AP NEWS

In family medical leave legislation fight, sides accuse each other of using misinformation

March 15, 2019

Both sides of the debate over paid family medical leave are saying the public is being misled by the other.

The back-and-forth began following the release of a fourth quarter survey conducted by the Connecticut Business and Industry Association which is worried by a pair of bills that got the go-ahead from the Labor and Public Employees Committee last month, inching the state closer to establishing a Family Medical Leave Trust Fund.

Both bills establish up to 12 weeks of annual leave for private sector and some state government employees at 100 percent of their salary, capped at $1,000 per week, for their own or extended family members’ illnesses.

The CBIA survey of its members claiming that 63 percent of surveyed business leaders expect the proposed mandate to “significantly impact” their operations.

A news release from the Connecticut Working Families Party, a staunch supporter of paid leave claimed that the CBIA’s survey conflicted with “scientific findings” from a release of its own.

The findings said that 79 percent of small business owners supported a paid leave program

“They are publishing feedback from their own members in an effort to back up their argument that this policy is unpopular with those businesses, and that’s not what this document says,” said Lindsay Farrell, executive director of the Connecticut Working Families Party.

However, questions featured in both sides’ surveys appeared to guide readers to a specific answer.

In the CBIA’s case, the survey questions asked members what kind of impact the “mandate” would have on your business.

“They’re absolutely ridiculous,” said Eric Gjede, vice president of government affairs for the CBIA. “For one if anyone was misleading it’s the question they asked about paid family and medical leave because it doesn’t indicate to anyone who is responding who is going to pay for this thing.”

Gjede was referring to questions asked in the Working Families findings that said the plan would be “solely funded by employees through small payroll deductions.”

The state-run program would be funded through an automatic 0.5 percent payroll tax, withheld from employees’ after-tax earnings. Employees cannot opt out of the program.

New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Washington, California, and the District of Columbia have already passed paid leave legislation. In addition to Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Colorado and Oregon are also considering their own paid leave bills this year.

Massachusetts and New York, two of the most recent states to adopt paid leave, already are looking to increase the payroll taxes that fund their programs.

In 2019, New York increased the payroll tax to 0.153 percent from 0.126 the year prior — still far below Connecticut’s proposed tax — with a maximum employee contribution of $108 while the benefit increased to 55 percent for a maximum of eight weeks —up from 50 percent.

In past interviews the CBIA, along with other business advocates have said that the main burden would fall on the shoulders of small business owners left with administrative issues if an employee were to call out under the proposed leave plan. Farrell argued the contrary.

“What we here from small businesses is that this relieves the stress that they have,” Farrell said.

Jordan.grice@hearstmediact.com