For a third straight biennium, many of Vermont’s lawmakers are pushing for a state-run mandatory paid family and medical leave plan. 

“We want to ensure that we have a program that isn’t only available to those folks who can afford to take a pay cut, but also for folks that are just getting by now,” said Rep. Emily Kornheiser, D-Brattleboro. 

Kornheiser is sponsoring H.66, a house bill proposing a guaranteed 12-week plan with 100% wage replacement. It would largely be financed by a 0.58% payroll tax increase, split between an employer and employee. The state’s lowest earners being exempt from the increase. 

Democratic senators brought forward a very similar bill on Tuesday. 

“It takes them out of work temporarily so that they can return to the workforce,” said Sen. Kesha Ram Hinsdale, D-Shelburne. 

Governor Phil Scott, who vetoed the bills in 2018 and 2020, proposed his own voluntary six-week plan before the legislative session, and has not budged from his stance opposing tax hikes. 

“With organic growth in our economy we’ll be able to pay for it with existing funds…raising a tax might stifle that economic growth,” Scott said. 

A longtime critique against the bills is a possibility of taking workers out of the state’s already ailing workforce, but Hinsdale – the lead sponsor of the senate bill – says it’ll do just the opposite. 

“The plan is going to help you through this so that you can come back, so that you can work again,” she said. “You are valuable to me; your humanity is valuable to me.” 

In December of 2020, Barre resident Amanda Saladino was in search of that humanity. 

After entering her second trimester, her husband was diagnosed with stage four cancer. 

While she cared for her newborn and husband, the absence of a paid family and medical leave program left her family without an income. 

“My husband wouldn’t have been worrying as he was recovering from major abdominal surgery ‘when can I go back to work, when can I start accumulating income, I have to use all my paid time off to pay for the health insurance,” Saladino said. 

Governor Scott has continually said another tax could hurt people like Saladino more than it would help, but those taking charge on the mandatory plan say otherwise. 

“We’re talking about $200 a year per person, and the pay out in terms of medical leave coverage is thousands,” Kornheiser said.