Mayor John Suthers came out in opposition to a state bill that would create a paid family and medical leave program, ahead of the Senate vote scheduled for April 23.
In a statement, the mayor said, “I’ve spoken with businesses of all sizes and they’ve made it loud and clear that State Bill 19-188 will be an imposing detriment on the vitality of their operations. Though well-intentioned, the FAMLI [Family Medical Leave Insurance] proposal is the largest and most expensive program of its kind in the nation. The cost imposed upon every employee and employer in the state, as well as state government, will significantly harm our economy.”
The latest version of the bill would require employers and employees to pay a total of 0.64 percent of an employee’s annual wages into a state-run insurance program, which would provide partial wages for employees who take up to 12 weeks of family-related or medical leave. Employers would pay 40 percent of that premium, while employees would pay 60 percent.
The premium amount could change year-to-year, but would not exceed 0.99 percent of annual wages.
Other states that have already implemented similar programs include California, New Jersey, Rhode Island and New York. None of those programs require employers to contribute.
Supporters of Senate Bill 188 accuse the "corporate lobby" of confusing the public about the bill.
“Despite misinformation spread by lobbyists seeking to sow doubt and confusion, economic experts have proven the program will be fiscally sound and completely solvent," said Judith Marquez, the co-director of 9-to-5 Colorado, an advocacy organization backing the bill. "We all agree that working families need to be able to care for newborns and seriously ill parents, children and spouses without risking their homes and financial security, and passing FAMLI now is the way to do it."
The Colorado Springs Chamber and EDC also released a statement opposing the bill, on April 17.
"Senate Bill 188 is a $1 billion or more tax increase that sets one-size-fits-all rules for paid time off of work, by law, and imposes them on all employers and employees regardless of an employer’s size, location, industry or the specific needs of a given workplace," the statement reads.
A recent amendment does allow local governments to opt out of the program, but Suthers pointed out in his statement that "local government employees could opt in, leaving private sector and nonprofit employees and employers to subsidize their coverage."
You could be eligible for partial wage benefits under the bill if you: have a serious health condition; are caring for a new child during the first year after birth, adoption or foster care placement; are caring for a family member with a serious health condition; have a need arising from a family member's active duty service or notice of an impending call to active duty; or if you or a family member has a serious health condition related to domestic abuse, sexual assault or abuse, or stalking.
Under the bill, an individual would be eligible to receive 90 percent of their wages below the average weekly wage (currently $1,295) and 50 percent of wages equal or above AWW. So, a person making $1,000 a week would receive $758.90 a week while on paid leave, and someone making $1,500 a week would get $1,000 a week on paid leave.
The person making $1,000 would pay about $200 a year into the paid leave program. Their employer would pay $133 a year.
The person making $1,500 would pay about $300 a year. Their employer would pay $200.
Opponents of the bill argue that the bill amounts to a tax increase, and therefore is subject to the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights, which requires that tax increases be approved by a vote of the people. However, the paid leave program would be created as a state enterprise, not as a payroll tax — which would mean, according to a legislative analysis, that it wouldn't be subject to TABOR.
Sen. Faith Winter, D-Westminster, who sponsored the bill, has argued in the past that the premium amounts to about the same cost as a cup of coffee a week, and is a needed protection for Coloradans.
“Many workers simply can’t afford to choose between a paycheck and caring for a recovering spouse without the risk of being evicted or getting behind on utility bills,” she said in an October statement.