Assemblyman seeks legislative paycut

Assemblyman Richard Merkt, who is seeking the Republican nomination for governor, is calling on his fellow state lawmakers to give themselves a paycut.

Merkt, of

Morris

County , said Wednesday he plans to introduce legislation next week to cut the salaries of members of the state Assembly and Senate by 10 percent, from $49,000 to $44,100.

“With the state now experiencing a severe budget crisis and asking state employees to sacrifice to help, the entire Legislature should lead by example and accept a modest reduction in legislative salaries,” said Merkt, a corporative executive with an electronic components manufacturing firm in

Morris

County .

Merkt said that by giving themselves a paycut, legislators would “send a powerful message to both state employes and taxpayers in general that the Legislature understands the gravity of the situation andi s serious about solving the current budget crisis. It would also show that legislators are willing to sacrifice something, rather than merely asking others to bear the burden of the state’s budget woes.”

The last time

New Jersey lawmakers received a raise in their legislative salaries was in 1999, when salaries were increased from $35,000 to $49,000.

“At a time when hundreds of thousands of our state’s residents have lost their jobs – and many more are taking wage cuts, it’s just not good enough for lawmakers in Trenton to stick to ‘business as usual,’ without any personal sacrifice at all,” Merkt said. “If legislators take a small hit to their own wallets, perhaps they will gain a deeper sympathy for what the average

New Jersey citizen is suffering through in these grueling economic times.”

Merkt is not the first lawmaker to propose a legislative paycut. State Sen. Stephen Sweeney, a Gloucester County Democrat, proposed a paycut of 15 percent in 2006. He offered the proposal after angering unionized state workers with a proposal that they accept a paycut. The proposal received some support from Republicans, but ultimately failed.

Merkt said a fellow Republican Assemblyman had told him he agreed with the proposed paycut. But Merkt added he doubts the proposal will go anywhere.  

“The atmosphere in

Trenton is so poisonously partisan that most proposals from our side of the aisle never get a fair hearing,” Merkt said.

More recently, Gov. Corzine has proposed an 18-month wage freeze for state employees to help close the $2.1 billion budget shortfall.

Merkt called that idea a mere Band-Aid, saying that the core of the problem is that government in

New Jersey is too big.

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