Discussions of paid family leave policies in our state are ongoing. Last week, the Associated Press reported,
Several bipartisan legislators — along with representatives from labor and business —have been taking advantage of the extra time provided by the Legislature’s need to go into double overtime because of ongoing budget talks.
The AP story noted business concerns.
Gary Chandler, vice president of government affairs at the Association of Washington Business, said that the goal is to “come up with a reasonable package that business can support, especially small businesses.”
And political and economic realities.
Republican Sen. Joe Fain, one of the negotiators, said that the desire by multiple groups to be at the table this year on the issue stems not only from increased local and national conversations, but also by the recent successes by labor groups at the ballot box in Washington state, like the recent initiative to increase minimum wage and sick leave that was approved by voters last November.
“This is not without controversy,” Fain said. “But there’s also a human side to it. And I think that there is a really good faith attempt by those in the labor community to understand how businesses can be impacted by this, and good faith in the business community to understand that there is a change in the landscape of our workforce.”
The sticking point about a paid leave policy is how best to design it so that it benefits working families without being overly costly. Earlier last year, a group of bipartisan nationwide experts joined forces to explore the issue. Under the umbrella of the American Enterprise Institute–Brookings Paid Family Leave Working Group, comprised of many people with government experience in both Democratic and Republican administrations, put forth a different approach to designing a federal paid leave policy. Not everyone agreed on such questions as how generous the benefits should be, how they should be paid for, whether they should be targeted to low-income families or made available to the middle-class, how strict the eligibility rules should be and how much job protection should be provided. But it is worth noting: We all agreed that a paid family leave policy is needed in the U.S.
To answer this growing need, the AEI-Brookings working group put forth the following compromise proposal: Federally paid parental leave would be available to both working mothers and fathers (with strict eligibility requirements) to prevent new parents from having to return to work within days of a child’s birth or adoption. The plan would be budget-neutral by splitting the costs of financing it between a payroll tax, pruning government spending or cutting tax expenditures elsewhere in a way that does not adversely affect low-income families. It would offer a 70% wage-replacement rate up to a cap of $600 per week, for eight weeks. States and private employers would be free to supplement this leave if they choose to do so. Job protection would be included, and it would require an independent study of the policy’s effects to assess the impact on workers and businesses over time.
The full 41-page report provides much more detail. Negotiators may find it helpful.