee Chairman Lou Greenwald (D-Vorhees) and Declan O’Scanlon (R-Little Silver) debated the bill.

The sticking point on the bill, one of the tool-kit measures pushed by the governor, is a cap on arbitrators’ awards, which Republicans say is necessary to allow municipalities to stay under the 2% cap on tax levies imposed by the legislature this summer.

“What we end up with has to make mathematical sense,” O’Scanlon said after the committee broke to continue negotiations.  “As much as some legislators might not agree, we don’t have the power legislatively to alter the rules of mathematics.”

O’Scanlon said without a cap on arbitrator awards, a municipal government could be forced to live with an award that far exceeds the cap, making it difficult if not impossible to remain under.

According to the Republican, the bill they are presenting mandates an absolute cap of 2% but the GOP is willing to deal, he said.

Gov. Chris Christie, who this morning hammered at legislators as he has for several weeks over what he called foot dragging on the tool kit bills, will “absolutely not ” sign the bill proposed by Greenwald, O’Scanlon said, paving the way for another veto battle if a compromise is not found.

Assemblyman Joe Malone (R- Long Branch) bristled at the further delay, saying Greenwald should have removed the bill from the schedule while the negotiations played out.

“We’re holding these people hostage here all day,” he said.  “If this wasn’t settled and they knew it wasn’t settled it should have been removed.”

Throughout the committee hearing, Greenwald has pointed to the arbitration bill as a key tax saving measure and scoffed at other measures that will save municipalities far less money.