Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Christie Applauds Ruling on Sick Pay

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Christie Applauds Ruling on Sick Pay

Article excerpt

The Christie administration is hoping that a unanimous court ruling -- upholding a $15,000 cap on payouts to school leaders for sick time they accrue -- will provide momentum for its drive to eliminate the benefit for all public employees.

The state Supreme Court, in a decision released Thursday, overturned an appellate court to find that the state-imposed cap is valid.

"This ruling sides with New Jersey taxpayers and sends a clear signal that the first step toward reform in 2007 to limit the abuse of unused sick-pay benefits was a strong move in the right direction," said Kevin Roberts, the governor's spokesman.

"Sick days are for when you're sick, not as a retirement bonus, and should have no cash value moving forward."

The ceiling was enacted as part of a pension reform package pushed by Governor Christie and passed by the Legislature on the heels of high-profile cases involving school administrators who accumulated huge sums at retirement -- one topping $500,000 -- based on sick and vacation time they had accumulated over decades.

A number of bills have been introduced in the Legislature that limit the retirement payouts going forward, and state Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, has drawn a bill that would eliminate them entirely. Negotiations are ongoing and legislative leaders believe action could come on the bills before summer.

"The Senate president is committed to sick-leave reform," said Derek Roseman, a spokesman for Democrats in the Legislature.

Thursday's ruling rebuffed an attempt by the New Jersey Association of School Administrators to set aside Department of Education regulations that imposed the cap.

The administrators association has separately contested the Christie administration's $175,000 pay cap for school superintendents, also imposed through Education Department regulations. The ruling on Thursday did not specifically address that issue but did find that the department is allowed to set regulations, and caps, that apply to local employment contracts.

It remained unclear on Thursday whether the ruling could set a precedent regarding that and other salary and benefits caps going forward. …

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