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Legislative hearings planned on sick-time payouts to retiring state workers

Following news reports this weekend about the state making many large payments to retiring employees for unused vacation and sick time, state Sen. Mike Parry, a Republican from Waseca, said he wants to hold legislative hearings on the matter.

Parry chairs the Senate State Government Innovation and Veterans Committee and the Senate Subcommittee on Employee Relations. He has not yet set a date for the hearings.

Stories by KSTP News and the Pioneer Press noted high state payouts to retirees. The reports note that the state paid out millions more in unused vacation and sick time pay than usual this year because of many early retirements spurred by state budget cuts.

While most state retirees get an additional $10,000 to $30,000 for their unused sick time, “a handful of employees — all from the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system — got checks topping $100,000,” the Pioneer Press story said.

KSTP showed a retired MnSCU senior vice president who got $190,000 in severance, unused sick time and vacation.

In a press release today, Parry said the hearings will address “recently reported excessive vacation, sick time and retirement payouts to Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) officials and other government employees.”

Parry said:

“Recent reports suggest that MnSCU administrators and employees in other areas of the government workforce have received excessive vacation and sick time payouts upon leaving or retiring from their position. Reported amounts range from a single individual payout of over $300,000 to more than $86 million total paid from 2009-2011. As Chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Employee Relations, I am announcing that we will hold legislative hearings to gather more information on the depth and extent of these allegations, review the current compensation plans, and address any inadequacies in the system.

“We are aware of some issues within the current agreements that led to these allegations and large payouts. We plan to invite all parties involved to provide more information, details, suggestions and context to this discussion. If there are reforms and improvements we can make in the interest of protecting both our public employees and the taxpayers, such as possible vacation or sick time caps and payout limits, we will pursue them. I intend to be as proactive as possible in scrutinizing these agreements and improving them as we move forward.”

Comments (5)

  1. Submitted by Dan Landherr on 11/21/2011 - 04:30 pm.

    I have no problem with employees cashing out unused vacation time. I’d prefer to see it done yearly so the vacation time is paid out at the level of current pay. Can you provide detail of whether the vacation time is paid out at the level of pay at retirement or the level of pay when the vacation time was earned?

    Sick time needs to be addressed. Most employers have done away with paying for unused sick time because it incents employees to come to work when they are sick, thus causing other employees to become ill. That isn’t behavior a rational organization would encourage.

    In any case, these benefits were collectively bargained for and won. If you divide the payouts over a 25-30 year career the largest payouts amount to less than $10,000 per year of service. If the state would rather just pay people more salary per year they have that option.

  2. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 11/21/2011 - 05:02 pm.

    These agreements are always made in the dark; when the lights finally get turned on, and taxpayers find their pants have been dragged down around their ankles we’re *always* told it’s “too late to complain” by smirking public employee unions.

    I hope our friends in Wisconsin tune in to these hearings. Five minutes worth of the information that will be revealed there will be worth much more than the piles of special interest flyers they’ll find laying on their door steps.

  3. Submitted by Erik Granse on 11/21/2011 - 07:48 pm.

    Of course, the real problem isn’t that they’re overpaid, it’s that most people don’t have any real bargaining power and end up being underpaid.

  4. Submitted by Dan Landherr on 11/22/2011 - 10:17 am.

    RE comment #2

    Comparing state employees to rapists is disgusting and offensive. I’m surprised it got past the moderator.

  5. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 11/22/2011 - 12:59 pm.

    “it’s that most people don’t have any real bargaining power and end up being underpaid.”

    That sounds like a personal problem that could be solved by upgrading your skill set. In a collective bargaining environment, the taxpayers get stuck overpaying for labor that isn’t worth what we’re paying them.

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