ST PAUL, Minn. — A new element has entered the debate over paid leave for families: the coronavirus.
On Thursday, House Democrats were poised to pass a paid family and medical leave bill that would create a $1.35 billion state fund that would provide up to 12 weeks of paid time off with the arrival of a child or to care for an ailing relative. And this time, the debate also referenced growing concerns over COVID-19.
“If COVID-19 doesn’t do it, what will? If moms going back to work after two weeks of giving birth, what will? The time has come,” said Rep. Laurie Halverson, DFL – Eagan, who was the bill’s chief author.
On Thursday night, the Minnesota House of Representatives agreed. The House passed the bill by a vote of 70-59.
House leaders say they’ve developed a program that pays for itself with a 0.6% payroll tax that would be split between employers and employees. They also say the fund allows for business flexibility and economies of scale.
“We have worked so hard to make this proposal scalable. If an employer wants to provide a private plan and opt out of the public program, they can do that,” Halverson said.
But the Republican-led Senate continues to have reservations. Ahead of the House vote on Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka issued a statement, saying in part, “the progressive paid family leave and earned sick time plans passed tonight is simply a tax on every business, every employee, and every employer in the state.”
And Republican Rep. Barb Haley also shared with KARE 11 her opposition to the bill.
“We all care about family and children, but I don’t think this is the right mechanism to support our families. It will be a $2 billion tax increase on both our employers and our employees,” she said, referencing the “total cost” of both the paid family leave and earned sick time proposals being considered by the House.
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