CLT Update
Thursday, August 2, 2001

"Paid Family Leave" for some instead of a tax cut for all?

First came unpaid "family leave" and, notwithstanding denials to the contrary, we all knew where that was going: Who can afford to take 12 weeks off without pay?

Well, here it is at last, "paid" family leave.

Paid for out of our tax over-payment -- the pols' "surplus."

"Take a little where you can ... then come back for the rest later." A classic example of government incrementalism.

And that darned annoying surplus that's supposed to be returned to the taxpayers ... well the pols can't have that, it must be spent, somehow, anywhere, fast. September's creeping up on them, when they'll have no option but to return it.

But what happens when even the current surplus doesn't provide enough cash to fund an entitlement program that - as all entitlement programs inevitably do - expands beyond initial cost predictions created to achieve foot-in-the-door acceptance?

Like we don't know.

Chip Ford

The Boston Herald
Thursday, August 2, 2001

Birmingham unveils parental leave plan
by Ellen J. Silberman

Senate President Thomas F. Birmingham yesterday waded into the debate on paid parental leave with a pilot program that would offer new parents 12 weeks off without raising taxes.

"We have to do more than pay lip service," Birmingham said, describing his plan as fixing a "hole in the social safety net."

"Every other first-world country has a provision like this," said Birmingham, a Chelsea Democrat expected to run for governor.

Paid family leave has become a hot issue on Beacon Hill with acting Gov. Jane M. Swift putting in part-time hours on her own fully paid, $2,500-a-week "working maternity leave."

Birmingham's plan, which the Senate is expected to approve today, would allow parents of newborn or newly adopted children to collect up to half their salaries for up to 12 weeks.

The Senate would use $70 million in surplus funds left over from last year's budget as a down payment on a three-year pilot program. After that, funding would come from the Medical Security Trust Fund, a little-used account intended to pay medical benefits for the unemployed. The goal would be to ultimately create a permanent family leave program.

Senate Minority Leader Brian P. Lees (R-East Longmeadow) praised Birmingham for dropping an earlier proposal that would have tapped the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund for parental leave benefits.

"That is certainly a huge step in the right direction for workers and businesses," Lees said.

But the Swift administration, which is working on its own parental leave plan, quickly rejected the Senate's plan as underfunded.

"It runs out of money after three years," said Secretary of Administration and Finance Stephen P. Crosby. "It's an unfunded mandate (after that)."

Swift administration officials briefly considered creating an extensive temporary disability insurance system funded with a tax increase, but backed away once the plan became public.

Swift again yesterday promised to unveil her own plan soon.

House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran (D-Mattapan) has proposed using tax credits to encourage companies to offer family leave benefits. And the AFL-CIO recently promised to take its proposal for a $20-per-worker tax on employers to the ballot if lawmakers don't endorse a paid parent leave bill.

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