New push to end public worker payouts for unused sick days
News that Asbury Park's retired Police Chief Mark Kinmon is set to receive $84,629 for his unused sick and vacation time has reignited one New Jersey lawmaker's call to cap the payments.
State Sen. Jennifer Beck (R-Red Bank) has called on the Legislature to quickly consider a bill she co-sponsors that would place a $15,000 limit on the payouts to municipal workers. The bill would also allow municipal employees to carry forward only one year of vacation time.
"I don't think any more evidence is needed. We have heard this time and time again. The Legislature has to act. The law has got to change," Beck said. "Our taxes in the state of New Jersey are the highest in the nation and this is one of the things that drives that cost."
Even if more evidence isn't needed, plenty of it exists. Union City paid $188,000 to a retiring superintendent of schools. Red Bank recently approved a $289,000 payout to five retired employees. The police chief of Elmwood Park received $289,000 for unused time upon when he retired.
"We cannot afford to be paying people for sick time they didn't use, and vacation time they didn't use. We can't afford it," Beck explained.
Gov. Chris Christie has repeatedly called for legislation that ends the payouts entirely for newly hired workers. In 2010, he vetoed a bill capping the payouts at $15,000. Legislative sponsors then knocked the cap down to $7,500, but Christie conditionally vetoed that measure.
"Zero should mean zero and I don't see myself compromising on this," said the governor in December of 2011. "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.'"
Aware that Christie is not likely to support her bill, Beck said she is hopeful he'll at least give it some consideration.
"State employees currently have that $15,000 cap. That's already in place so there is precedent for utilizing that number," Beck said.
The governor's spokespeople did not respond to a request seeking comment on the bill which is co-sponsored by State Sen. President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford) and State Sen. Joe Kyrillos (R-Middletown).