Gov. Ned Lamont ctmirror.org
Gov. Ned Lamont spoke to reporters after Tuesday’s Bond Commission meeting. ctmirror.org
Gov. Ned Lamont spoke to reporters after Tuesday’s Bond Commission meeting. ctmirror.org

Gov. Ned Lamont said Tuesday he is exploring private management of a new public benefit that the Democratic governor has pledged to create this year with the support of labor and over the concerns of business: A paid family and medical leave program financed by a tax on employees.

“If I have somebody who wants to administer this thing and take the financial risk in return for a 10-year contract, that’s the way I like to think about these things,” said Lamont, a cable entrepreneur elected last fall..

The Lamont administration and Democratic lawmakers have proposed competing versions of legislation that essentially would create a disability insurance program that would pay workers at least a portion of their wages to care for family members for up to 12 weeks.

Negotiations are underway with legislative committee co-chairs and other stakeholders about the variables of such a benefit: How much weeks of wages would be offered? What percentage of wages would be replaced? Who would be eligible? What constitutes a family member?

As a form of insurance to be covered by a half-percent payroll tax on employees, those variables must be set before actuaries can assure the governor and legislature of the program’s solvency.

“We are sitting down with the respective chairmans as we speak, right now,” Lamont said. “I’m also talking to folks in Massachusetts and Rhode Island and other places, New York, where we can learn from their experience. And we’re going to take the best ideas we can and put that forward in a bill we know is fiscally locked tight.”

Advocates of paid family and medical leave said Tuesday that a new poll they commissioned from BLS Research & Consulting found 88 percent of registered voters supporting such a benefit, with support across party lines. Support dropped to 82 percent when respondents were told the program would offer 12 weeks of paid leave and would be paid for “through very small payroll deductions.”

The National Federation of Independent Business said the poll offers an incomplete view.

“A public poll doesn’t reflect a reality small businesses would face if one or more employees are off the job for up to 12 weeks,” the NFIB said in a statement. “It’s highly possible the required work can’t be completed. Maybe large companies with many employees could handle it, but this will become an impossible circumstance for most small businesses.”

Lindsay Farrell, the executive director of the Working Families Party, a union-financed group and part of the coalition backing passage of the bill, said the advocates are skeptical about private management, but their goal is a solid program with benefits generous enough to be useful to lower-paid workers.

“This is not an ideological fight. We just want to make sure the program works,” Farrell said. “Most people don’t have a very good experience with private insurance companies. It’s public dollars. We want to make sure we keep the costs down for people.”

If the program is not privatized, it would be run by the state Department of Labor.

Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, has publicly urged the administration to look at private management, but the GOP still was dubious about paid family and medical leave as is currently being considered by Democrats.

“I think there still is a long way to go,” Fasano said. “I think having it funded by an outside group saves money, will be done more efficiently  and probably gives the bill a bigger chance of actually working. But there is a lot more to this bill that raises concerns with my caucus and won’t garner votes in the current form.”



CT Paid Leave Voter Poll Toplines (2) (Text)

Correction: As originally posted, this story said the pollster did not ask about the payroll tax.

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Mark is the Capitol Bureau Chief and a co-founder of CT Mirror. He is a frequent contributor to WNPR, a former state politics writer for The Hartford Courant and Journal Inquirer, and contributor for The New York Times.

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11 Comments

  1. To the working families party. You say most have not had a good experience with private facilitators .When did the state gov’t provide such great service. Other than those who plow the roads and keep our parks in order. What govt service is great. Please name it for me. DMV? DCF? What

    1. No reason to have faith in for-profit financial manager. A member of my family has decades of experience inside three different Fortune 500 corporations. Not one of them runs/ran efficiently. Waste and financial misreporting were rampant. “Free” market forces give them no incentive to build a better box but plenty of incentive to use smoke and mirrors to convince investors and customers of the value of their product and the value of their stock. At each corporation, the ruse was eventually discovered and stock values plummeted.

      1. The difference is that in business, inefficiency will eventually lead to smaller market share and stock price declines (stock corporations) or loss of business and closing to small businesses. The Government, with Democrats in control, has no incentive to be efficient. Have you seen any significant expense cutting in this last budget? Its all tax and fee increases to pay for bloated staffing, more debt, and of course the unfunded retirement benefits for union workers.

  2. putting aside the super biased poll who’s questions we should be skeptical of. The governor is taking a step in the right direction.

  3. With such solid support, there should be no problem making it optional. I do not require the state’s help. If forced to participate, I will view this as an increase of the state income tax. My wife is leaving for South Carolina this evening to look for real estate. But it’s a lie, nobody leaves.

    Jim

    1. That’s how I view it also Jim- an increase to my income tax.

      South Carolina is on my radar also. It doesn’t tax Social Security payments and provides adjustments to pretax retirement account income. Its highest marginal tax rate is lower than CT for earned income as well.

    2. The problem is that to make it solvent, you have to spread the risk widely. Virtually every full-time worker will have to take several weeks’ or months’ leave at some point in a long working life for their own illness or to tend to a family member.

  4. Our state in is a fiscal death spiral so what does our businessman Governor do? He adds another 1/2 percent tax to our paychecks. Does anyone really think this will improve the lives of the working class? Will it really attract new business to our state? It will have the opposite effect on both counts.

    With each tax, Connecticut Democrats are slowly bleeding this state dry to feed their protected class: state union workers and their outrageous retirement benefits. Our Governor and state legislators are telling us through their actions that the rights of 100,000 are more important than the other 3 million of us. Our state Government doesn’t work for us anymore; we work for them.

  5. Please note that the ‘poll’ never once mentions that EVERYONE would be paying that ‘very small payroll deduction.’ Beyond that, who truly believes the deduction won’t greatly increase?

    We had FMLA at a former employer. That time off was ‘paid for’ through our own leave or, if you didn’t have enough leave to cover it, it wasn’t paid. There was also massive abuse of the time, but at least the rest of us weren’t directly paying for it. If someone only has a tiny bit of skin in the game, they will be much more likely to abuse the leave and get paid.

    I’m registered ‘unaffiliated’ and would have responded ‘strongly oppose’ and ‘much less likely’ to support a candidate who supported this….but no one asked.

    “At some point, you run out of other people’s money.”

  6. I employ 6 people including my son. If two of those people take 12 weeks off, I will be forced to shut down. The governor is no business man, he thinks of this atrocity like paying monthly for cable tv where you pay alot and get nothing for it. This bill is a direct attack on the business community. You know, those companies that employ you and are the economic backbone of this state’s economy. As for the poll and the socialist working party agenda, it’s pure nonsense.

  7. Mr. Pazniokas, Have you asked the Labor committee for actuarial calculations? Members claim the committee has an analsysis that shows 12 weeks up to $1k/week is about right. I’ll be disappointed (but not surprised) if my sources made it up. Also, if you have more time than you know what to do with, how about interviewing smallish businesses about how they would go about finding temporary workers. What’s wrong with a temp?

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