Gov. Christie Encouraged By Sweeney’s Sick Leave Bill [AUDIO]
At least for the time being it is not likely that Governor Chris Christie will be calling State Senate President Steve Sweeney one of the leaders of the "Do Nothing" legislature.
Christie has been demanding a certain bill for months and Sweeney is now proposing one that gives Christie an opening.
Christie wants to completely eliminate end-of-career payouts to future public workers for their unused sick time. Under Sweeney's measure current public employees would be allowed to keep the amount of money they've accrued. However, they would not be permitted to bank any more sick leave after the measure becomes law. Future hires would not be permitted to build up pay for unused sick time.
"I'm very encouraged by Senator Sweeney's bill," says Christie. "I think once again he's taken a very courageous step to come forward and to try to lead his party in a way that's responsible for the taxpayers."
The Governor also wants current employees to dip into their accumulated sick time when they do call in sick. That provision is not included in Sweeney's bill.
Christie says, "Our staffs are talking as we speak about how we might resolve some of those differences, but in the end this is an enormous step forward, much better than anything that's been put forward by the legislature by a mile……I think it is appropriate for you to say that any remaining issues between me and Senator Sweeney on this issue are minor ones that can be worked out."
Over the past several months, the Governor has rarely missed an opportunity to make his position crystal clear. In his December appearance on Townsquare Media's 'Ask the Governor' program he told host Eric Scott, "My position is very simple and I think it's simple for the public to understand. You shouldn't get paid for not being sick and certainly shouldn't be paid hundreds of thousands of dollars…….These are all people who get a taxpayer-funded pension. We're already paying them to retire. Now we gotta pay them for this? Sorry. I'm not compromising on this."
In December Christie also said, "Let's just get down to it, okay? Zero should mean zero and I don't see myself compromising on this……Everybody understands that sick leave should be when you're sick and their argument is; Well, people may use it otherwise in a fraudulent way therefore we have to pay them not to commit fraud."
- Watch a video library from Governor Christie's Westfield Town Hall.
For months, Christie has been hammering Democrats for not eliminating the payouts completely. He feels the current system is "another benefit that's given to public sector employees that they've come to count on, but that we simply can no longer afford to demand from the highest burdened taxpayers in America…I thought this would be a relatively easy and uncontroversial part of the toolkit. This should be easy. It makes no sense…Let's finish it. Let's clear the page on this. Let's get to the work of doing the right thing."
In late 2010, Christie vetoed a bill to allow for a $15,000 payout cap going forward. State senate Budget Committee chairman, Paul Sarlo countered with a proposal to cap it at $7,500 but Christie wouldn't bend.
At town hall events, the Governor refers to the payouts as "boat checks" because some retirees who worked in the public sector and banked their sick time were using the payments to buy boats.