Christie: Cash-value accumulation a sticking point for sick leave reform

JERSEY CITY – With his late push for sick leave reform, one of the more agreeable lingering toolkit bills, Gov. Chris Christie said today there is only one sticking point left.

The Democrats want a $7,500 maximum accumulation of sick time, a compromise that was brought down from their previous proposal of a $15,000 max.

“I think that’s stupid,” Christie said today at his press conference. “That’s the main reason why I (conditionally vetoed) the first (Democratic bill).”

The governor wants zero accumulation, no cash-value on sick leave, which would avoid future years of $825 million payouts, the cost of sick leave cash-outs across the state this year.

Christie vetoed a sick leave bill sponsored by Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt, (D-6), of Cherry Hill, in December after its unanimous passage through the Legislature.

Lampitt is now pressing for A3953, which she called a “significant, tougher compromise.” The bill capitulates to several points Christie set forth in his conditional veto, except for the accumulation.

“The Governor is taking a my-way-or-the-highway approach to ending sick leave abuse,” Lampitt said in a press release. “Unfortunately for taxpayers, the highway means they’re still on the hook for more and more expensive sick leave ‘golden parachutes.’ Each and every day the Governor chooses to play politics instead of negotiating real reform, the taxpayers lose.”

Aside from reducing the accumulation maximum to $7,500, the new bill suspends payouts for employees or officials who are indicted for crimes touching their official duties and requires forfeiture of payouts upon conviction; prohibits employees from using six or more consecutive sick days in the 12 months preceding retirement without a doctor’s note (enforced with strict penalties); and prohibits one local entity from employing a person on paid leave from another local entity, a new provision added by Lampitt.

Her original bill, a bipartisan effort, would have brought town and school employees in line with the longstanding $15,000 cap on sick leave accumulation that state employees adhere to.

“That’s bad policy from before,” Christie said today, and even though he doesn’t like the existing accumulations, any time accumulated by employees will nonetheless remain in their possession. But Christie wants this policy to die under his reign.

“I say sick leave should not have any cash value,” he said. At $7,500 per public employee, “Go and do the math about how much we would add to the debt.”

Lampitt’s spokesman Brian McGinnis said today that the $7,500 is “more in line with the private sector” and “was reached as a reasonable compromise to provide a fair incentive to employees while balancing the need to protect taxpayers from the previous six-figure payouts for unused sick time.”

He also noted that in the previous legislative session, quite a few Republican legislators sponsored and supported A2583/S1316, which would have imposed a cap of $10,000. Many of them were the same Republicans who co-sponsored and voted for Lampitt’s original bill at $15,000. Christie: Cash-value accumulation a sticking point for sick leave reform