On sick-time payouts, Christie is 100% right

There seems to be very little in the way of public policy I agree with Governor Chris Christie on. But when it comes to the abusive system of New Jersey employees taking obscene six-figure payouts for unused sick time, let me be the first to say “Chris Christie for Governor.”

This is commentary from political blogger and cartoonist Rob Tornoe.

There seems to be very little in the way of public policy I agree with Gov. Chris Christie on. But when it comes to the abusive system of New Jersey employees taking obscene six-figure payouts for unused sick time, let me be the first to say “Chris Christie for Governor.”

I often wonder why scientists across the country aren’t flocking to New Jersey to study our state employees. After all, if we’re to believe all these claims of unused sick time, they have to have fitness records the hosts of “The Biggest Loser” would be envious of.

The latest putz to try and get a big payout is State Senator Nicholas Sacco, who also happens to be an assistant superintendent of the North Bergen School District, as well as the town’s mayor (he earns a combined $298,725 salary). Sacco claimed he was owed a whopping $331,970 for 445 unused sick days. He must have eaten a lot of apples over his education career.

As it turns out, Sacco is only entitled to a $143,560 payout, but at least Sacco didn’t have the gall to pretend it was fair. When asked by the Star-Ledger if the payout might be tough for taxpayers to swallow, Sacco responded, “is that fair to people? Maybe not, but that is the contract that existed.”

These payouts have been going on for a long time. Overall, there are 15 lawmakers — 14 Democrats and one Republican, who have accrued about $850,000 worth of unused sick time they could claim as cash.

Accumulated sick and vacation liabilities total over $825 million on municipalities’ books, all the responsibility of taxpayers to pay off.

Here are some recent examples that are sure to make you go “Hulk Smash!”:

• Two veteran Jersey City police detectives have compiled more than $225,000 worth of unused sick time, where these “boat checks” have caused the town to take out millions of dollars in emergency loans.

• Back in January, the Elmwood Park police chief and six other officers raked in a combined $1.2 million for unused sick days, which is on top of their $100k pensions from serving a town of just 19,000 residents.

• Atlantic City was forced to set up a payment plan to pay its departing police officers and firefighters $7.1 million in 2010, while Newark taxpayers had to cover $6.1 million in payouts to firefighters.

• In New Brunswick, both a police chief and a police captain walked away with $300k+ in payouts for unused sick and vacation time, which is on top of an annual $100k+ in pensions.

• Speaking of New Brunswick, homeowners pay $1,300 a year of their property taxes JUST to cover sick and vacation payouts. 

The real problem is the notion in the minds of state employees that gaining a public service job entitles them to grab whatever is not nailed to the desk.

Even though not much can be done legally about the 15 lawmakers that are owed $850,000, wouldn’t it be great to see them forgo the unused sick time and show some real leadership?

 Wait, I forgot I’m talking about trough-feeding politicians in Trenton. My bad. Just go back to being perpetually angry.

 

Rob Tornoe is a political cartoonist and a WHYY contributor. See more of his work at RobTornoe.com, and follow him on twitter @RobTornoe.

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