TRENTON – State Sen. Paul Sarlo, (D-36), of Wood-Ridge, sponsor of the sick leave reform bill that was conditionally vetoed by Gov. Chris Christie, told State Street Wire that he is confident a compromise bill resubmitted to the Governor’s Office will pass muster and be approved by lawmakers this fiscal year.
Sarlo and the Democrats passed a bipartisan reform bill last year, S2220, but Christie had particular problems with it, like the $15,000 cap on sick leave cash-value for new employees.
The compromise bill that Sarlo submitted to the front office recently reduces the maximum accumulation to $7,500, he said Wednesday, a split midway between the Democrats’ proposed $15,000 cap and the governor’s request for no accrual at all.
Even though Sarlo initially swore off revisiting the bill, his compromise effort also addressed other concerns from the Christie veto message, although not all of them.
It now requires a written medical note when using six or more consecutive days of accumulated sick leave, and suspends leave time for an employee under indictment for a crime that involves or touches his or her office.
In the conditional veto issued in December, Christie called sick leave payouts a “supplemental retirement fund” loophole in towns and schools that needs to be closed, as it has been for state employees.
“(T)his bill does not sufficiently remedy the gaps in current law that require taxpayers to continually fund unreasonable payouts to public employees,” Christie said in his veto message.
State Sen. Joe Kyrillos (R-13), of Middletown, who has been stalking the Democrats for refusing to present a real reform bill, said today, “We’re working toward a successful resolution.”
“It’s counterintuitive to most people that it would be deemed some significant accomplishment (to restrict sick leave),” he said. “It’s a no-brainer for most people who work in the real world. Sick days are for when you’re sick. Vacation days are for vacations. Nobody in the real world arena gets to bank six-figure golden parachutes in this way.”
The only sticking point for Sarlo was Christie’s provision for previously accrued vacation leave to be used before newly acquired vacation time, effectively eating away at banked time while new time accumulates up to the capped maximum.
Sarlo said the Office of Legislative Services has issued a legal opinion supporting his objections to the provision. The legal opinion holds that previously banked time cannot be adjusted or altered, even if it is only being required to be used, not taken away altogether. The front office hasn’t provided any legal opinion of its own that would contradict the OLS finding, Sarlo said.
“It is a property right and is protected,” he said. “With that provision resolved, we can move forward on the balance of the issues.”
The Governor’s Office did offer comment on the bill, but a GOP source said a compromise on the toolkit reform was imminent.