Legislators scrutinize MnSCU payouts

The state paid out about $57 million for unused sick time and about $32 million for vacation time between January 2008 and June 2011.

Kevin Burbach

A group of state legislators grilled higher education officials on large retirement payouts Thursday.

At a meeting headed by Sen. Mike Parry, R-Waseca, a subcommittee addressed their concerns that Minnesota State Colleges and University (MnSCU) officials and employees had received excessive payouts from unused sick and vacation time that has accrued over a number of years.

Parry, chair of the Subcommittee on Employee Relations, called for the hearing after the Pioneer Press reported in November that the state paid out about $57 million for unused sick time and about $32 million for vacation time between January 2008 and June 2011

Of the 20 largest payouts, 18 went to MnSCU employees, according to a letter from Parry.

At the meeting, legislators said it’s uncommon for private-sector employees to receive built up sick time in the form of a payout.

Parry said companies usually force employees to use their vacation time so that they’re rested and perform well on the job.

“I’m forced to take [my two weeks], why aren’t they forced to take theirs?” Parry said after the meeting.

MnSCU vice chancellor for finance and facilities Laura King defended the payouts at the hearing.

“MnSCU is not providing compensation that is out of line with the market,” King said.

Members on the subcommittee also addressed why employees don’t just receive higher salaries as opposed to the payouts.

“My worry is that many of these things are not transparent to the people,” said Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Wazeppa.

In a Dec. 15 letter to MnSCU chancellor Steven Rosenstone, Parry noted his concerns of the payouts and urged Rosenstone to place limitations on retirement payouts in your next contract.

“If reforms are not made in the interest of protecting the taxpayersâĦwe retain the authority to modify the contract,” Parry said in the letter.