The Republican governors of Vermont and New Hampshire announced a bi-state plan to create a voluntary paid family and medical leave program on Wednesday. The neighboring leaders say the plan addresses costs and a lack of potential participants in the individual states. But many who have advocated for paid family leave in both states are not impressed with the plan.
Governors Phil Scott and Chris Sununu, both Republicans, outlined what they are calling the Twin State Voluntary Leave Plan, a bi-state family and medical leave program that would provide 60 percent wage replacement for six weeks for qualifying events including the birth of a child or a serious health condition. Governor Sununu explained the concept. “We’re proposing creating a paid leave benefit for the 18,500 combined state employees administered through a private insurance carrier that would allow private sector employers and employees in both states the options of participating.”
Governor Scott, who alluded to the creation of a voluntary paid family leave plan in his inaugural address, said the bi-state program will help attract workers. “This is crucial to Vermont and New Hampshire’s futures. By wrapping this program around our combined state employees we’ll be able to deliver a competitively priced option available for all businesses and their employees and we’ll be able to do it without putting another mandate on businesses or adding to the tax burdens of our citizens.”
New Hampshire Senate Majority Leader Dan Feltes, a Democrat, was not impressed with the governors’ proposal. “It’s going to be unaffordable and there’s no actuarial study to back up anything that they provided. There’s no policy behind what they provided. It’s a one page talking point sheet. There’s no legislative planning and no certifications of viability by commissioners at any level. So what you had yesterday was more of an idea and more of a p-r stunt and less of a concrete plan to provide access to Granite Staters to paid family medical leave insurance and to small businesses who are struggling to get ahead and stay ahead.”
Voices for Vermont’s Children co-coordinates the Family and Medical Leave Insurance (FaMLI) Coalition Executive Director Michelle Fay says a voluntary plan would exclude those who need family or medical leave most. “Our organization, the Family Leave Coalition, based our proposal on research about other states that have implemented family medical leave programs. We did economic analysis. And that’s why the program that we’re advancing is universal. It’s not an opt-in. And so I would say I’m disappointed that Governor Scott chose to engage across the Connecticut River as opposed to sitting down with the advocates and lawmakers here in the state who have been trying to get this done.”
Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility is a member of the VT FaMLI Coalition. Public Policy Director Dan Barlow is encouraged that Governor Scott has come to the table with a proposal but wants to see its details. “Our initial assessment is that this type of voluntary opt-in system just is not sustainable in the long term. It would have a lot of upfront costs that would be prohibitive for people to take part in the plan. And so we’re going to remain focused on passing a universal paid family leave system. You know the kind of tried and true system we know has worked in several other states.”
Governor Scott vetoed a paid family leave bill last year. Governor Sununu also opposed a paid family leave bill last year referring to the idea as a vacation.