Change to let Christie write book in office won’t get vote

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — A book deal for Republican Gov. Chris Christie will have to wait.

Lawmakers on Monday said they won’t vote on a measure that would have given millions of dollars in pay raises to state officials and increased money for legislative staffers while eliminating a rule that Christie can’t profit from a book while in office.

The measure will “not be reconsidered” in the state Assembly, a spokesman for Democratic Speaker Vincent Prieto said.

The Assembly also postponed a vote on a measure that would have allowed state and local government agencies to post legal notices on their own websites and no longer required them to publish the notices in newspapers.

The measure was fought by the state’s newspapers, and one Christie opponent said the bill was “revenge” by the governor against the newspapers that have critically covered his seven years in office.

Democratic state Sen. Richard Codey said there weren’t enough votes for either measure in the Senate and they wouldn’t come up for a vote on Monday. Democratic Senate President Steve Sweeney didn’t immediately return a message seeking comment.

Legislative budget forecasters said the book deal bill carries a more than $10 million annual price tag for 2018 and beyond.

The bill’s opponents deride it as the worst of New Jersey politics: a tit-for-tat in which the governor gets to profit from the proceeds of a book in his final year in office while lawmakers boost their staffers’ pay. Judges and prosecutors, whom Christie appoints, also would get pay increases as would a number of county officials.

Candidates for governor criticized the deal. Phil Murphy, a former Goldman Sachs executive and Democratic gubernatorial candidate, said Christie is seeking to “profit off his service.”

The legislation would have changed an ethics law barring the governor from drawing income beyond his $175,000-per-year salary and permitted him to profit from book sales. There are no apparent additional costs to taxpayers for allowing a sitting governor to profit from a book deal, but some lawmakers have argued it’s wrong to let the governor profit while on the taxpayers’ time.

Christie, who is term-limited, hasn’t announced any details about a possible book. His term ends in January 2018.

The legislation also would have increased by $30,000 to $140,000 appropriations for each of the state’s 120 lawmakers to spend on staff. It would have allowed the governor to pay Cabinet officials a maximum of $175,000, up from $141,000.

Judges would have gotten 3 percent raises in 2017 and 2018. Their salaries would then 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 small fraction of the state’s nearly $35 billion budget but come after Christie and lawmakers enacted an unpopular gas tax increase.

Supporters say staff, judges and other officials haven’t had raises in years, in some cases since 2002.