As the Colorado Sun’s Jesse Paul reported late last week, one of the top Democratic policy priorities in the Colorado legislature for 2019 is the passage of a paid family medical leave system, known as the Family and Medical Leave Insurance (FAMLI) Act:
A paid family- and medical-leave bill is among the Democrats’ priorities this year. They’ve focused discussion on how to ensure that all Coloradans have the ability to get paid time off work when they have a newborn or become sick.
[Sen. Faith] Winter, who is leading the charge, called the measure “a social insurance program.” It’s not clear yet who will pay and how much, although preliminary estimates show employees and employers each paying about $1 to $2 a week into a fund. Initial costs would be covered by bonding.
Similar legislation has been introduced by Democrats for several years running now, only to meet its end in the single-seat majority GOP-controlled Colorado Senate. In 2018, Democrats including now-Sen. Faith Winter campaigned heavily on the passage of paid family medical leave and Republican obstruction of this popular idea.
With Democrats now in firm control of both chambers of the Colorado legislature, there’s little Republicans can do at this point to stop the FAMLI Act from becoming law. With that in mind, Republicans have switched tactics from a frontal assault on popular family leave, which is politically a train wreck, to more of a bait-and-switch approach:
Republican Rep. Lois Landgraf of Fountain plans to introduce her own paid-leave legislation, which would reimburse workers through tax credits.
The Republican counterproposal to FAMLI in 2019 is House Bill 19-1058, which just became available to read on the state legislative website over the weekend. Although this legislation purports to create a paid family medical leave system, that’s not the reality–this is a bill to let workers create their own savings accounts subject to a state income tax deduction, combined with a voluntary employer match that would qualify for a nonrefundable tax credit. The revenue reduction from these credits would presumably come from other programs.
In practice, this bill would do almost nothing to solve a serious problem faced by a large percentage of Colorado households. The incentives to save money for medical leave in this bill are simply not enough to motivate widespread participation, and the reality is that working people already have major challenges to establishing savings of any kind, let alone savings for such a specific purpose. The whole point of family medical leave is to provide relief to workers unexpectedly unable to work, but the GOP’s plan would only help those who already have the resources to prepare in advance.
As debate proceeds over the FAMLI Democratic plan for a family leave insurance system, look for Republicans and their mouthpieces to push hard on their “SCAMLI” alternative legislation as evidence that they are responding to the problem. Under the hood, however, these two plans could not be more different, and only one will actually accomplish the stated goal. Much like Ivanka Trump’s ill-fated idea to let workers drain their Social Security benefits to cover parental leave, it’s a naive solution–proposed without an understanding of the real problem.