WHY IS GOVERNOR Chris Sununu vetoing SB 1, the bill that would enact a mandatory paid medical and family leave program for New Hampshire?
Why does Sununu claim that he definitely supports paid family and medical leave, when he has effectively killed it twice?
In 2018, state senate Republicans pulled their support for a bipartisan bill that he opposed.
This year, the legislature passed a plan, but Sununu has proclaimed a veto.
The governor’s opposition does not make sense given popular support for paid medical and family leave.
The Carsey School of Public Policy at UNH reports that some 80 percent of New Hampshire residents support PMFL, including 69 percent of Republicans.
It also does not make sense from an economic standpoint.
PMFL would address a major productivity issue; according to a fact sheet on the New Hampshire Women’s Foundation website, even a small number of paid sick days could save $1 billion dollars nationally each year due to lower employee turnover and increased productivity by employees.
Paid sick days also promote a healthier work force.
Sick employees can stay at home, rather than infect their co-workers, if they have paid sick time.
Yet according to the Campaign for a Family Friendly Economy, nearly 40 percent of New Hampshire employees lack paid sick days, let alone leave to help sick kids and parents.
PMFL would help attract workers to New Hampshire, especially at this time of low unemployment.
Rhode Island, New York and Massachusetts have paid leave programs. Maine is considering it.
Isn’t it time to make New Hampshire worker friendly as well as business friendly?
It would both help families and help the state remain competitive.
Sununu claims that he does not oppose PMFL, just this particular plan. He proposes entering into a program with Vermont, which would provide coverage just to state employees.
His plan relies on a leap of faith — that because that state employee program would provide a base pool of eligible employees, private insurers would jump into the market and provide affordable PMFL insurance.
Then, in another leap of faith, he says private employers would voluntarily hop on board.
There are too many ifs with his plan.
Even a resident scholar on economic policy at the conservative American Enterprise Institute has said that the Sununu plan may not provide a large enough pool of workers to fund the program.
Another problem is Sununu’s reliance on Vermont’s participation.
The Vermont state employees union, however, has rejected the Sununu proposal, instead favoring a mandatory plan.
The Vermont legislature has endorsed a mandatory leave plan, not the Sununu plan.
So why promote a plan that is not going to happen?
Politics. Sununu has misleadingly dubbed SB1 an income tax plan.
The plan would require employers to pay an average of $5 per week per employee to fund the program.
Some or all of the $5 could be passed to employees by employers — just as many employers pass a portion of the cost of health insurance along to their employees. Alternatively, employers could qualify to self insure their employees.
By calling the plan an income tax, however, Sununu (facing a tough reelection with Donald Trump at the top of the ticket) will claim that he has saved the state from an income tax.
But what he will have done is stopped New Hampshire workers from access to the help they need to take care of themselves, their kids and their parents when the necessity arrives. He will have handed states like Massachusetts and New York a competitive advantage in attracting workers.
It may also be that Sununu, contrary to what he has told us, really doesn’t support PMFL.
Whatever his reason, vetoing SB1 is not in New Hampshire’s best interest.