Christie moves sick leave to the top of his lame duck priorities

TEANECK – Gov. Chris Christie stood with a bunch of mayors and the Bergen County Executive today to renew his call for sick leave reform, moving the item to the top of his lame duck wish list.

The backdrop of mayors represented 230 mayors across the state who have signed their names in support of Christie’s sick leave reform, one of the remaining toolkit items offered by the chief executive.

“He has been all about the taxpayers,” Bergen Executive Kathe Donovan said of Christie.

The total liability statewide for sick leave is $825 million, Christie said. Under the proposed Democratic reform initiative capping sick leave payouts at $7,500, the liability would increase to over $3 billion. “They’re just ticking off numbers,” he said. “Absolutely indefensible.”

“Every dollar that’s used to cash out (sick leave),” Christie said, “is a dollar that should be used for…tax relief.”

The use-it-or-lose it reform doesn’t infringe on any sick leave already banked – “We’re going to have to live with that,” he said – but it would halt further accumulation.

“For people who have accumulated sick leave,” Christie said, “they should have to use that sick leave before they start accumulating new (time).”

In New Brunswick, the total liability is $14.5 million, or $1,330 per taxpayer, Christie said. In Jersey City, it’s $74 million; in Hackensack, $18.9 million; in Newark, $46 million; in Atlantic City, $34.5 million; and in Camden it’s $23 million.

“This should be easy,” the governor said. “Let’s get this done in the lame duck (session)…This is a cleanup item.”

As far as the rest of lame duck, he no longer expects full education reform to be handled this year, but he hopes the conversations continue and carry momentum into next year.

Christie met with state Sen. Teresa Ruiz, (D-27), of Newark, on Tuesday to discuss her teacher tenure reform bill.

“(There’s) a lot of behind the scenes work going on,” he said. “We’re trying to get to a point were we all agree on something.”

“I doubt we get tenure reform done in the next four weeks,” but that remains the only incomplete of his three major initiatives for 2011, along with arbitration and pension/benefit reform.

He also hopes the administration and the Legislature can find compromise on a shared service bill that contains some elements of civil service reform.

Among the Democratic lame duck issues, Christie said he is solidly behind the sports betting initiative and Transitional Aid restoration, although he wouldn’t commit to the Democrats’ restoration bill tacking $1.5 million on top of the $139 million line-item vetoed by Christie over the summer.

Christie moves sick leave to the top of his lame duck priorities