Wednesday, July 4, 2001

Swift tax increase

When in the course of human events, someone comes up with a bright idea to "impose a tax on Bay State workers and businesses to create a paid family leave program" (Boston Herald, front page, Jul. 4), this bright idea will be met with a taxpayers' revolution.

We hold this truth to be self-evident: that if it's a mandatory payment, it's not a fee, so a mandatory "temporary disability insurance program" charge would be a tax, and a violation of Governor Swift's "No New Taxes" pledge.

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The Boston Herald
Thursday, July 5, 2001

Go with Finneran on parental leave
A Boston Herald editorial

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 business.

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 or pregnancy.

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.

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