Governor "Out To Close [A] Costly Loophole" With Sick Time Crack-Down

BOSTON -- Today, Governor Baker unveiled a plan to crack down on the abuse of sick time by state employees, the latest in a series of common-sense, fiscally conservative reforms designed to ensure state government provides the accountability and transparency that taxpayers deserve.

Baker: Sick time not designed as retirement bonus
By Jaclyn Cashman

You shouldn’t be rewarded for not being sick and Gov. Charlie Baker is out to close that costly loophole beginning today.

The governor is moving to limit sky high sick-time buybacks state employees are using to pack their pensions. They should celebrate their health, not make taxpayers dig deeper to thank them for showing up.

The Herald has learned the legislation being introduced by the Baker/Polito administration — called “An Act to Reform Sick Time” — would cap the amassing of sick time for state employees in the executive branch at 1,000 hours. About 5,800 employees will be grandfathered, the Herald has learned.

Until now, government employees have been putting all their unused sick time up for sale when they retire. The state cuts a check for 20 percent of the unused days, which is based on a retiree’s last salary — which is usually the most they ever earned.

The public was furious to find out the ex-Bridgewater State University president walked away with more than $200,000 in sick days he sold back to taxpayers this year — just because he didn’t call out ill. The governor took notice and began to compare how the sick-time compensation stacked up to other states and private employers.

No surprise our pension package is too sweet. Most businesses have a use-it-or-lose-it policy, which, frankly, the state should have. However, this is a move in the right direction: Baker plans on changing the overly generous pension packages that are crippling the state.

How can Baker focus on innovation, increasing the number of charter schools or fix the MBTA if fattened pensions continue to strangle the state budget?

“Sick leave is a benefit designed to offer employees a way to deal with health and family issues, not a retirement bonus,” Baker said in a statement. “Bringing the commonwealth’s sick leave accrual policy in line with other private and public sector employers just makes sense and is the fiscally responsible thing to do.”

Based on the past three fiscal years, if fully implemented, this cap would have saved taxpayers more than $10 million. In 2015, 378 employees had an accrual of more than 1,000 hours each when they retired, eating up 80 percent of the state’s cash-out costs.

This is the sort of belt tightening we hoped Baker would push for as governor. Now let’s see if the Legislature will play ball and help get our checkbook in order.

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