Gov. Scott teams with New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu for paid leave program

LITTLETON, N.H. — The governors of Vermont and New Hampshire announced a twin-state family leave plan that would offer benefits to 18,500 state employees and give private businesses the option to join in at a cost affordable to employees.

Last year, the Vermont legislature tried and failed to pass a paid family leave program. Gov. Phil Scott vetoed the bill because it required new taxes to pay for the time-off related work benefits.

But under the program introduced Wednesday at the Schilling Beer Co. in Littleton, Scott and New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu said the plan would be optional for private companies and require no new taxes on Vermonters. He added that the program would achieve many of the goals that Democrat and Progressive lawmakers put forth in the past legislative session.

Gov. Phil Scott Facebook page

Gov. Phil Scott with New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu at the Schilling Beer Co. in Littleton, New Hampshire.

“With this approach, we can balance the value of paid family leave with our citizens’ and businesses’ ability to pay,” he said. “In Vermont, striking this balance is crucial. As I said last week, our focus must remain on those we’re working for and what we’re working towards. Again, we have to face the economic realities that exist throughout Vermont.”

The expectation of the governors is that that the initial risk pool of 18,500 state employees in Vermont and New Hampshire will be large enough to obtain reasonable monthly rates with private insurers. Scott said the estimated cost to employees of private businesses who opt-in would be about “a buck a day.”

According to details revealed Wednesday, the program would provide employees 60 percent wage replacement for six weeks in situations including childbirth, adoption of a child, personal and family health emergencies. Additional scenarios would apply for military veterans on “covered active duty,” or to care for “a covered service-member with a serious injury or illness if the eligible employee is the service-member’s spouse, son, daughter, parent, or next of kin.”

Scott said offering an affordable paid leave program could help the state attract new Vermonters.

“And most importantly, a successful and affordable family leave program will help us attract young working-age people looking to start new families,” he said. “It will also help families and individuals cope with unexpected family illnesses.”

Gov. Sununu echoed the sentiment that the plan will offer competitive rates without pushing mandates.

“[We’re leveraging] the buying power of your base employee pool at a very low cost that provides the opportunity across the board for all the private sector employees, if they so choose to get on board,” he said.

“And remember, the money isn’t going to the government, it’s going to a private insurer, much like your health care does. It’s like a premium.”

LIVE NOW: Governor Phil Scott and Governor Chris Sununu propose Twin State Voluntary Leave Plan

Posted by Governor Phil Scott on Wednesday, January 16, 2019

On the Vermont side there are a little over 8,000 state employees who would receive the benefit at a cost of about $2.4 million. When New Hampshire’s 10,500 state employees are added, the cost becomes affordable for the states and for employees of private companies.

Which private insurance companies would run this program will be determined by a request for proposal process.

The “premiums” would vary for private sector participation depending on how many employees within a given company choose to opt in. Companies with more than 20 employees and 100 percent participation will get better rates than those with fewer than 20 employees and partial participation.

Jeff Cozzens, CEO, and co-founder of Schilling Beer, issued a statement explaining why he will support such a program for his employees.

“As a small business along the New Hampshire-Vermont border, roughly half of our employees live in Vermont and half live in New Hampshire,” he said “This proposal has the potential to help all of our employees.

“We are proud to host the governors today as they outline their joint vision for a family medical leave insurance program that speaks to our ultimate concern: the well-being and advancement of our staff and their families.”

Scott seemed to indicate that adopting the plan would require approval by both state legislatures.

“If we’re successful in each of our state legislatures, we can establish a model and standard for the rest of the country that meets the calls for a greater work/life balance which is really so important to each and every one of our businesses,” he said.

In New Hampshire, at least 16 insurance companies have expressed interest in administering the plan.

The question now is will Vermont’s liberal lawmakers embrace the two-state plan or instead try to force passage of last year’s paid family leave plan using their new supermajority in the Legislature.

House Speaker Mitzi Johnson, D-South Hero, has indicated skepticism that the pool of participants will be large enough using a voluntary opt-in system.

Michael Bielawski is a reporter for True North Reports. Send him news tips at bielawski82@yahoo.com and follow him on Twitter @TrueNorthMikeB.

Image courtesy of Gov. Phil Scott Facebook page

6 thoughts on “Gov. Scott teams with New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu for paid leave program

  1. The Dems will never let this fly. It’s not mandatory. They want to FORCE you to participate. They need to EXTRACT more money from your paycheck so they can sleep well at night. All those D.I.N.K.S (Dual income no kids) in VT are going to love this. they’ll get hit twice int he same family with no intention of EVER needing this.

    Funny when I tell people we’re from VT. Almost always one of the first responses is: “Beautiful State, but aren’t the taxes there really high?”

    My reply : “Yes Sir(Ma’am)”

  2. Only 402 more weeks until their 18th birthday, so what’s the plan? 12 weeks to raise a child isn’t enough time.

    Perhaps if we had housing ownership that was affordable, people could make their own plans. This benefit only gives those who don’t need it more money and those who truly need a better plan, false hope. It will solve nothing, it will not make families stronger, more financially sound, it will not bring love, joy and peace which families so desperately need.

    We’ve got 402 more weeks to cover, what is the Vermont’s plan? A family the basic building block of society often looks for the same thing when moving into any community.

    1. Decent Job
    2. Affordably living, easy shelter payments, no high expenses (taxes/fees)
    3) Good School System
    4) Low Crime, Low Drug Problem.

    Provide these things and you’ll have good, solid, grounded people flocking to our state. People with a solid foundation with a life based upon truths, will look at this favorably.

    • 1) Check
      2) Check
      3)Check
      4)Check

      I couldn’t find this anywhere in the 9,616 mi² of Vermont, so I had to move. Unfortunate, but true.

  3. Interesting to note the number of state employees in Vermont, 8000 and New Hampshire 10500. The GDP of VT is roughly 27 billion and NH it is roughly 69 billion. Do the math! NH does almost double the GDP per state employee as Vermont. But, I guess we new that, but still unfortunate that this is what our voters want!

  4. “The plan will be voluntary and not serve as an income tax. It will provide choice and flexibility to businesses and employees,” . Sununu said
    Are we REALLY expected to believe that this won’t turn into just another screw job to the taxpayer? These people have no respect for us. Seriously. They really believe we are that stupid.

  5. A $2.4 million a year cost for Vermont but no new taxes. Sounds like Bernie is Scott’s advisor. And why would the 2 states not self-insure this if it is even an acceptable idea? One thing is for sure: Some insurance company will benefit considerably from this.

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