Huge pay raises for top New Jersey Transit executives, including some with close ties to Gov. Phil Murphy’s 2017 campaign, are facing opposition from four Democratic Assembly candidates in competitive districts with a strong concentration of commuters.
The four challengers have a combined 24 train stations run by New Jersey Transit in 20 municipalities in districts where Democrats have a strong chance of picking up Assembly seats in the 2019 mid-term election.
Lisa Mandelblatt and Stacey Gunderman, who are challenging incumbents Jon Bramnick (R-Westfield) and Nancy Munoz (R-Summit) in the 21st district, say that eight high-level transit officials are not entitled to raises right now.
“NJ Transit has suffered from serious mismanagement and its executives should not be getting pay raises while taxpayers have to endure longer commute times and reduced service,” said Alex Koren, the campaign manager for Mandelblatt and Gunderman.
The district has rail stations in Berkeley Heights, Cranford, Garwood, New Providence, Roselle Park, Summit and Westfield in Union County, Bernards and Far Hills in Somerset County, and Chatham and Long Hill in Morris County.
In the adjacent 25th district, Democrats Lisa Bhimani and Darcy Draeger are also opposing the current round of raises for the transit executives.
“Raises are a way to reward good performance and unfortunately that’s the opposite of what we’ve seen from NJ Transit,” Bhimani said. “Until we see real improvements to reliability and service, I can’t support raises for the people responsible, especially while commuters pay full fare for trains they can’t even count on to show up on time.”
Bhimani and Draeger are taking on Assemblyman Anthony M. Bucco (R-Boonton) and his running mate, Denville Councilman Brian Bergen.
The 25th has train stations in Boonton, Denville, Dover, Morristown, Morris Township, Mountain Lakes, Mount Arlington and Roxbury in Morris County and Bernardsville in Somerset County.
Mandelblatt, Gunderman, Bhimani and Draeger have not hesitated to criticize the Murphy administration on issues where they view the Democratic governor as out of step with their constituents.
Koren pushed back on Munoz’s disapproval, saying that the longtime legislator has never worried about New Jersey Transit salaries until now.
It’s unfortunate that Nancy Munoz has only chosen to make an issue of this when it’s politically convenient,” Koren said. “Two years ago, when the Christie Administration raised salaries for politically connected NJ Transit officials, she did nothing. We need new leaders in Trenton who will always put their constituents first, regardless of which party is in power.”
Bucco put some of the blame on Murphy, saying no raises should come until train cancellations and delays come to an end.
Daniel Fleiss the Bhimani/Draeger campaign manager, last week blamed former Gov. Chris Christie, a 25th district resident, for the problems that affect the state’s public transportation system.
Bramnick and Bergen have not yet commented on the pay raises.New Jersey Transit Rail System Map