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(TRENTON) – Assemblyman Albert Coutinho on Wednesday expressed concern and frustration that the Christie administration – which has already rejected restricting sick leave payouts for public workers – is failing to promote a new law to help local governments ease the cost of employee severance payments.
Coutinho was the sponsor of bipartisan legislation (S-1804/A-3073) signed into law on July 29 that permits local governments to spread the cost of the severance payments over five years, but during Tuesday testimony before the Assembly Budget Committee the Department of Community Affairs commissioner said she wasn’t aware of the law.
“It’s bad enough that the governor has rejected a plan to restrict sick leave payouts and hiked property taxes and risked public safety through his aid cuts to local governments,” Coutinho said. “Now we hear the administration isn’t even actively promoting this tool designed to help taxpayers. I’ve had to tell several mayors about it myself. Clearly, protecting taxpayers is not this administration’s priority.”
The severance liability has usually been paid in the year the employee leaves.
Coutinho’s bipartisan law – also sponsored by Republican Sens. Joseph Kyrillos and Jennifer Beck and Democratic Assemblywoman L. Grace Spencer – allowed such liabilities to be paid without interest and, at the sole discretion of the local unit, in equal annual installments over a period not to exceed five years.
“This is meant to protect taxpayers and the administration should be promoting it and encouraging local governments to take advantage of it, especially since it opposed the bill to restrict sick leave payouts,” Coutinho said. “The administration’s goal needs to be to protect taxpayers each and every day, but that’s not what it’s doing.”
Coutinho said the administration needs to begin doing its job and begin promoting the law to local governments.