By Christian Wade | The Center Square
A group of Republican lawmakers in New Hampshire are pushing to scuttle Gov. Chris Sununu’s yet to be implemented paid family leave law.
A proposal heard by the House Labor, Industrial, and Rehabilitative Services Committee on Thursday would repeal the new law allowing workers whose businesses participate to get paid at least 60% of their regular wages for up to six weeks, if they take time off for personal health or family reasons.
Supporters of repealing the law argue that taxpayers shouldn’t foot the bill for state workers covered by it, and that the government shouldn’t be meddling with private industry.
“While the program was sold as a voluntary private insurance program, it is 100% taxpayer funded for the 11,000 state employees covered by it,” Rep. Andrew Prout, R-Hudson, the bill’s primary sponsor, told the panel. “This cost is not guaranteed to stay within the rosy forecasts predicted by its proponents and the taxpayers will be on the hook.”
Prout said the new law is an example of government overreach into the private sector, which will drive up costs for struggling business owners.
“We don’t need programs like this to offer great benefits to employees,” he said. “We’re in the middle of one of the severe labor shortages and companies are offering incentives to hire and retain employees.”
He said the plan will also affect county, municipal and local school budgets, suggesting that the paid leave program would eventually spread to other levels of government.
“This program will metastasize and grow … and local governments will be left holding the bag,” Prout said.
The new paid family and medical leave program, which gets underway in 2023, was approved as part of the state’s two-year $13.5 billion budget signed by Sununu last year.
There are several categories under which qualifying workers could take the time off, including the birth of a child or to care for a newborn, an adopted baby or child. They could also get time off to care for a spouse, a child or parent who has a serious health condition. The state’s 11,000-member workforce automatically qualifies for the benefits.
New Hampshire has wrangled over the creation of a paid leave program for several years, with partisan divisions over making the program mandatory for employers.
In 2019, Sununu vetoed a paid family leave bill approved by the then-Democratic controlled Legislature that would have required businesses to provide universal coverage. He called the plan an “income tax” and vetoed a similar proposal offered by Democratic lawmakers last year.
But Sununu came back with a plan of his own that made the paid leave system voluntary and didn’t require universal coverage. He pushed the plan through the GOP-controlled Legislature during last year’s budget process, with support from Democrats and opposition from some Republican lawmakers.
Businesses that participate in the program and pay for employee premiums can deduct 50% of the amount they paid in premiums from their business enterprise taxes, the law states.
At least eight states and the District of Columbia have passed paid family and medical leave programs, including California, which was the first to approve such a law in 2002, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Several states, including Massachusetts, have made participation in paid leave programs mandatory for many private employers and began withdrawing contributions from workers’ paychecks even before the laws went into effect.