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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Chris Swedzinski (R)

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Swedzinski: Costly, expansive details in worker leave bill concerning

Wednesday, May 3, 2023


ST. PAUL – House Democrats approved legislation Tuesday which Rep. Chris Swedzinski, R-Ghent, said will hurt employee wages and damage businesses by establishing a mandatory paid leave program funded by a new tax on employers and workers at a time the state has a $17.5 billion surplus.

“In an economy with a tight, razor-thin profit margin and historic price increases, the additional costs in this bill will tip the balance to make many of our businesses non-competitive in their ability to produce goods and services and pay wages,” Swedzinski said. “The Democrats’ one-size-fits-all approach with this bill will damage employers and employees alike, particularly in Greater Minnesota.”

Swedzinski said the program this bill (H.F. 2) creates would cost billions of dollars to get up and running and require as many as 400 new full-time government employees to develop and administrate. He added the program applies to virtually every industry in the state – private employers, nonprofits, cities, counties, and school districts – despite objections. It would be funded with a $2.9 billion tax on employers and employees and expands employers’ leave obligations to part-time and temporary employees.

Meanwhile, the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce reports 80 percent of its members already provide paid family leave, Swedzinski said.

Unlike the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act, which only applies to employers with 50 or more employees, Swedzinski noted this program would apply to all employers including those with only one employee. Employees can stack leave together, allowing for up to 24 weeks of paid time off per year.

Swedzinski indicated Republicans have developed a plan which takes a different approach, providing a small-business tax credit to incentivize employers to join the plan. The key difference, he said, is the minority’s plan provides paid family and medical leave benefits for employees without mandates and new taxes.

The House Republican proposal provides a small business tax credit to incentivize employers to join the plan. Minnesotans may opt into the program for $5 per week if an employer does not join by using the parameters of the state’s paid leave policy, leveraging the power of the state’s 10s of thousands of employees.

“Workers and employees in Minnesota want flexibility, not metro-centric mandates that impact everyone to address more isolated issues,” Swedzinski said. “That’s why House Republicans are advocating for an opt-in approach. If you are happy with your current benefits, go ahead and keep them without being forced into a government program. If you think there’s room for improvement, check out what could be available through a voluntary system.”

­­­Swedzinski also indicated the House Republican option is backed by an insurance company, so taxpayers will not be expected to cover the costs of program shortfalls or losses. Benefits would be available to Minnesotans this Jan. 1 – a full 18 months earlier than the House Democrat proposal.

The House Republican plan was offered as an amendment to the Democrat bill. House Democrats voted down that offering before approving their own bill, sending it to the Senate for action.