Through bill, Sacco hopes to extend benefits for workers impacted by TTF freeze

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State Senator Nick Sacco (D-32) hopes to extend the unemployment benefits for state workers impacted by the Transportation Trust Fund freeze by introducing new legislation next month. Nick Sacco

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

“Every reasonable person in Trenton recognizes the urgent need to fund these transportation projects, yet these men and women are still in limbo while little to no progress occurs,” Sacco said in a statement.

“It is unconscionable to see state politics threaten these workers’ livelihoods and the least we can do is act to help them survive this difficult period by extending their unemployment benefits.”

Sacco added that the state Senate was “ready to act in a bipartisan manner” before Gov. Chris Christie (R) implemented a freeze on all projects paid for via the TTF.

Last month, Hudson County View exclusively reported that 21 road work projects were impacted by the shutdown, particularly drawing the ire of Freeholder Anthony Vainieri (D-8) – also Sacco’s mayoral chief of staff – who called Christie “a fat bully” for halting the James J. Braddock Park improvements.

Jersey City Freeholder Bill O’Dea (D-2), a top mayoral pick for 2017, called the freeze “ludicrous” at this month’s Board of Chosen Freeholders meeting, with Freeholders Gerard Balmir (D-3) and Anthony Romano (D-5) also urging state legislators to find a resolution on the matter.

Sacco plans to model his bill after similar legislation that was passed by the state Senate earlier this month that granted extended unemployment benefits to striking Verizon workers, according to a news release.

“These are real people who need to feed their families, not pawns in a political game,” Sacco added.

“They deserve much better than this and I plan to work with my colleagues in the legislature to make sure that we at least take this step to help them through this difficult time.”

In New Jersey, unemployment benefits typically run out after 26 consecutive weeks.

Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-32) reached a compromise with the governor on the TTF issue back in June and it appeared that Prieto and state Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3), a likely Democratic gubernatorial candidate, would try to join forces to overcome a Christie veto on the issue last month.

However, the matter remains in limbo since the Senate has not taken a vote on any TTF plan yet.

A spokesman from Christie’s office referred to remarks the governor made on the subject during a bill signing last week, stating that this current impasse remains on the shoulders of the Senate.

“I would say you should be really angry at the Senate, because if the Senate had in a bipartisan way passed the same bill that the Assembly stayed until 1:00 in the morning to pass at the end of June we wouldn’t even be having this conversation, and so you should be talking to the Senate,” Christie said.

“Talk to the Senate president, talk to the Republican leader of the Senate and say to them it’s time for them to get to work. The bill’s sitting there.”

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