Govs. Scott and Sununu Plan Announcement on Voluntary Paid Family Leave

Published: 1/15/2019 10:51:16 PM
Modified: 1/15/2019 10:51:21 PM

Gov. Phil Scott will announce his proposal Wednesday to institute a voluntary paid family leave program with New Hampshire during a press conference with Gov. Chris Sununu in Littleton, New Hampshire.

Scott announced in his inaugural address last week that he would propose an opt-in voluntary paid family leave this session, saying he’d roll out the plan in the coming weeks.

A press release about Wednesday’s press conference said Scott and Sununu will “announce a new bi-state initiative focused on maintaining the high quality of life in the Granite and Green Mountain states.”

A source with knowledge of the plans confirmed that the governors would unveil their plan to merge the employee pools of the two states, which would address the main concern of a voluntary program in Vermont: that there won’t be enough employees to generate the revenue to make it work.

In November, Scott’s staff said he planned to discuss a possible paid family leave program with Sununu while the two were attending a conference of the Republican Governor’s Association in Phoenix.

Rebecca Kelley, Scott’s spokesperson, declined to comment on the details of Wednesday’s press conference.

Democratic leaders in the Legislature are gearing up to once again push for a mandatory program, most likely funded through a payroll tax.

Scott vetoed paid family leave legislation that lawmakers put on his desk last year because he opposed the tax needed to fund it.

House Speaker Mitzi Johnson D-South Hero, who championed last year’s paid family leave legislation, said Tuesday that she was skeptical of the plans for a voluntary system.

She argued that under a voluntary program, only those who know they are going to use it will pay in.

“In that case it becomes a lot more like a savings account — that’s not an insurance program. It doesn’t work,” she said.

“I think the administration would say that by including New Hampshire there’s a big enough pool that it works, but if that pool is still self-selected for mostly only the people who are going to use it, it doesn’t matter how big the pool is if you don’t have anybody to share the cost among.”

Sununu floated a paid family leave program in October, during a reelection campaign in which he was facing a Democratic opponent, Molly Kelly, who had made paid family leave a priority.

His staff described it as a public-private partnership.

“The governor is working on a plan that provides an elective benefit, with zero dollars in startup costs to the taxpayers, and the costs of ongoing operations covered by private insurance carriers,” Jayne Millerick, Sununu’s chief of staff, said last year.

It’s not clear if Scott will pitch a similar program in Vermont, or to what extent the Vermont and New Hampshire programs would operate together.

Wednesday’s press conference is scheduled to take place at noon at the Schilling Beer Co. in Littleton, New Hampshire.

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