Democrats, union slam Christie’s call for civil service reform

TRENTON – Democratic leaders and the state’s largest union slammed Gov. Chris Christie’s call for reforming civil service.

At the state League of Municipalities convention, Gov. Chris Christie accused the Legislature of dragging its feet on adopting two bills key to government reform and tax savings.

One bill would prevent public workers from cashing in large amounts of accumulated sick days at retirement and the other would update various civil service rules.

The reaction was anything but warm from those who’d be most affected. Hetty Rosenstein, a director with the Communications Workers of America, one of the largest public worker unions, said civil service provides protection from politically-connected hiring.

“Our civil service system, enshrined in New Jersey’s constitution, makes sure that public jobs are given to those who are most qualified, not to political cronies or the well-connected,” she said in a statement. “Gov. Christie’s misguided attempt to weaken Civil Service rules would mean more of the fraud, waste and corruption that already cost our state millions every year.”

Assembly Democratic leaders criticized Christie for not doing enough to protect middle-class families, but doing plenty to defend millionaires by not enacting a millionaire’s tax.

“Democrats passed civil service and sick leave payout reforms, only to see them vetoed by a governor more interested in playing politics than bringing relief to property taxpayers,” said Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver of East Orange. “That should come as no surprise, considering the governor’s preference for tax cuts for millionaires over property tax relief for working families and senior citizens. The governor is the one responsible for giving New Jerseyans the largest property tax hike since 2007, and this lack of leadership is why voters rejected his message last week.”

Democrats had previously supported a bill capping sick leave payouts to $15,000. However, Christie conditionally vetoed that bill. Christie wants it to be $0, saying the payouts shouldn’t be “boat checks.”

“If we’ve learned one thing for sure about this governor, it’s that the buck surely doesn’t stop at his desk,” said Assembly Majority Leader-select Lou Greenwald, (D-6), of Voorhees. “In his mind, he is responsible for nothing and everyone else is to blame.”

Assembly Deputy Speaker John Wisniewski, (D-19), of Sayreville said Christie’s idea of civil service would only make the problem worse.

“Democrats believed the Civil Service system needed to be reformed and modernized and sent the governor a bill to do so. Instead, the governor wants a system that eliminates taxpayer protections against corruption and nepotism. That’s poor policy and leadership.”

In his speech before the League of Municipalities, which supports the bills, Christie said enactment of the laws would save the state and taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.

“It’s time to pass real sick pay reform to end the rampant abuse of these benefits and waste of taxpayer dollars,” Christie said at the league event. “And it’s time to pass real civil service reform so that each of you have the tools to better manage your towns and give savings to your local taxpayers.”

Democrats, union slam Christie’s call for civil service reform