State Rep. Brenda Kupchick Statement on Family Medical Leave Bill

Posted on April 16, 2019 by jdooley


I was presented again this year in the Finance Revenue & Bonding Committee a bill to establish a Paid Family Medical Leave, (FMLA) a program which would allow employees to take paid time off in order to care for loved ones or for themselves in the event of illness. Who could possibly be opposed to such a compassionate and noble program?  Unfortunately, once again, the details of the bill before me were poorly drafted by only one party and unsustainable.

The bill proposes funding through a payroll tax.  Initially, .5% of every employees paycheck will go toward funding this program. Because the benefits are capped at $1,000, higher wage earners (those making more than $1,000 per week), will not be receiving their full pay even though they’ve paid more into the program.

If you do the math, the details of this proposal simply doesn’t work. Every covered employee has to pay .5% on their earnings below $132,900 so persons making $50,000 have to pay $250 per year, persons making $132,899 have to pay just under $665 per year.  If the Department of Labor thinks the fund is going broke, could possibly increase the base from $132,900 to $200,000 for legislative approval.  Everyone under the previous base/threshold ($132,900) pays the same amount; however, those making $132,900-$200,000 will have to pay more.  The $150,000 earner, who had been paying $665 per year now would pay $750 per year, and the $200,000 earner, who had been paying $665 per year would pay $1000.  There is no cap on the amount of earnings that are subject to tax and the Department is authorized to increase this to any amount to “ensure the solvency of the program.”

Government should never be given this type of blank check.

Furthermore, if the benefit amounts to $12,000 per 12 weeks per year and an employee only pays between $250 to $600 per year to fund it, how quickly do we think this fund will become insolvent?

The bill also calls for adding new state employees to manage the program with a cost of $4.7 million that’s part of the state borrowing 20 million over two years to be paid back through the .5% payroll tax. It also includes ongoing administrative costs projected to cost $18.6 million according to the fiscal note. All of this when the state can’t keep up with the salaries, benefits and pensions for the employees the state has now.

While the law would apply to employers with even just one employee, government is exempt from this law. Small business would need to hire replacements for anyone going on leave no matter how burdensome or devastating it can be for the business.  These replacements would only work for the 12 weeks the employee is on leave, and would subsequently be laid off, which will trigger unemployment charges that will be very costly, especially for small businesses.

About four years ago, Connecticut passed a retirement security program where 3% of your after-tax pay will be automatically deducted from your paycheck and put into a retirement fund unless the employee opts out.  It should not go unnoticed that this forced retirement program is not pre-taxed because the state cannot afford to provide you with an income tax deduction associated with a pretax retirement program.  Sadly, in crafting these laws, our public officials insulate government workers and themselves.

The fact that government exempts itself from these laws should give everyone pause.

I support Family Medical Leave, one that is drafted in a bipartisan fashion, that doesn’t include adding new state employees and isn’t managed by the state. With little time left in the legislative session, I’m not feeling hopeful the majority will invite the minority to the table to work on a common sense fiscally responsible FMLA plan.