Republicans Reach Across Aisle to Work on Reforming Sick-Day Payouts

Colleen O'Dea | March 31, 2017 | Politics
Bipartisan effort spurred by NJ Spotlight’s analysis of flawed system that has let public workers amass nearly $2 billion in unused sick and vacation leave

state house
A trio of Republican state senators asked the Democratic leaders of both houses to work with them to reform the system that has created a $1.9 billion tab for New Jersey public workers’ unused sick and vacation leaves.

The senators, Jennifer Beck (R-11), Michael Doherty (R-23) and Joe Kyrillos (R-13), were reacting to Thursday’s NJ Spotlight article detailing the total amount that current practices of allowing workers to collect at least some money for unused absence days will cost the state’s taxpayers: $929 million for police and municipal workers, $715 million for teachers and other school employees’ and $216 million for county workers.

“When few people thought it was possible, Republicans and Democrats in both houses of the Legislature came together to pass the property-tax cap,” said Doherty in a letter the three wrote to Sen. President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson), noting that lawmakers enacted a 2 percent cap on the property-tax levy in 2010. “Ending the sick and vacation leave payout abuses that contribute to our state’s property-tax crisis should be low-hanging fruit that we can accomplish together if given the opportunity.”

They cited 13 pending bills, in addition to the two mentioned in yesterday’s story, that seek in some way to rein in the large payouts that continue to result from a system that allows some workers to amass thousands of sick, vacation, and other days.

At least 15 different bills have been introduced by both Republicans and Democrats in the Senate and General Assembly that seek to achieve vacation and sick-leave reform in some fashion, including:

  • S-849 (Stack-D, Cardinale-R) Limits certain unused sick-leave pay and vacation leave carry-forward for public employees.
  • S- 2947 (Beck-R) Limits certain unused sick leave pay and vacation leave carry-forward for public employees.
  • A-653 (Munoz-R, O’Scanlon-R) Prohibits payment to public employees at retirement for certain unused sick leave; provides for forfeiture of payment for unused sick leave for certain criminal convictions; requires documentation for use of sick leave.
  • A-2851 (Lampitt-D) Limits use and supplemental compensation for certain leave; limits employment for certain public employees.
  • “New Jersey property taxpayers have a nearly $2 billion sword hanging over their heads that can drop at any time,” said Beck. “They don’t care who gets credit for cleaning up this mess, and neither do we. We’re willing to consider any vacation and sick-leave reform legislation that’s good for middle-class property taxpayers. We hope the Senate President and Assembly Speaker will give us that opportunity.”

    Kyrillos pointed to the six-figure payouts that some retiring public employees take home at taxpayer expense as especially troubling.

    “When you’re struggling to pay your $8,500 property tax bill, it hurts to know that every dollar that you and 40 or 50 of your neighbors are paying is going to fund someone’s $400,000 retirement check,” added Kyrillos. “With fifteen different bills introduced, it’s clear that legislators on both sides of the aisle believe these payouts need to be addressed. We invite Senate President Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Prieto to join with us and the many other concerned legislators who are ready to achieve vacation and sick leave reform.”