Four dual-office-holding lawmakers still soak taxpayers for two paychecks

Fifteen years after double-dipping was outlawed in the Garden State, there are still four dual office holding lawmakers soaking New Jersey taxpayers for at least two paychecks for elected offices occupied at the same time.

It only took about four and a half years for the number of double-dipping elected officials in New Jersey to fall from 20 to four in the state legislature after Gov. Jon Corzine outlawed dual office holding.

After expressing some reservations, on September 4, 2007, Corzine signed the bill that outlawed holding more than one elected office but grandfathering in 20 incumbent lawmakers who were unrelentingly guilty of greed.

The ban on dual office holding came late to New Jersey although it is and had been illegal in most other states because voters have limited ability to hold politicians accountable as a result of ballot rigging and gerrymandering that allows power brokers to exert unfair control over the nomination and election of government officials.

In fact, until it was partially prohibited, dual office holding was for decades a widely accepted practice in New Jersey that enriched politicians with multiple paychecks, increased pension payouts and consolidated political power.

In 1962, worried that the courts would restrict double-dipping, the Legislature enacted a law explicitly allowing it.

The measure signed by Corzine banned holding dual offices for anyone elected to an office after February 2008, so it did not apply to assemblymen who were running for the Senate in November 2007.

“Dual office-holding” may also refer to any elected official also holding one or more appointed positions, and that often-corrupt practice is still very common in New Jersey, where political bosses use government jobs to keep public officeholders in line.

Until he got fired for failing to show up in court, Senate President Nicholas ‘No-Show Nick’ Scutari was also employed as an $85,000 a year part-time municipal prosecutor in Linden. Roselle Mayor Donald Shaw was rewarded for his political office with an $80,000 a year job in the Union County recreation department.

The third form of double-dipping is when people who retire from a public sector job and collect a taxpayer-funded pension then go back to work at a full salary for the same or another government entity.

Quasi-Republican Democratic Congressman Josh Gottheimer used double-dipping to attack one of his Tea Party opponents but politicians almost never call out members of their own party who engage in practices that turn our government into a personal piggy bank.

“One to a Customer: The Democratic Downsides of Dual Officeholding” was a 2006 report written by public-policy expert Tom O’Neill and published by New Jersey Policy Perspective.

O’Neill pointed out that most dual officeholders come from safe, one-party districts, where incumbents lose mostly in primaries.

As the number of such districts increases, “the elective offices are more insulated from active public accountability,” O’Neill wrote.

More than 1,000 employees worked more than one public job in New Jersey, according to an analysis of New Jersey pension data for 2018. The median double dipper worked four jobs and took home a salary of more than $93,000, the analysis showed.

Of those, 64 people took home multiple public paychecks that combined earned them more than Gov. Phil Murphy’s $175,000 salary. At least two dozen people in that analysis held five or more public jobs, including one person – a tax assessor in North Jersey – who had nine.

The list was based solely on pension data. Some state employees — including elected officials — had defined contribution plans, similar to private sector 401Ks, which did not appear in the chart.

There were more than three dozen mayors who made more than $100,000 through multiple jobs.

Of the legislators who feathered their own nests 15 years ago, four remain on the public dole for more than one job.

Senator Nicholas J. Sacco said he will not be running for re-election at the end of the current legislative session, since his district was merged with that of another double dipper, Senator Brian P. Stack.

Sacco was once paid a combined $298,725 annual salary as a state lawmaker, mayor and local school official in North Bergen. He retired as director of Elementary and Secondary Education there in 2017, but remains the North Bergen mayor and —until January 2024— he represents the 32nd Legislative District.

Stack represents the 33rd Legislative District in the New Jersey Senate, where he is chairman of the Judiciary Committee. He has also served as the Mayor of Union City since 2000.

Prior to his election to the Senate, Stack was a member of the General Assembly, and one of those hold-out votes in 2007, who insisted that Corzine delay implementation of the law in order to keep milking taxpayers.

Paul A. Sarlo is widely known as the “Senator from Sanzari,” a construction firm whose roughly $500 million in annual revenues are largely comprised of public sector contracts paid at taxpayer expense.

Sarlo represents the 36th Legislative District in the New Jersey Senate and he is mayor of the borough of Wood-Ridge. He is also the chief operating officer of Joseph M. Sanzari, Inc.

Assemblyman Gary S. Schaer is the council president in the city of Passaic and he has also represented the 36th Legislative District since January 10, 2006.

Each of the 40 districts in the New Jersey Legislature has one representative in the state Senate and two members in the General Assembly. The 36th Legislative District is the only one with two double-dippers.

It is comprised of the Bergen County municipalities of Carlstadt, Cliffside Park, East Rutherford, Little Ferry, Lyndhurst, Moonachie, North Arlington, Ridgefield, Ridgefield Park, Rutherford, South Hackensack, Teterboro, Wallington, and Wood-Ridge plus the city of Passaic in Passaic County.

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