Local View: Paid leave needed, but Minnesota's proposal rife with shortcomings
From the column: "There would be negative consequences for small businesses, employees, and consumers."
I have worn a lot of hats in my lifetime. I've been a daughter, sister, wife, student, college graduate, radio host, sideline reporter who has covered everything from the Super Bowl to the Olympics, and even political advisor.
However, the hat I am proudest to wear is that of a mom.
Like many families across Minnesota, my husband and I had many difficult conversations about how our family dynamic and financial situation would change when we started having children. Would both of us stay home once the baby was born? Would my husband and I be able to take time off from our jobs when we had our son and adopted our daughter? How many weeks off could we afford? Would we be allowed to keep our jobs if we took leave? Would we be able to find new ones if necessary?
This is all why I support a comprehensive paid family leave program in Minnesota. Families across our state should never have to choose between having a career and building their families. Parents should have the opportunity to stay home with their newborn or recently adopted child to ensure they become acclimated to their new family. They should be able to do so without worrying about how they will pay the bills or whether they will suffer a career setback.
But current paid-family-leave legislation in St. Paul has some serious shortcomings. If it were to pass, there would be negative consequences for small businesses, employees, and consumers.
For example, the current proposal would give a single worker who has worked just three months up to 24 weeks off for family and medical leave. That's nearly six months off a year!
And whether you are a mom-and-pop shop in Ely with three full-time employees or 3M in Maple Grove, businesses would be required to hold these jobs open for the entire duration of an employee's leave. Companies would also be required to pay for any benefits that employees enjoy as part of their job — all while trying to find temporary workers to fill the gap. Businesses would not receive a grant or incentive to pay for these replacement workers who, if they then spend months on the job, would also qualify for the state's paid-family-leave program.
And what would this cost Minnesotans? In exchange for this state-run program, Minnesota employers and employees would see a $1 billion increase in the state payroll tax. Most Minnesotans can't fathom another tax increase amid rising costs and historic inflation. And with the state currently sitting on a nearly $18 billion surplus contrived of Minnesota's hard-earned tax dollars, a significant tax increase seems like financial malpractice.
Small businesses and employees have experienced a tough few years. With COVID-19, rising crime, increased costs, and historic inflation affecting family budgets and business overhead, the last thing they need is lawmakers adding to their pain. Will families have to cut back on buying shoes for their kids? Or will a small business have to make the tough decision to raise prices or cut an employee?
More importantly, to ensure this state-driven government program runs smoothly, Democrats want to create a new state department employing more than 300 full-time workers. At this point, we need to ask ourselves: Are we paying for the cost of paid family leave or a new government department?
If Democrats are serious about a paid-family-leave program, they should work across the aisle to find a common-sense solution. Families should be able to be present for precious moments in life, but a one-size-fits-all policy can't work in a world where businesses come in all shapes and sizes.
Let's encourage industry leaders to offer a solution that allows businesses to thrive while giving Minnesota families their needed time off — at a cost that benefits all.
Michele Tafoya of Edina, Minnesota, was a sideline reporter, including, from 2011 to 2022, for NBC Sports and NBC Sunday Night Football. She now hosts a podcast called Sideline Sanity and makes television and talk-show appearances to discuss the state of American politics and culture. She wrote this exclusively for the News Tribune.