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Christie Says He Won’t Budge On Sick Leave Payouts For Public Employees

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New Jersey Governor Chris Christie speaks at a town hall meeting on March 29. (credit: Jessica Kourkounis/Getty Images)

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie speaks at a town hall meeting on March 29. (credit: Jessica Kourkounis/Getty Images)

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JERSEY CITY, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said on Thursday that he and lawmakers were close to an agreement to end huge payouts to retiring public employees for unused sick days.

But the Republican governor said there was a major sticking point for him — he won’t accept a deal that allows for any payouts going forward.

“I say sick leave should not have any cash value,” Christie said.

Republicans and Democrats agree that cash-outs that can total hundreds of thousands of dollars strain local budgets. They differ on how to best fix the problem.

Christie conditionally vetoed a bill in December supported by Democrats and Republicans that would have capped the amount of accumulated sick leave employees can cash out going forward at $15,000.

Christie wants to phase out the payouts completely going forward, and he tried to reduce payments for previously accrued time by forcing current employees to reduce their accumulated bank of sick time whenever they fall ill, and he would bar new workers from collecting the perk.

However, a recent opinion by the non-partisan Office of Legislative Services said there could be legal problems with forcing employees to spend from their accumulated bank.

Meanwhile, municipalities around the state face a sick time accrual liability of about $825 million. Many towns trying to save money through layoffs have found themselves borrowing money to cover the payouts once employees leave.

“That number won’t go away,” said Democrat Sen. Paul Sarlo, who along with his Assembly co-sponsor have agreed to lower the cap to $7,500 and all the other concessions Christie asked for so far.

“Sometimes to get change to happen, you can’t go from everything to zero all at once,” said Assemblywoman Pamela R. Lampitt, D-Voorhees. She said the votes may not be there to get it passed at a zero-payout for employees who currently employees.

“The governor is just zero, zero, zero — he’s not budging off the line,” she said.

While several Republicans initially voted for the $15,000 cap, they fell in line behind the governor when he sent the bill back and criticized allowing any form of future payout.

“We’re very close,” Sarlo said. “But the ball is in his court.”

SOUND-OFF: Should Sick Days Have Any Cash Value?  Share Your Thoughts In The Comments Section…

(TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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