Paul Dame: Scott’s paid leave plan — it’s so good it’s voluntary

This commentary is by Paul Dame, chair of the Vermont GOP.

Last week Gov. Scott unveiled an important policy proposal that helps move the State of Vermont forward and provides a great model for Republicans everywhere to follow.

For years Democrats have been itching to add a payroll tax to every worker in Vermont. It started gaining acceptance when discussed as part of a single-payer health care program, then when that plan fell apart it became the golden goose for a proposed paid leave program.

Paul Dame, chairman of the Vermont GOP

But from the beginning Gov. Scott and Republican legislators fought against yet another expensive mandate on workers and businesses that were just trying to get by in this economy. But instead of adopting a “Just Say No” policy, Gov. Scott has now put together a plan that provides that same basic benefit, but does so in a way that is better for Vermonters.

First of all, this plan is voluntary. That means that businesses in a unique field, or with particular demographics, or other factors that could make them an outlier where none of the employees would want or would use the benefit – no one has to get docked a single dollar from their paycheck or pay any new taxes. This will also prove how valuable a benefit this really is, by how many people adopt it.

Second it actually blazes a trail of innovation in the free market. While many companies provide some form of disability insurance, Gov. Scott’s proposal is accelerating the market for this kind of leave insurance. Rather than the state hiring a series of over-paid contractors with dubious and unverifiable work products (like Jonathan Gruber did for Single Payer) to invent something from scratch, Gov. Scott has partnered with a private insurance company who has the experience in developing similar insurance products. If this program becomes successful in Vermont, it might be the kind of benefit that Americans around the country could one day enroll in, just like they do when they buy disability insurance or life insurance. Ten years form now a Texan employee could owe their family leave to a similar company offering a similar benefit, all based on the ground breaking work that is getting started in Vermont.

Third, this proposal does something that is completely unprecedented by democratizing a public sector benefit. For decades state and federal unions have created a wall separating their benefits from the benefits available to “the rest of us.” Government employees have enjoyed “Cadillac Plans” that were so prevalent they warranted special lobbying for the Affordable Care Act. This has fueled tensions in many negotiations between taxpayers who feel like teachers are getting benefits far more generous than anything they see in the private sector. Gov. Scott’s plan starts with state employees in 2023 to provide a larger risk pool. But the next year it will become available to any business that voluntarily wants to adopt it, adding thousands of workers from even the most remote part of the state, and in 2025 when it rolls out to individuals of any type (even those whose employers don’t opt in during the 2024 transition) regular Vermonters could be participating in the exact same plan with the same benefits as a deputy commissioner. There won’t be a “special deal” for state employees that is off limits to everyone else.

Lastly, this proposal takes into consideration a growing portion of the Vermont economy; the self-employed. In 2025, Phase 3 of the plan will allow independent contractors, freelancers and other generally self-employed workers to earn this benefit — if they want it.  This represents a group of people who were specifically excluded under the Democrat-proposed bill (H.107) that Gov. Scott vetoed in 2020. Sole Proprietors and other self-employed people are an important part of our workforce and a group of workers we need to continue to grow and attract. Gov. Scott’s plan brings those people in as well.

But not only is this a better plan for Vermonters than what was proposed two years ago, this is a great example of the kind of approach the Republican Party needs to take more broadly. We can’t continue a “Just Say No” policy. If there is a problem that constituents see, we can’t ignore it. We have to be a party that proposes alternative ideas and works to put them into effect and get creative about how to advance them.

In Vermont we don’t have legislative control, so we can’t legislate our policy proposals. But here is an example where Gov. Scott took an innovative approach to work around the obstructionist Democrat-controlled legislature who refused to cooperate with his voluntary plan, instead adding it as an element to a collective bargaining agreement with state workers. When Gov. Scott went directly to the people, the state workers in this case, they were on board because it made sense and was the right thing to do. Likewise Republicans have to look for other ways to advance our policies even when a Democrat legislature is working against it. This is one way that Republicans can win back the middle, by beating the Democrats at their own game. Now state workers know that it was the Republican governor, not the Democrat supermajority, who was the first one to be able to deliver on a plan to give them paid leave.

Image courtesy of Public domain
Spread the love

14 thoughts on “Paul Dame: Scott’s paid leave plan — it’s so good it’s voluntary

  1. Okaaaay, so let’s see how this works out

    According to the 2019 state tax information, the average Adjusted Cross Income for Vermont households was a cool $66,421, which I think makes a family/sick leave payroll tax eminently affordable— all workers in Vermont can afford both Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes right now, despite their income, and the private sector would certainly offer lower cost plans for family leave, right? Let’s say the policy is $100 a paycheck , roughly equal to the full SS payment for that income level.

    But there’s a fly in this whipped cream— those same data show that the bottom 52.9% average only $19,000 a year. Suddenly the rate of having $100 taken off at $66,000 wage rises from 8% to 27%— absolutely unaffordable for our lowest-paid workers.

    So, who are these people who are going to opt out of paid family/sick leave? Dog walkers, food services, trash collectors, entry-level home health aides, substitute teachers, gig workers, loggers. And of course they are largely young people, the ones with the youngest children.

    By opting out, they set themselves up for failure— unrecoverable income during times of illness and the immeasurable loss of quality of life in adapting to a newborn and recovering from pregnancy.

    And of course we luckier ones have only to worry about whether or not our garbage will be picked up, our lawn mowed, our dogs walked, our firewood delivered, our driveway plowed, our prescriptions delivered and the quality of the replacement visiting nurse.

    So, we find that “voluntary paid leave” is ripe for scamming— the ones who need it the most are the ones least able to afford it. The ones who need it the least of course won’t buy in, so the insurance companies will have to gouge those who do buy it, most likely by offering “platinum,” “gold” and “bronze” plans, the latter two demanding “out of pocket expenses” to be paid. In the case of that last one, the out-of-pocket will guarantee bankruptcy.

    Gov. Scott’s proposal is simply another version of boutique insurance, affordable mostly to those who won’t need it— older couples whose children are in their healthiest years, who have health insurance that has stabilized their lives for a decade or more, and who could do without such pay (although it would be inconvenient, it wouldn’t put them anywhere near the risk of bankruptcy).

    This is not a proposal which puts in a good light the Vermont reputation of us being considerate of other Vermonters’s needs.

  2. Just think if Vermont were known for the following:

    Low Crime, Low DRUG crime
    Great affordable homes
    Great employment
    Great schools that don’t indoctrinate but give a classical liberal western education

    We’d have families thriving and moving to the area because of the pro-family atmosphere.

    We probably wouldn’t have school systems, ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS, in such disarray that calling the cops is necessary because the children are so unruly, so neglected. We’ve got a serious problem in our state, and Montpelier doesn’t’ have the solution…..they are actually the problem.

  3. The only way Republicans can take back a much bigger chunk of the Legislature is to get control of the bloated registered voter list, run it against some well-known databases to eliminate at least 20% of the names that should not be there.

    Those “names” are sent undeliverable ballots, as part of universal mail out, which are collected as part of universal harvesting, filled in by VT NGOs, filtered into the “system”, where needed, to tip close races in favor of Dem/Progs, to ensure their veto proof majorities

    • Don’t forget they feel so bad about the election loss of their opponents that they want to bring in rank choice voting…….

      surely they are doing this because they want more diversity and more republicans elected…for sure….why else would they do it but for their kind hearts?

    • Mr. Post,
      How do you come up with the figure of at least 20% of the names on Vermont voter checklists not being there?

      Towns are required to do regular purging of their voters checklists. This is something as a Town official I participaed in for over 3 decades. Perhaps in larger communities it might be different, but in our rural communities it is pretty easy to pick out names of people who no longer live in town or to send letters out to people requiring their response if they are not felt to be valid voters. Some voters do slip through the cracks but in my experience not that many.

      I may be wrong but your figure seems really high and really would be interested in your source.

  4. Phil Scott, the longtime racecar driver, is playing the field he has been given as best he can. The poor showing in this past election for seats in the Vermont House of Representtatives, which will make it harder to sustain his vetoes, has lessened his options. Rather than simply reacting to what he knows is coming down the pike from the Democrats/Progressives controlling the legislature, Governor Scott is getting out front on this issue with a pracital atlernative.

  5. Affordability would allow us to build strong families. Who really wants to farm out their children to the strangers and the state?

    Good jobs, affordable homes, good schools. Strong families……

    or do we want our focus to be BMW in every yard, and government our God and Babysitter?

    meanwhile our current path to which we are doubling down on…..brings us more police calls in grammar school because the children are too out of hand! That’s because we’ve broken down the family, not because we don’t have subsidized day care for God’s sake. Children need love, they need an intact family, they need the truth.

    Ask any schoolteacher, can you tell the difference between the children from families where the parents are involved, and one stays home and those from broken families and those who’ve shipped their kids completely to daycare.

    The chasm between these two families makes the Grand Canyon look like small ditch on the side of the road.

    Affordability was on Scott’s radar years ago. He’s drifted. They’ve all drifted and taken the wide path. Government doesn’t have the answers and never will, we need to stop looking under this rock for the answer, there are only snakes in this rock wall.

    • A lot of Vermonters, especially young people have become conditioned to think (big) government is the answer; probably on account of the fact that a large percentage were raised by a single mom. So, in the back of their minds, they sense the possibility of public assistance and/or some form of a bail-out which I attribute to social engineering. Yes, this has been planned; a prequel to UBI.

      • It’s written out in the plan…..drug dealers use this tactic all the time. Get people hooked and then they will be customers for life.

        They have flipped many countries with this tactic. They have destroyed families across the globe, all intentional.

        And planned parenthood with decades worth of evidence that their ways contribute to 50% of unplanned births……has much to do with the situation. 50% And the over sexualization of our society will only bring about more chaos within the family.

        We’ve lost our way for sure.

  6. I have to question why the head of the republican party would be supporting a republican governor in the state of Vermont who voted for Joe Biden

    Who made us sanctuary state

    Who denounced president Trump and made patriots in the republican party domestic enemies of America

    Who agrees with the Biden gun ban on the American patriots

    Who is all in on equity in CRT in our school systems

    Who was supported by peter people like patty McCoy and art peterson and the rest of the sellouts in the republican party who no longer care about the freedoms of the people in the state of Vermont

    We have been sold out by the influx of out of staters who claim to be republicans yet back in administration that would completely destroy our beautiful state of Vermont..

    • I see a lot of new faces and out of state plates at the Springfield recycling center on a regular basis. Who is moving out and selling their homes to them? People who understand the unaffordability issue and would vote republican if they did vote. So we can see that Vermonters with yankee values are an endangered species.

  7. How about if business owners don’t want to participate? Is it forced on them or are employees working for businesses that don’t participate just exempt? I know many businesses that can’t afford to lose an employee for weeks leaving the business too short handed. Or what of the small business that has employees with a specialized trade such as a welder or computer programmer? Do they get forced to close?
    I don’t think it was thought out very well.

    • Keith, that’s the great part about this plan. Not only are businesses free to NOT opt-in, but Gov. Scott designed a mechanism by which individual workers can opt-in, which means there will be less pressure for businesses to get forced into a bigger plan later because EVERY PERSON who wants this coverage can get it as an individual, just like you can get a personal life insurance policy if your business doesn’t offer any. Also, no one is forced to get in.

    • Keith, you might remember the case in our town where a very prominent Republican and his wife got into a serious traffic accident and had to make a GoFundMe appeal to deal with their medical expenses. A family leave plan would have been quite helpful to them while they were incapacitated– the only question being whether he, as an employer, would have wanted all his employees to have one.

Comments are closed.