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Paid FMLA Bill Contains Provision for “Deemed Approved” Tax Increases

Connecticut Democrats have made implementing a paid family medical leave bill a top priority this session, and a committee bill is set to receive a public hearing before the Labor and Public Employees Committee today.

The FMLA program would be funded by a payroll tax paid by employees, however, according to a provision in the bill, that tax could be increased without a vote by state lawmakers.

The bill would levy a .5 percent payroll tax on employees, which would go to a Family and Medical Leave Trust Fund. Employees could take up to 12 weeks of family medical leave with payment up to $1,000 per week. The legislation would be applicable to any company with one or more employees.

In the past, critics of the bill have pointed out the .5 percent tax on employees would not be enough to adequately fund the program, rendering the program insolvent from nearly day one.

But the committee bill up for debate would allow the administrator of the FMLA program to increase the tax even if lawmakers do not hold a vote to increase that tax.

According to the bill, if the Department of Labor – the “administrator” of the FMLA trust fund — determines the fund is no longer solvent, it can raise the payroll tax.

The General Assembly can only reject the tax increase with a 3/5 vote. However, if no vote is held, the tax will be “deemed approved,” and pass.

The “deemed approved” language is criticized in written testimony submitted by Yankee Institute.

“This bill would allow future tax increases on state residents without any vote by the legislature. We cannot state strongly enough that we do not believe lawmakers should give away their taxing authority to an administrator. Nor do we think it is good policy to require 3/5 vote by lawmakers to vote down a tax increase,” Yankee Institute wrote.

It would not be the first time Connecticut has used “deemed approved” language to allow state laws and policies to pass without a legislative vote.

Until 2017, labor union contracts with the state did not require a vote in either the House or Senate to pass. If the legislature did not vote on a union contract within 30 days it was “deemed approved.”

This policy allowed 124 collective bargaining agreements to pass into law without a vote in either chamber between 1991 and 2017, although the policy changed as part of the 2017 budget agreement.

This year’s FMLA bill is the latest in a multi-year push by Democrats to institute a paid FMLA program in Connecticut, and the idea — although not the specifics of the bill — has the backing of Gov. Ned Lamont.

In a press release on Wednesday, Lamont reiterated his support for the program. “We know working families are the backbone of our state. If they are not financially stable, Connecticut will never be.”

However, the paid FMLA bill has been opposed by businesses in the past, including the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, which has pointed out the program would be underfunded from the beginning and require the payroll tax to be increased.

Available written testimony submitted to the Labor Committee regarding 2018’s bill shows the Lumber Dealers Association of Connecticut and the Connecticut Food Association also opposing the program.

Although there is not a fiscal note attached to the bill yet, similar bills considered in the past included a start-up cost of $13.6 million and $18.6 million in yearly costs.

Under the committee bill up for public hearing, a covered employee would be anyone who has earned more than $2,325 during any quarter within the past five calendar quarters.

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Marc E. Fitch

(8) Comments

  1. Jay

    February 20, 2019 12:18 pm

    Obviously this is one of those things that look great to the Dems from a PR standpoint, but nobody looked into it as deeply as needed before proposing such a crazy thought. Has anyone ever heard of “intermittent FMLA”?? Neither did I until my current job. The FMLA I was always familiar with was taken by mothers/families of new babies, people who have real disabilities that cannot work for periods of time, etc. At my current job, there are people that use this other form (intermittent FMLA) to get out of work when they burn through sick time, or to get out of forced overtime. They have FMLA for headaches/migraines, anxiety, care of a family member when it may not be needed, and any number of other things that cannot be “really” proven. These are shady healthcare providers that are approving these conditions and failure by the governing bodies to really look into the validity of said conditions. Many of the people I work with only have these “FMLA” episodes on Friday’s and Monday’s… nice summer days… when they are out of sick time… or when they are forced to work overtime… all of the sudden they have to call out or leave work “FMLA”. The only reason many of them even come to work once in a while is that FMLA forces out your sick time and vacation/personal time when you use it… when you are out of that time, you may use FMLA, but you will not be paid, as you have no more time left. Will these people be covered under this bill?? if they are, and this passes, there will be many empty businesses, as people with approved FMLA will no longer have a need to work for 12 weeks per year. What a joke.

  2. Michael Cerrito

    February 19, 2019 4:22 pm

    Would a person who is allowed to use paid sick days for FMLA leave also be entitled to receive pay from the FMLA fund???

  3. Pauline

    February 19, 2019 2:57 pm

    If an employee doesn’t meet the criteria of earnings to use the flma, does he still have to pay the .5% tax. Either way, that’s less $ in ones paycheck. Some employees will never use it, and others will abuse it!

    • Danny B

      February 28, 2019 1:22 pm

      This is the problem I see as well. As a high earner it will cost me 100 dollars a month! I have kids in college and high deductible medical bills,. Since I rarely take time off now and the payouts are capped – it seems like another resdistribution scheme. I would be demoted if I used FMLA more than once every five years- and that $1200 a year would be better invested to pay my medical or education.

  4. Deborah Couture

    February 19, 2019 10:55 am

    I don’t believe this should be allowed at all. We as tax payers in this state and being employed here need to have a say in this. Most Connecticut employed can’t afford more taxes coming out of our pay. To say that there will be stated that they will be able to raise the amount of taxes without a vote is crazy and unethical. We in this state can’t afford to say as it is. The taxes that we pay now and the new ones coming even the middle class will be disappearing. Most of our elderly are living on the edge of poverty already. It is unfair to ask the working class to pay for this tax

  5. John

    February 15, 2019 9:05 pm

    If passed, this language would leave the door to increasing the tax without legislative action. This is a dangerous approach especially given the legislature’s prior history of “raiding” funds for other purposes as this fund would be a target which can adjust it’s collection rate as it deems necessary.
    Secondly, this would create an unfair burden on many small businesses, say 5 or less employees, since many cannot afford to loose 20% if their staff for any period of time.

  6. Kathryn Johnson

    February 15, 2019 6:53 pm

    I do not believe that FMLA should be paid. Because the care of someone who is permanently disabled, qualifies someone for FMLA, family can volunteer for such care and avoid work. I had a physician who would take FMLA to drive her father who was in a nursing home, to his personal physician appointments. The nursing home had a service to take their patients to appointments. Meanwhile, I would take my parents to appointments after work. Even when they were terminal, I visited after working hours. “No good deed goes unpunished”, meaning, on the face of it, this sounds like a good thing, but like many good benefits, they end up being abused.

  7. Jim

    February 15, 2019 6:24 am

    Automatic cost of living increases should be ended

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