Family Medical Leave Insurance— one of the banner bills for the democrats this biennium— is a hard fought series of compromises.
The cost of the program comes out of a payroll tax on employees, and so in order to lower the immediate cost to Vermonters, the personal medical leave is an “opt-in” program and we’ve privatized the administration of the program. These compromises are a step backwards for many of us— I believe our communities are strengthened by strong social programs— that in taking care of our families and their needs that we all prosper— that prosperity quickly pays for itself.
The bill is a huge step forward for financial security for Vermont families with 12 weeks of paid bonding leave, 8 weeks to care for another family member, and for those who “opt-in” 6 weeks of personal medical leave (or TDI). This legislation will improve people’s lives within months of passing, and so I voted yes this week. I’ve known too many families that returned to work days after giving birth, or had to leave jobs they cared about because of an illness in their family. This program makes it easier to make-it as a family in Vermont. However, it isn’t enough: we must follow through next year and add universal personal medical leave, include self-employed Vermonters, shift the cost burden to those who can most afford it, and carefully regulate the administration of the program. The nuances of compromise are the most difficult part of serving in the legislature, and I encourage you to reach out if you would like to discuss the issue further.
The devil is in the details: Privately administered (with guard rails), Cost paid by employees (payroll tax @ .20% or .38%), 12 weeks bonding, 8 weeks family, 6 weeks self. At 90% or 55% wage replacement rates depending on salary above or below average wage for Vermonters. Voluntary enrollment for sick leave at higher payroll tax. The bill makes some accommodations to next steps asking for a study towards a public option and towards universal leave.