Timing is everything.
Yet, the Democrats who control the state House can’t — or won’t — grasp that seeking a tax increase to fund any new program is horrible timing.
The Legislature needs to make cuts or increase taxes to raise $1 billion to balance the state budget and another $1 billion is sought to further fund basic education as ordered by the state Supreme Court.
But a House committee last week failed to consider the economic reality when it considered a proposal to use a payroll tax to fund paid leave for workers with newborn babies or who have a family health crisis.
The Legislature approved a family maternity and medical leave act in 2007, which was supposed to provide five weeks of leave paid for by taxpayers. However, lawmakers have yet to figure out how to fund the program.
Since no funding source has been agreed on in six years to fund five weeks of leave, the new proposal identifies a funding source and adds seven more weeks of taxpayer-funded leave. If five weeks is a challenge to fund, 12 weeks makes it more than twice as difficult. Nevertheless, that’s the direction the House is going.
The proposal calls for weekly benefit payments of 65 percent of a worker’s normal weekly pay, up to $1,000 per week Wow, that’s very generous — and, once again, unaffordable.
Lawmakers need to address the real and pressing problems that face the state instead of creating new programs (and, likely, more problems).
Federal law already allows workers to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a baby or a sick relative. It’s worked very well in the years since Congress approved it. Those expecting babies work with their employers to save vacation time and sick leave so the loss of pay during their leave is more manageable.
No, it’s not perfect, but it has been great for many families and is not too much of a burden for employers.
The state does not need a law to grant leave and it can’t afford to fund paid leave.
In the Senate, when a committee was asked to fund family leave it instead decided to put forward legislation to eliminate the unfunded program entirely. That’s a prudent move.
Let’s end this fruitless debate, repeal the state’s five weeks of family leave and focus on the pressing fiscal issues.
The federal government has this issue covered.