Christie's newspaper and book bills fail to come up to vote

Legislation that would increase lawmakers' staff salaries, judges and other officials while permitting Republican Gov. Chris Christie to profit from a book deal could cost taxpayers about $7.5 million in 2017. The move effectively killed that legislation.

"Unfettered open debate among my caucus has been a priority for me as Assembly Speaker".

The bill, which opponents claim would limit government transparency, is set for a vote Monday in the state Assembly and Senate. The state's county prosecutors, whom Christie appoints, also would get pay increases, from $165,000, to as much as $175,000 by 2018.

A second bill that would have lifted a requirement for New Jersey businesses and local governments to purchase advertisements in newspapers also reached an impasse during Monday's sessions.

George White, executive director of the New Jersey Press Association expressed relief and gratitude that lawmakers will take more time to consider the impact of the newspaper ad legislation. There has been no indication from Christie that he is even planning to publish a book.

Current state law prohibits New Jersey's governor from accepting any compensation beyond his state salary.

The governor's "lack of popularity among members made that discussion probably more hard than it otherwise would be", said Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D., Gloucester), a sponsor of the bill to grant the raises and change the law to allow Christie to profit from a book. The bill would have allowed the governor and cabinet members to now make money from a book deal.

The bills' detractors say the quick pace and timing of the votes just before the holidays is a sign that a deal had been cut between the Democrat-led Legislature and Republican governor.

Legislative budget forecasters say the bill carries a price tag of at least $10.6 million for 2018 and beyond. However, they argue that it's been over a decade since legislative staffers received pay raises, and that judges and cabinet members' salaries have also remained unchanged, since 2005 and 2007, respectively.

The book deal part of the bill appears to carry no cost to taxpayers.

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