Scott, Sununu pitch paid family leave program
The Republican governors in Vermont and New Hampshire are proposing a voluntary paid leave program available in both states and hoping the democratic legislatures in their states will get behind.
"We can establish a model and standard for the rest of the country," said Vermont Gov. Phil Scott, who appeared alongside New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu at a Littleton brewery to pitch their version of a program democrats want.
The Twin State Voluntary Leave Plan would be created for state employees in both states and allow the private sector in.
"The plan will be voluntary and not serve as an income tax. It will provide choice and flexibility to businesses and employees," Gov. Sununu said.
Gov. Scott vetoed the democrats plan last year because it called for a payroll tax. Gov. Sununu rejected a similar one in New Hampshire. Both oppose new taxes on their residents and say their plan won't require a tax or millions in start up costs like the plans democrats want.
"Our small size can be a challenge, especially when it comes to affordability of programs designed to add value to our already high quality of life," Gov. Scott said.
The two governors propose a benefit of up to six weeks per year, paying 60 percent of wages. Paid time-off would be offered for the birth or adoption of a child, caring for a sick relative, dealing with a serious health problem and other things allowed under the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act.
The question now is whether the state employee unions in Vermont and New Hampshire sign on and whether democrats will be willing to work with the governors.
Vermont State Employees Association Executive Director Steve Howard says the benefits in the governors' plan may not be strong enough. "Officially, the VSEA supports the plan that he vetoed and a plan that would be more robust than he vetoed," he said.
New Hampshire democrats reacted swiftly and negatively to the proposal, but the Vermont House Speaker Mitzi Johnson, D-South Hero, was willing to credit Scott for putting a proposal on the table. "I think that's a really important step forward to recognizing that family-friendly policies are an excellent way to build Vermont's workforce and make this an attractive state to raise a family in," she said.
The plan outlined Wednesday is quite different from the one democrats are pushing. Democrats in Vermont hold super majorities in the House and Senate, so they could try working with the governor or try to jam their plan through.