Source: Asbury Park Press Editorial Board -
It sticks in the craw every time it happens anywhere in the state, and it has happened again.
Last week, Middletown Township Committee members approved a $249,338 check for retiring Police Chief Robert Oches to pay for unused sick and vacation time he had racked up over 40 years.
This is still one more example of a loophole that the Legislature refuses to close, In 2010, Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a bill that would have capped unused sick time at $15,000 — a ceiling that has been in effect for state workers since 1986. Sick time is for when people really are sick, the governor and most people in the private sector reasoned.
In 2011, Christie conditionally vetoed a bill approved by the Democratic-controlled Legislature that would have limited the payout for unused sick time to $7,500, saying the number was arbitrary and the cap should be zero. It certainly was arbitrary, and the figure should be zero.
Christie has rightly pointed out that sick time is not an ATM to be used at retirement. He, along with most New Jerseyans, would like to see the payouts reduced to zero going forward.
If only the Legislature would agree. Legislators now have another chance to see the light. They should take it.
Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande rightly pointed out in the wake of the Oches payout that it is well past time for the Legislature to make it a top priority to eliminate payouts for unused sick time for retiring public employees. The Legislature has steadfastly refused to embrace a “use it or lose it” law when it comes to sick and vacation time.
The all-Republican Middletown committee called on the Democratic majority in the Legislature to stop blocking bills to change the practice.
Casagrande is the primary sponsor of bill A-158 that prohibits payouts for unused sick time. That bill languishes in an Assembly committee awaiting action.
In 2012, Casagrande introduced an identical bill, A-2495, which also never received consideration. In four years, the Democrat-controlled Legislature has refused to consider legislation eliminating this perk.
That has to change. How long must it take for lawmakers to make good on their promise to the taxpayer and do something to bring down property taxes? Passing this bill and having the governor sign it would be a significant step forward in that direction.
What is the delay? It is an economic law as immutable as the law of gravity, that unless the Legislature acts now, the growing liability of future payouts will only increase for our children and grandchildren.
The Legislature needs to let this bill move forward. Now.