Here we go again. The D.C. Council wants to grow the D.C. government and create an entirely new bureaucracy costing $40 million and raising taxes to the tune of $250 million annually to implement the Universal Paid Leave legislation. Moreover, it is blind to the fact that the D.C. Chamber of Commerce and others put forth a plan that accomplishes much more than their legislation for D.C. workers and families by providing eight weeks of paid family leave at 100 percent wage reimbursement without raising taxes and without growing an over-sized bureaucracy.
D.C. residents made the case for paid family leave. The council responded by putting forth legislation mandating paid family leave. The business community has responded by putting forth employer-mandate.
The council was concerned with how the entities with 50 or fewer employees will be able to afford meeting the demands of the employer-mandate legislation. Insurance companies offer a product that will allow small and medium-sized businesses to meet the demands of the paid leave. To say small employers will not be covered is false.
The council should slow down and thoroughly examine the Universal Paid Leave Legislation and the business community’s Employer Mandate Legislation. Legislation of this magnitude warrants another public hearing to allow testimony on the pros and cons of each proposal.
An objective review of the business community’s employer mandate illustrates that it is the better plan.
The business community would provide up to eight weeks of family paid leave at 100 percent wage replacement; the council’s plan is 50 percent wage replacement with a maximum benefit of $ 1,000 weekly, which kicks in at the $46,000 annual income level. The median income in the nation’s capital is $90,000. Thus, the middle class gets stuck with the council’s paid leave proposal.
The employer-mandate plan would commence immediately without taxing anyone or growing the government; the council’s plan would tax employers for one or more years to build a fund. Assuming a perfect implementation, the council’s bill would provide benefits on or after Jan. 1, 2020.
The business community plan would provide for eight weeks of paid leave covering adoption, guardianship, birth of a child, to care for yourself during a serious health condition or a family member’s serious health condition including physical or mental conditions; the council’s plan would allow paid leave only for very limited qualifying events, not including mental health or self-care for a health condition.
The business community plan would be aligned with the Family Medical Leave Act, something businesses are familiar with implementing, and would continue the employer and employee relationship without government intervention; the council’s plan would create a large, expensive bureaucracy that would require millions of taxpayer dollars in start-up costs and ongoing operating expenses, and it would require that paid leave be approved by a government agency.
The council’s legislation would benefit more non-D.C. residents than District residents. In fact, 61 percent (or $152 million) would go to those who live outside of the District.
Should the council really consider raising taxes after it recently voted to reduce taxes based on the Tax Revision Commission? Especially when the business community is saying it will take care of employees through existing policies and programs? Now is not the time to even considering raising taxes and growing the D.C. government.
There is a much better alternative on the table for the desired eight weeks of paid family leave. It’s called Employer Mandate Legislation.
The writer, a former D.C. Council member, is president and chief executive of the D.C. Chamber of Commerce.