Reporting Chris May
TRENTON, N.J. (CBS) – When was the last time your boss bought you a new dress or maybe a shirt, or even a tie? The answer for most of us is ‘probably never’! But as CBS 3 Anchor Chris May reports, that’s not the case for thousands of state workers in New Jersey.
They get money for clothes from their employer, even though they don’t wear uniforms to work.
And you’re paying for it.
How would you like to buy lots of brand new shoes, piles golf shirts and fill your closet with all kinds of clothes?
It’s easy to do if you’re a government employee in New Jersey.
This fiscal year, thousands of state workers received a $700 check for a so-called clothing maintenance allowance.
“Not what we need right now with my tax dollars going up,” said a Haddonfield taxpayer.
“We can’t even get highlighters in our office, people shouldn’t be getting clothing allowance,” that reaction to the clothing allowances from a state worker who doesn’t receive the money.
We’re talking about office workers who recieve the clothing allowance.
They have titles like computer operator, public information assistant and historic preservation specialist.
They are employees identified by position in union contracts who show up for work each day wearing regular clothes.
According to a state report , 48% of the white collar workers who are receiving the allowance are not wearing special clothing.
New Jersey’s comptroller Matthew Boxer uncovered the issue after receiving an anonymous complaint from a state worker.
So we asked Comptroller Boxer just how much money is this costing the state of New Jersey each year?
“Three million dollars of the funds are being paid to folks who, they’re not wearing special clothing at all,” Boxer told us.
And according to the comptroller’s report New Jersey doesn’t ask for any proof that the money is spent on new clothes or repairs of clothing.
“New Jersey pays far more than any of the other states we looked at,” says Boxer. “Double the amount of other states we looked at.
For instance, Pennsylvania provides a $100 allowance for a limited number of job titles.
New Jersey’s Governor Chris Christie has said in the past that he wants to eliminate clothing allowances to office workers.
But that hasn’t happened yet as the state is still negotiating a new contract with its labor unions.
“I’m an urban forester, I do a lot of tree planting,” says EPA Forestry worker Joseph Bennett.
No one disputes that employees in uniform like forestry workers or others including state troopers should be entitled to an allowance.
And some even say office workers deserve it.
“They have a right to expect it if it was negotiated, then it’s in their contracts,” said another taxpayer in Haddonfield.
“But if you’re wearing regular clothes to work, you should not get the money,” says Boxer.
“Our point is that it is simply wasteful,” he said. “No other state does it and New Jersey shouldn’t be doing it because it’s wasteful.”
We asked Governor Christie to talk to us about the clothing allowances but he declined.
The head of New Jersey’s largest state workers union also wouldn’t go on camera.
But in an emailed statement, Hetty Rosenstein of the Communications Workers of America, criticized the comptroller’s report, saying it did not “understand the reason many workers rightfully receive the allowance” and that the union is “prepared to continue negotiating over this matter.”
At this point it’s anybody’s guess as to whether the workers will continue to get these stipends.
Reported by Chris May, CBS 3