House Speaker Tom Finneran, a Democrat, has proposed tax
credits to finance voluntary parental leaves while Acting Gov. Jane Swift, a Republican, wants a tax-supported mandatory plan.
Forget the party labels; Finneran's is the better approach.
The best that can be said for Swift's plan is that it does
not raid the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund. But aside from that, it is square in the middle of the liberal traditions of a
nanny state, "Taxachusetts" and employer mandates that for decades have made the commonwealth an unattractive place to do
Finneran would let employers of 250 people or fewer claim on
their tax returns a 20 percent credit for the cost of four to six weeks of leave for new parents.
Swift would require all employees to buy temporary disability insurance to cover time off the job for illness
Whatever share of the cost the state doesn't pick up in such
a plan amounts to a tax on labor, no matter whether it appears as a deduction on the paycheck or not. Swift's staff is denying
that such charges would be a break in her pledge to oppose new taxes, because the state would not get the money. That's
sophistry: If it's required by law from all, it's a tax, no matter where the money goes. You know the rule: If
it waddles like a duck and quacks like a duck...
But should every worker be required to participate?
Companies already offering paid leave will resent a new tax that enables their less-generous competitors in the labor
market pull even with them.
Swift's plan means the purchase of disability insurance.
That could mean duplicating to some extent coverage already in force through Workers' Compensation and employer sick leave.
Swift may be eager to act because her long absence with pay
from her office following the birth of her twins has spotlighted the issue. As it stands her plan is a piece of
costly government-knows-best welfarism the state should avoid.