Sen. Nancy Munoz (R-Union) speaks out against the $50.6 billion budget New Jersey lawmakers approved on June 29, 2022. (Photo by Dana DiFilippo/New Jersey Monitor)
One lawmaker is renewing her push for bills she introduced over a decade ago that would have prohibited sick-leave payouts after a watchdog report revealed those payouts cost the state millions of dollars.
The bills Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz (R-Union) introduced in 2008 and 2012 would bar payouts to public employees for accumulated unused sick time (A220) and ensure that sick-leave payouts don’t count toward compensation when public employee pension benefits are calculated (A221). Neither bill has moved out of committee since it was reintroduced at the start of the session in January.
Of 60 towns reviewed by the state comptrollers office, 57 continue to make payments to public workers for accrued sick time, despite laws passed in 2007 and 2010 designed to bar those cushy payments, in most cases.
Acting State Comptroller Kevin Walsh said the most egregious flouting of the laws were towns that paid out unused sick time as annual bonuses, although state law allows these payments only at retirement. Towns that offered retirement payouts often exceeded the state cap anyway.
His office did not quantify the total amount but estimated that millions of dollars were wasted, therefore “putting a financial strain on taxpayers.”
Munoz highlighted the bills during a 2019 Assembly budget hearing to Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver, who also oversees the Department of Community Affairs. She told Oliver that the administration should review the payouts that may be driving up property taxes for New Jerseyans.
“Sick leave is an insurance policy in the event you are too ill to work. It’s not meant to be a bonus, but public employees have been paid hundreds of thousands of dollars when they cash in their accrued time,” Munoz said. “I think payout caps are good, but they are being largely ignored, so I would vote to eliminate the payments altogether.”
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