By David Madden

TRENTON, NJ (CBS) — Local and county officials throughout New Jersey are worried that a two percent cap on arbitration awards for police and fire personnel could expire at the end of the year. They’re pushing to make that permanent, like the current cap on most spending and tax hikes.

Unions are fighting to let the arbitration cap die. But if that happens, mayors like Gary Passanante of Somerdale in Camden County will have to scramble to balance their budgets without a major too to keep costs in check. That could result, at least short-term, in local program cuts.

“We should not be looking for what’s going to happen next year to decide what we have to deal with right now because this will sunset and this needs to be dealt with now,” Passanante told KYW Newsradio.

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But it’s not likely anything will be decided before the November election. Not with the Governor and the entire legislature on the line.

John Donnadio, Executive Director of the New Jersey Association of Counties, takes that into consideration.

img 3242 NJ Cap On Local Union Arbitration Awards Set To Expire At Years End

John Donnadio, Executive Director of the New Jersey Association of Counties Credit: David Madden

“This is really the same legislature that passed this same package in 2011 and in 2014,” Donnadio said. “So I’m cautiously optimistic that we are going to get this done in lame duck.”

But nothing is certain, and some suggest that comes in large part because Democratic Gubernatorial nominee Phil Murphy has not chimed in on the question.

A legislative report on the arbitration cap is expected at the same time the cap is set to expire.