TRENTON —A bill that would require the state to offer early retirement incentives to Atlantic City public safety employees before the state could impose layoffs now awaits Gov. Chris Christie’s signature.
The bill, sponsored by Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo, D-Atlantic, was approved Monday by the Assembly. State representatives have said the program could cost as much as $47 million to implement, while representatives of the police union say it would cost about $23 million.
“We can’t throw away the positive strides made in Atlantic City by jeopardizing public safety,” Mazzeo said Monday. “Atlantic City’s police and fire departments have made significant cuts over the past few years to bring themselves in line with the needs of the community.”
Brian Murray, spokesman for the Governor’s Office, said it’s the office’s policy not to speak about proposed legislation until it reaches the governor’s desk. In recent years, Christie has criticized the amount of compensation for the police and fire departments.
The legislation also calls for the amendment of an existing law to provide that a municipality offering retirement incentives will not pay interest on the payments and can pay off debt over a 10- to 15-year period.
“While Governor Christie’s handpicked political overseer has billed taxpayers over $2.4 million, I worked with (Assembly) Speaker (Vincent) Prieto in a bipartisan manner to pass a plan that saves taxpayers money while giving our local police and firefighters the ability to retire early to avoid layoffs,” said Assemblyman Chris Brown, R-Atlantic.
In April, state representatives said the early retirement program was off the table.
“Additional restructuring can happen through early retirement incentives, which is why I worked to include that as a cornerstone of the intervention legislation,” Mazzeo said. “While buyouts will require upfront costs to the city, they can absorb those costs over a maximum of 10 years, while saving tens of millions of dollars in the long run — needed funds that will help the city finally get its fiscal house in order.”