LAS CRUCES, N.M.—New Mexico State University plans to pay for departing President Barbara Couture's nearly $454,000 severance package with savings accumulated from as many as 15 vacant administrative positions.

NMSU spokeswoman Julie Hughes says the 10 to 15 vacancies should be filled early next year.

Couture's payout is drawing criticism from state lawmakers who say legislation is needed to stop so-called "golden parachutes" for highly paid employees who resign or are fired from state jobs.

State Rep. Andy Nunez of Hatch told the Las Cruces Sun-News ( http://bit.ly/QS3cKN) Wednesday that he'll support a bill banning such payouts for government employees. Rep. Mary Helen Garcia of Las Cruces says she wants to investigate how and why the university's Board of Regents agreed to the payout earlier this week.

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Information from: Las Cruces Sun-News, http://www.lcsun-news.com