Gov. Christie loves a good, large number that he can use to drop jaws. He trotted out a new one Wednesday at a town hall meeting in Monroe Township: $3.25 billion.
That's how much he said taxpayers will be forced to dish out if Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt (D., Camden) has her way with a bill to cap the payouts for unused sick and vacation days at $7,500. Christie wants to end the practice of paying government workers for, as he says, not being sick - and he wants to end it immediately. After Christie conditionally vetoed a similar measure that had Republican support and would have capped payouts at $15,000, Lampitt offered this bill, which she calls a compromise.
But then the Christie camp got out the calculators and multiplied 434,017 (the number of state and local government employees in the Garden State) by $7,500. And that equals $3.25 billion, right outta your pocketbook.
This, however, assumes that all employees will work long enough and skip enough sick and vacation time to reach the cap. This also assumes that all employees can currently cash in for their time. (Cherry Hill, for example, ended the practice five years ago.)
On the way back from Monroe on Wednesday, I spoke with Lampitt.
"You can't take that sort of simplistic approach," the legislator said. She said she thought that $7,500 was a "good starting point," and that a bill getting rid of the payouts would never pass the Legislature.
But at the town hall, Christie mocked her number in favor of his own: "How did the number 7,500 happen? It was just plucked out of the air."