Gov. Phil Murphy defended salary hikes to at least eight high-level New Jersey Transit staff members, several of whom were executives for the state Democratic party or his gubernatorial campaign according to a report from New Jersey Globe.
The salary increases prompted the anger of lawmakers and transit advocates, who argue that the pay raises are inappropriate given the frequent delays, staffing shortages, train breakdowns and equipment failures that the statewide transit agency often suffers.
But Murphy – at an unrelated event Thursday at Nokia Bell Labs – said that the pay increases are vital in order to get competent leadership to take the helm of NJ Transit.
The governor said the 179-page audit, which came out in October, recommended “fewer executive positions” and that those which remain are “competitive with what you pay the folks that you do have” and to “make sure you get the right talent and not have some political crony that you want to park somewhere.”
Reducing the number of executive staffers was indeed part of the audit, and Murphy, soon after taking office, cleaned house of several appointees made by his predecessor Republican Gov. Chris Christie—most of whom were criticized as almost entirely political jobs.
Murphy maintained that even with the pay increases, New Jersey was at the lower end of the spectrum for what senior transit officials would earn.
“Even with these raises, we’re barely paying market,” Murphy maintained. “We’re at or below market with a lot of these positions.”
“Among public transportation, I’m not sure it’s the most competitive, but it’s among the most competitive job descriptions that we have in any of our state agencies,” the governor added.