- Associated Press - Thursday, December 22, 2016

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Thursday that “haters” turned a legislative attempt to let him profit from a book while raising the pay of some state workers against him before what was a bipartisan agreement imploded in the Legislature.

Christie said on his monthly “Ask the Governor” radio show he’ll instead write a book after his term ends in a year.

Legislation on the pay raises and book deal and a separate measure to allow government agencies to stop publishing legal notices in the state’s newspapers did not come up for final votes Monday following intense backlash. Democratic legislative leaders said the pay raise measure won’t be reconsidered. But lawmakers said they’ll reconsider the newspaper measure in 2017.

While his office has put out a series of press releases arguing for the newspaper measure, Thursday’s radio show was the first time the Republican governor spoke publicly about it. And he didn’t hold back, attacking the corporate owners of most of the state’s newspapers as “special interests feeding like pigs at the government trough.”

“I mean no one reads this stuff and everyone can put this stuff on the internet now for free,” Christie said.

Newspapers and other opponents said the measure, which would allow government agencies to publish the notices on their own websites, amounted to Christie targeting the media over its coverage of him as a two-term governor, failed presidential candidate and adviser to Republican President-elect Donald Trump.

The New Jersey Press Association already publishes all of the legal notices published by the state’s newspapers online in a searchable statewide database. Christie’s office hasn’t answered whether Christie would require that the same thing happen if government agencies were allowed to publish the notices on their own.

Christie argued the measure had nothing to do with targeting the press and was instead a reform effort to fix a requirement that burdens taxpayers, whose money goes to local governments, which pay newspapers to run notices. Christie’s administration says the state’s newspapers make $80 million a year from the legal notices, including foreclosure notices that banks are required to publish. The state’s newspapers say government agencies spend $20 million, with 60 percent of that reimbursed by the private sector.

The pay raise-book deal 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.

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

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.

Christie noted that $140,000 is not a large salary for a judge in the New Jersey region and that the raises are needed to keep high quality jurists on the bench.

“You want to appear before stupid judges, then don’t raise their pay any more,” Christie said.


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