The longest-serving lawmaker in New Jersey history thinks it’s time for legislators to get their first pay raise in nearly 20 years.
Richard J. Codey (D-Roseland) suggested an increase during a closed-door meeting of Senate Democrats on Monday.
“I talked about the need eventually for a pay raise,” Codey told the New Jersey Globe. “I’m not saying do it now, but at some point, it’s time.”
Legislators have been paid $49,000 annually since 2002 when the Legislature approved a 40% increase from the previous $35,000-per-year salary during the 2001 lame-duck session.
“How many people go that long without a pay increase,” said Codey, a former governor who was first elected to the legislature in 1973.
Privately, legislators agree with Codey that their salary should be higher, but only some were willing to say they would support it personally, even legislators from safe districts.
Several senators said that Codey, who made his pitch during a Democratic caucus discussion on a controversial bill to raise limits on campaign contributions, was quickly rebuked for suggesting a raise, especially in an election year.
“He’s crazy,” one senator said. “We’re not going to do that.”
But Codey said none of his colleagues gave him a hard no.
“I wouldn’t say they shut it down,” Codey said. “It’s long overdue. At some point, we need to have a discussion about a full-time legislature.”
Adjusted to inflation, the $49,000 salary that began in 2002 is now worth $81,486, roughly 66% more.
Some senators have gone in a different direction.
In 1975, State Sen. James Wallwork (R-Short Hills) returned 10% of his legislative salary – then $10,000 – to the state treasury because the state was operating at a $487 million deficit. Still, none of his colleagues from either party joined him in a bid to reduce the salary of legislators formally