Anyone who has played the board game Monopoly knows that when you pass go you collect $200.
The state of NJ has put their own spin on that entitlement program with a new set of rules: Collect pension, collect unemployment check for 99 weeks at the same time. Yes, you have read that last sentence right. State and municipal employees who retire can collect unemployment benefits at the same time according to the State Department of Labor. Here's how:
This year the Middletown Township Committee cut spending roughly $4m to comply with the Governor's property tax initiative. Unlike some of the bigger cities that continue to refuse to make the necessary cuts and are hoping for a state bailout again (see today's stories about Newark in any of the news feeds) Middletown officials have made the difficult decisions to cut non-essential programs and services to bring taxpayer relief.
To achieve this goal, the township filed a layoff plan earlier this year that went into effect in April. Some employees decided to retire instead of accepting the layoff. Two employees submitted their retirement paperwork and then filed for unemployment.
The State Department of Labor granted them the ability to collect unemployment. When the township was notified by the Department of Labor to start paying these unemployment claims (at a cost of over $15,000 per employee) the township appealed the claims under the basis that they retired. Apparently that doesn't matter to the state, which overturned the township's appeal.
So what is the result? The result is that the taxpayers of Middletown will be forced to pay these employees over $15,000 per year each to collect unemployment benefits while they sit home and collect their state pension checks.
Once again, the state bureaucracy has hampered the efforts of a municipality to try to save money for the taxpayers. If you thought COAH and Abbott districts weren't enough of a kick to the taxpayers, try this.
I refuse to allow this abuse to continue to happen to Middletown and the rest of the state. I can only imagine that this abuse is happening throughout the whole state at a cost of millions of dollars to the taxpayers and residents of NJ.
Credit Assemblywoman Amy Handlin for hearing about this issue from us and drafting legislation to stop this abusive practice by the state Department of Labor. I would urge all residents and taxpayers to call Assemblywoman Handlin in support of her bill.
I'm sure she'll be met with a great deal of resistance that we've come to expect from the Democratic controlled majority in both houses in Trenton.