TRENTON – The state should be able to penalize towns that make excessive sick-leave payouts by slashing their state aid, according to a lawmaker planning to propose legislation that would provide for that.

Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz, R-Union, who proposes ending all public employee payouts, said taxpayers could save billions of dollars if municipalities that pay excessive sums for unused sick leave and other non-salary benefits see their state aid in an amount equal to the unlawful payments.

Munoz has been proposing bills ending sick-leave payouts for a decade that haven’t advanced in the Legislature.

“What good are laws if there is no way to enforce them?” Munoz said. “I’m beefing up my existing bills to make sure there are clear consequences for municipalities that ignore the laws, which has allowed public employees to profit off the taxpayers. I want to put an end to the blatant waste and abuse.”

Sick-leave payouts are capped at $15,000 for senior managers and all public workers hired after May 2010 but continue for other local government employees. They have long been capped at $15,000 for state workers.

The Office of the State Comptroller said in a July 7 report that 57 of the 60 municipalities it surveyed have either made payments for unused sick leave that don’t comply with state law or have language on the books in their ordinances, contracts or employee handbooks that allow for them.

The Division of Local Government Services in the state Department of Community Affairs, which oversees local governments, does not have jurisdictional or enforcement powers regarding sick leave payouts, said a spokeswoman.

That should be changed, Munoz said.

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“My bill would empower the state to penalize those towns that knowingly violate the law,” Munoz said. “They must be held accountable for abusing taxpayer dollars.”

Michael Symons is the Statehouse bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at michael.symons@townsquaremedia.com

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