MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesota Democrats say the threat of COVID-19 makes a bill allowing paid family leave to virtually all Minnesotans even more urgent.

The House passed that very legislation Thursday night, but Republicans argue that the bill is far too costly.

Supporters like Dr. Hannah Lichtsinn of Minnesota Doctors for Pay Equity say the threat of an outbreak makes paid family leave for all Minnesotans essential.

“As we all plan to protect our families from the spread of COVID-19, we all need to make sure that families can stay home from work or school when they are sick without worrying,” Lichtsinn said. “Worry about having to pay the rent or put food on the table.”

The proposed bill, which would not take effect until 2023, would be paid for by payroll taxes that would be split between employer and employee, and would be administered by the state of Minnesota.

It would create 12 weeks of paid family leave for the birth or adoption of a child, as well as for an illness or care for a close relative. The bill would create a $1.35 billion state fund every two years from a 0.6% payroll tax that would be split between employers and employees.

In all, 300 new state employees would be needed to create the program that would not be up and running for another three and a half years.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka blasted the bill Thursday night, saying it is a one-size-fits-all option with a huge price tag that will likely have the same lack of accountability as DHS, MNsure and MNLARS. Rep. Eric Lucero, R-Dayton, echoed that sentiment.

“This bill is going to recreate … the problems we had with MNLARS, and Minnesotans are furious at the over $100 million on that system wasted on that system,” Lucero said.

The bill’s chances in the Republican-controlled Minnesota Senate are slim. A similar measure passed the House last year but went nowhere in the Republican Senate.

Esme Murphy

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