NJ For Change

Thursday, April 06, 2006

The Public Employee Gravy Train

The Atlantic City, city council unanimously approved a $500,000 payment for unused vacation and sick time for retiring Police Chief Arthur C. Snellbaker. Chief Snellbaker’s annual salary is $135,498.

Anybody think, like me, that this is insane? Public employee benefits in New Jersey are completely out of control and I’m sick of paying for them. If I am ever lucky enough to retire, there will be no unused sick and vacation pay jackpot waiting for me, even though I have rarely used a sick day in my entire working life. Vacation is use it or lose it.

Sick pay is supposed to keep you whole if you miss work due to an illness, or injury. Vacation pay serves a similar purpose. It allows you to take a specific amount of time off from work without a loss in income. It is not supposed to be in addition to regular salary, accumulated over a working life and then calculated and paid out at a worker’s highest salary level.

Public employees enjoy pensions, medical insurance, and all manner of benefits unheard of in the private sector. They receive salaries and have work weeks the envy of the people paying the bills. Unless our leaders are willing to address this major driver of our state’s budget problems, people like me are doomed to working until we drop to keep the gravy train rolling. It's time to slam on the emergency breaks!
Anonymous Paul Nelson said...

There may be some hope on the issue of unused vacations and sick days, simply because the abuses have become so frequent and expensive that the problem is getting harder to ignore (the usual "solution").

However, NJ Democrats' dependence on public union voters makes it unlikely that pensions and medical benefits will ever conform to the more rational and affordable policies found in the private sector. For example, look at the fierce resistance to any kind of plan that involves some form of employee contribution or co-pay.

8:47 AM  
Anonymous Bob said...

Yet, some public employees are forbidden from exercising their right to strike. Many public employees (not the outrageous examples that are easy to highlight your point, but the bulk of the work force) do not make what they would make in the private sector.

I am confident that if I did not work for the public, my salary would be much higher. We do not all double- and triple-dip.

To compensate for the lack of salary, public employees earn benefits.

While these benefits are costly, the solution is not to cut benefits of those who work for a reduced salary. Rather, the solution is to reform the healthcare industry so costs are not astronomical increases each year.

There were not calls to cut benefits 30 years ago (well, there were some, but not like it is today). The difference is that medical costs are outrageous.

Cure the problem, not the sympton.

9:24 AM  
Anonymous Paul Nelson said...

It is difficult to do direct salary comparisons, because the private sector doesn't employ many firemen, teachers, etc. However, based on personal acquaintance with some policemen and firemen, I find it hard to believe that private sector employers would pay them more than they currently make. Some teachers would do better, but I suspect that many would do about the same.

Also, I am not aware of any private sector employers that would allow the "banking" of unused vacations and sick days, for eventual payoff upon retirement.

Reasonable people can differ on the appropriate level of benefits, but I think it's fair to say that many NJ public sector employees have early retirement options and post-retirement medical benefits that the rest of us can only dream about. Part of the problem is that the actuarial assumptions used in the past are no longer valid. Today, people live longer after retirement. As a result, the difference between funding 20-25 years versus 15 years of retirement imposes a tremendous financial burden on the state.

Yes, medical costs have gone up, but that's really a separate issue. However, if your personal cost of medical care is minimal, there is no incentive to "budget" your utilization. This creates a large open-ended liability for NJ taxpayers. Escalating costs and extensive usage is a recipe for disaster.

We need to start addressing this problem, or NJ will be too broke to pay any benefits.

12:05 PM  
Anonymous Mark B. said...

I am afraid that the damage is done. I don't think we will ever see another Republican governor or legislature.

All of the public employees and their families vote, and they all vote democratic as they know where their bread is being buttered with an occasional spread of caviar. The reliance on property tax increases will continue to unbearable highs.

The NJEA is trying to make public schools into private schools with taxpayer dollars. Remember, education is supposed to be free. We all know it is not "free". Just look at you latest tax bill.

The corruption will never end as long as residential real estate is hot. Builders are legally bribing municipalities to build their projects.

We are replacing commercial property with residential property. Where will we all work? For the state? Isn't that communism?

The best word of advice I can give anyone in the state who is not a public employee or a politically connected individual is to sell your house quickly and move. NJ is a horrible place. I hate it. I despise it. Every day I read the newspapers I hate it even more.

My wife and I are planning our exit.

10:47 AM  
Anonymous Mark B. said...

The corporation I work for has a policy of use it or lose it sick time.

There is no pension. There is a 401k, but it is 100% employee funded with no match.

I pay $550/ month medical for my wife and I. My company pays 600 towards my medical.

We posted a job ad for a senior accountant. We received 2 resumes.

Every police, fire, DPW or school related job has a minimum of 100 applicants. Police salaries are starting to average 100k a year plus.

I have no union, I have no contract, I have no job security, I can't strike because I'd be laughed at, we could go bankrupt any day, our company could be sold any day, or they could just get rid of me any day. I dare ANYONE, yes ANYONE in the public sector to leave it and enter the private sector.

It is high time NJ regionalizes 630 school districts into 100. It's time we consolidate counties from 12 to 6. It's time corrupt politicians saw jail time in a real jail.

11:16 AM  
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