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Christie could net big bucks with change to state law

Christie could net big bucks with change to state law
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New Jersey lawmakers will vote Monday on a measure that would help Gov. Chris Christie (R) profit from a book deal during his final year in office, a provision in compromise legislation that will cost state taxpayers millions of dollars in higher salaries for legislative and government workers.

The legislation, negotiated quietly over the last several weeks in Trenton, would change state ethics laws to allow Christie to profit from book sales. The bill would also increase the amount of money legislators could spend on staff, while raising salaries of state executive officials, judges and county prosecutors.

Current state law prohibits New Jersey’s governor from accepting any compensation beyond his state salary. The new measure would allow the governor and state Cabinet members to accept money from book deals.

Christie, who will leave office next year because of term limits, has not said whether he is writing a book.

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The pay raises for legislative, executive and county staff, negotiated as part of the deal to allow Christie to profit, will cost state and county governments nearly $7.5 million in 2017, and at least $10.6 million in higher wages in following years, the Office of Legislative Services estimated.

State and county staffers will receive pay raises just a few weeks after Christie hiked New Jersey gas taxes by 23 cents a gallon.

Democrats control both the New Jersey Assembly and the state Senate. Supporters of the legislation say some legislative staffers have gone a decade since receiving pay raises. Legislators would see their staffing budgets increase from $110,000 a year to $140,000 a year.

New Jersey legislators will also vote Monday on a measure that would make changes to a state law that requires legal notices to be printed in state newspapers. The proposal would allow state and local governments to post notices on their websites, rather than pay to print them in newspapers.

The New Jersey Press Association says that law would cost newspapers in New Jersey a huge amount of revenue, and hundreds of jobs. NJ Advance Media, the company that produces news content for the Newark Star-Ledger, the Times of Trenton and a handful of other New Jersey newspapers, said 7 percent of its total profit comes from legal advertising.

A survey of municipalities around New Jersey, commissioned by Christie’s office, found cities and towns paid newspapers just over $1 million in 2015 to publish legal notices.

Some members of the New Jersey legislature have questioned why the two bills are on a fast track toward passing Monday, the last day during which the legislature will hold votes in 2016. State Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D) told NJ Advance Media the two bills are not connected.