Thursday, July 30, 2015

Sick Day Dollars

The state pays out a bundle in unused sick leave. Maybe it's time to rethink the policy.

Sick Day Dollars


(A brief discussion twixt Baer & Baer's editor, a.k.a. BE)

JB: How ya feelin' today, boss.

BE: A little under the weather, why?

JB: Let me see if I can help. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review has a story saying $49 million in tax dollars was paid out to cover the cost of unused sick leave for retiring state workers.

BE: Ouch. This at a time we're cutting education, firing teachers, letting roads and bridges rot, facing another state budget shortfall?

JB: Bingo. Story says of 4,000 retirees, the average cash-out was $14,000 for not using allotted sick time, and that seven State Police employees, including some top brass, walked off with $100,000-plus.

BE: Let me guess. This is a result of cleverly negotiated contracts with the state.

JB: Yep. The state works with 20 unions whose contracts call for 13 annual sick days which, if unused, can be accumulated and turned into cash money upon retirement. One State Police major raked up 413 days over 32 years and left service with an extra $122,781.

BE: That's a lot of rounds of golf.

JB; Argument is, hey, that's what the contract calls for, not workers' fault, not cops' fault, just playin' by the rules.

BE: Maybe the rules should be changed to better reflect reality. How many private-sector jobs allow employees to stack up unused days?

JB: Wait, we can't do that?

BE: I don't think we GET sick days.

JB: I don't feel so well.

BE: Anyway, what now? Just union leaders saying what's fair is fair, what's part of the compensation package is part of the compensation package? And tea party types expressing outrage?

JB: You do know your reactions, chief. In fact, state Rep. Daryl "The Daryl" Metcalfe, R-Butler County, who claims he was a tea party type before there was a tea party, already is calling the payouts "bonuses," adding, "What a slap in the face to taxpayers to pay that money out to people for coming to work when they were supposed to."

BE: It's just further evidence that all is lost.

JB: Easy, easy. The Corbett administration is negotiating to cut sick days from 13 a-year to 11 for an alleged savings of $14 million.

BE: A start, I suppose.

JB: Feeling better?

BE: Not really. Grrrr.





Daily News Political Columnist
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About this blog
John Baer has been covering politics and government for the Daily News since 1987. The National Journal in 2002 called Baer one of the country's top 10 political journalists outside Washington, saying Baer has, "the ability to take the skin off a politician without making it hurt too much." E-mail John at

John is the author of the book "On The Front Lines of Pennsylvania Politics: Twenty-Five Years of Keystone Reporting" (The History Press, 2012). Reach John at

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