Democratic leaders pitched a plan Thursday that would provide paid time off to Vermonters recovering from illness or injury, or caring for a new child or loved one.
“When it happens, a secure financial situation can become insecure lightning fast,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Tim Ashe.
The announcement comes a day after Governor Phil Scott unveiled his own voluntary proposal in New Hampshire. The Republican Governor vetoed mandatory paid leave legislation last year.
“I think it’s encouraging that the governors stepped forward to say it’s important to offer this benefit to Vermonters,” said House Speaker, Mitzi Johnson. “I think that puts us giant strides ahead of last year when we heard flat out ‘no.’”
Democrats disagree with the voluntary aspect of the plan, saying low-wage workers wouldn’t be able to afford it.
“Their program benefits from having an incumbent group of state workers part of it,” Ashe said. “But it still doesn’t speak to how much more expensive it would be for people who voluntarily participate.”
The Democratic initiative would be universal, providing 12 weeks of leave with full pay. The governor’s proposal is 6 weeks at 60% of their full wage.
“The benefit is almost double,” said Rep. Johnson. “You get twice the benefit with a slightly lower cost.”
A payroll tax, split evenly between employers and employees, would pay for it. According to lawmakers, it would cost minimum-wage employees about 28 cents a day and 70 cents a day for middle income earners. Self-employed workers would also benefit from the program.
Democratic leaders say they’ll introduce the bill in the Vermont House in the next few weeks.