Growing Bipartisan Concerns as Paid FMLA Advances

Issues & Policies

While legislation creating paid family and medical leave moved one step closer to becoming state law this week, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are voicing growing concerns about the mandate.

The legislature’s Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee approved both SB 1 and HB 5003 April 15 on 27-21 votes.

Paid FMLA's basic math problem

There are significant concerns about the sustainability of Connecticut’s proposed paid FMLA mandate.

Two Democrats, Rep. Jill Barry (D-Glastonbury) and Rep. Kerry Wood (D-Rocky Hill), joined 19 Republicans on the committee in voting against the measures.

Barry says while she supports the paid FMLA concept, the bills “need work.”

“I am a numbers girl and at this time the numbers aren’t adding up for me,” Barry said.

Small Business Impact

She was one of several Democrat and Republican committee members who expressed concerns with the bills, particularly the impact on small businesses.

“I certainly have major reservations but I think that we need to move this forward,” said Sen. Norm Needleman (D-Essex).

“I am a numbers girl and at this time the numbers aren’t adding up.”

Rep. Jill Barry (D-Glastonbury)

Sen. Carlo Leone (D-Stamford) said the two proposals need “real work” before facing full votes in the state Senate and House.

“We need to put together a product that at the end of the day is fiscally sound,” added Rep. Chris Perone (D-Norwalk).

Rep. Jason Doucette (D-Manchester) acknowledged that small business owners are concerned with paid FMLA, but said lawmakers should move the bills out of committee, knowing they will be negotiated further.

Payroll Tax

Under both bills, the state will tax workers 0.5% of their pay to fund the program—regardless of whether their employer already provides the benefit or whether the worker ever takes paid leave.

The proposals, which exempt most public sector workers, provide up to 12 weeks of paid leave, at 100% of pay, capped at $1,000 per week.

Employers will be required to continue to provide non-wage benefits to employees on leave.

Connecticut is proposing the richest benefits of any paid FMLA program in the country—for instance, neighboring states cap benefits between 55%-80% of salary, with higher eligibility thresholds.

There are significant concerns about the sustainability of the Connecticut proposals.

For example, the full 12-week benefits for a worker earning $52,000 annually require the maximum payroll tax contributions from 47 workers.

Startup, Administrative Costs

The legislature’s nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis also estimates paid FMLA requires $13.6 million in startup costs and another $18.6 million annually to administer.

“I think the state has made far too many promises and this bill, as it’s drafted, can’t be [financially] supported,” said Rep. Devin Carney (R-Old Lyme).

A third paid FMLA bill sponsored by the governor, SB 881, was approved by the Labor and Public Employees Committee earlier this month.

“I would prefer to wait for the governor’s bill and have negotiations there,” said Finance Committee member Rep. David Yaccarino (R-North Haven).

‘Gaping Holes’

Rep. Joe Zullo (R-East Haven) said he couldn’t vote for the legislation because no one could tell him how many people will use paid FMLA.

“There’s no way I can support this in good conscience at this time,” he said.

“There are so many gaping holes. There are hundreds of questions that have not been answered.”

Rep. Nicole Klarides-Ditria (R-Seymour)

Rep. Nicole Klarides-Ditria (R-Seymour) questioned why Connecticut’s program begins just one year after payroll tax collections while Massachusetts, which offers fewer benefits, waited two years.

“There are so many gaping holes in this bill,” she said.

“There are hundreds of questions we have that have not been answered.”

For more information, contact CBIA’s Eric Gjede (860.480.1784) | @egjede


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