N.J. moves to limit payouts for unused sick time to $15,000

The top Democrat in the New Jersey Senate and a Republican colleague are introducing legislation to limit payouts to public employees for unused sick time.

The bill sponsored by Senate President Steve Sweeney and Republican Sen. Joe Kyrillos would cap the payouts to a retiring public worker at $15,000.

Some longtime employees are getting hundreds of thousands of dollars simply because they were fortunate enough not to get sick, said Sweeney, D-Gloucester. And some towns have had to borrow millions of dollars to cover the payouts, they said.

“Whatever the payouts in the past were, we can’t stop that, but it’ll stop the madness that’s going on here right now,” said Sweeney.

Kyrillos, R-Monmouth, said it’s a policy that’s grossly unfair to New Jersey taxpayers, especially when the state is having budgetary issues.

The problem has gotten worse, they said, since Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a similar cap four years ago he wants legislation that would do away with payouts for accumulated sick time altogether.

“We all would like to get to zero, a lot of us would,” Sweeney argued. “But the realities are sometimes there has to be compromise — at least stop the bleeding. Let’s turn off the spout.”

Christie has repeatedly said sick days should only be used when employees are ill. And he calls the payouts “boat checks” because they can amount to enough cash for a retiring employee to purchase a boat.

Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak said in an email Friday that Christie won’t support the new bill, saying “sick time is for when you are sick.”

Sweeney said Friday he’s hoping the Senate approves the limit this summer so the Assembly can act on it when it returns to Trenton.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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