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Lawmakers Want Expensive Paid Leave Expansion Despite Budget Woes

Lawmakers Want Expensive Paid Leave Expansion Despite Budget Woes

Even though Connecticut is mired in a deep budget crisis and is contemplating billion dollar tax hikes to close deficits over the next two years, state lawmakers are thinking about creating a new, expensive – and expansive – government program.

The program, as outlined in House Bill 6932, is called the “Family Medical Leave Compensation Program,” and it would work with an expanded state Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The proposed law would allow any employee at companies with two or more employees to take up to 12 weeks of paid leave.

The employee’s time off would be paid for through a new deduction that would come out of the paycheck of every person working in Connecticut. The state’s Department of Labor would oversee the fund, and would have the power to increase the deductions as needed.

Opponents of the bill point out that Washington State looked at implementing a similar program, but abandoned those plans when lawmakers there realized it would cost the state $1.2 billion a year.

There are only three other states – New Jersey, Rhode Island and California – that have similar programs. And those states had existing infrastructure in place that made it easier to add paid leave, while Connecticut does not.

Proponents of the bill here say the program would be self-funded, but the fiscal note on the bill puts the true cost in the millions – in part because state employees would be eligible to take leave under the program, and the state would need to pay to replace those workers.

Those who support the bill say it will especially benefit women who want to take maternity leave.

But an article published this week in the New York Times points out that women face repercussions in the workplace in countries where paid leave programs are more substantial. These programs create a disincentive to hire women, and to move them up the ladder. In Europe, women are less likely to be in management positions. In Chile, where employers are required to provide daycare, women are paid less.

Women and men in Connecticut who want to take time off to care for a loved one can already take up to 16 weeks of unpaid leave in a 24-month period, without fear of losing their jobs. The current state law conforms to federal requirements, and only applies to companies with over 75 employees.

But HB 6932 would apply to any business with two or more employees – a huge expansion of the program, and one that would make it extremely difficult for small businesses to survive in Connecticut.

The new program would add to the cost of working and doing business in this state both for employers and their employees, further hurting Connecticut’s chances to get back on track.

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