Maine governor suggests making paid leave proposal easier on businesses
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AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — Maine Gov. Janet Mills is pumping the brakes on a paid family and medical leave proposal promoted by her fellow Democrats, seeking compromises to reduce the burden on businesses in an effort to win broader support.
Deputy Chief of Staff Elise Baldacci said the governor recommended changes to balance the “disparate needs of Maine families and businesses” as paid leave advocates rallied at the State House and a public hearing was held Thursday.
Maine would join a growing number of states in adopting a paid family leave plan if the legislature approves the proposal, which allows up to 12 weeks a year of paid leave for qualifying conditions, such as the birth or adoption of a child, a worker’s serious illness, or care for a sick relative. Minnesota became the 12th state to require such benefits on Thursday.
The bill being considered in Maine would fund the leaves through a payroll tax split between workers and employers and capped at 1% of wages. The exact contribution rate, including the split, and the wage replacement rate will be negotiated by a legislative committee. Companies with fewer than 15 employees would be exempt.
In her testimony, Baldacci suggested tighter eligibility standards for workers and less generous pay for those who qualify. “The governor supports the concept of a paid family and medical leave policy, but she opposes some specific provisions that are problematic,” Baldacci said.
The bill’s Democratic sponsors, Sen. Mattie Daughtry of Brunswick, and Rep. Kristen Cloutier of Lewiston, served as co-chairs of a commission tasked by the Legislature to study the issue.
Daughtry began working on paid family and medical leave more than 10 years ago after caring for a family member at the end of their battle with a terminal illness. “After years of working on this, talking about this, and fighting for this, I can tell you: We know Maine needs paid family and medical leave,” she said.