GOP Tries To Swap FAMLI With “SCAMLI”

Sen. Faith Winter (D).

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.

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  1. mamajama55mamajama55 says:

    It's in employers interests to support this legislation. Otherwise, they're constantly going to be losing their investment in trained, skilled workers.

    For example, I know a young couple, teachers in a rural district, with a newborn baby who has needed extensive critical care for her first few months of life. Now that the baby is home, they must find infant child care.

    Republicans cut subsidies for daycare, and these two income earners probably wouldn't qualify anyway. There is hardly any good quality infant care in urban areas, much less in rural Colorado, and it costs the equivalent of a minimum-wage hire every week. If one doesn't have a friendly grandma or auntie around willing to pitch in, or a stay-at-home spouse, beginning families are S O L.

    So one of these highly qualified teachers will probably have to quit, or both go to part time, to take care of a baby with special needs. Which would leave their school district and students S O L.

    The FAMLi bill would help, but the Repubs' SCAMLI bill, which postpones care costs until they can be reimbursed by tax credit, is worse than useless.

  2. JohnInDenverJohnInDenver says:

    I'm really not quite certain how Republicans have missed that most "family leave" situations are not planned out years in advance, allowing for a savings plan to help.

    My friends with aging parents did not put needing to care for a stroke patient on their calendar. My generational peers did not plan for a spouse who lost about 25% of her body weight in 4 months because of a esophageal issue. The young marrieds I'm around did not plan for Mom to have a difficult pregnancy and their baby to arrive 8 weeks early and remain in the hospital for about 12 weeks because of health issues.

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