LITTLE WONDER that the only study to conclude that the District’s proposal to give workers up to 16 weeks of paid family leave is affordable was funded with a grant from the Obama administration. It was clear from how the White House enthusiastically promoted the plan that it saw the Wilson Building as the route to achieve political objectives it couldn’t win in the Capitol. But what’s most insulting about using the District as a petri dish for a leave plan unprecedented in its expansiveness is that it comes after seven years of this administration doing virtually nothing to advance D.C. interests.
Conflicting conclusions about the costs of establishing a program of universal paid leave for almost every part-time and full-time employee who wants time off to take care of a new baby, sick parent or themselves were aired last week before the D.C. Council. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research, which received a grant from the federal Labor Department, said a proposed 1 percent salary tax on employers would be sufficient to pay for the program while a study commissioned by a Washington-area business group concluded there would be a shortfall of about $380 million.
A think tank that does gender-focused analysis and companies facing the prospect of yet another tax are likely to start out with certain predispositions. So we hope lawmakers were paying attention when D.C. Chief Financial Officer Jeffrey Dewitt warned about “a disparity of revenues collected and benefits paid” and the substantial costs that would be involved in administering the program. Or when Norton Francis, a top researcher with the Urban Institute, said program costs were underestimated not only by the federally financed study but also by the D.C. business owners group. And we would recommend that the council study the thoughtful essay by two public policy experts that appeared Jan. 17 in The Post’s Local Opinions pages on how to provide paid leave in a fiscally responsible way.
No one can dispute that the United States is behind other advanced countries in helping workers get the time off they need to tend to critical family matters. But it’s concerning that seven of the 13 council members jumped on the bandwagon for this preposterous plan. It’s important they proceed more cautiously and thoughtfully. And if the president wants to get involved in D.C. matters and is looking for things to do in his final year in office, we suggest he take up the cause of D.C. residents, who are denied voting representation in Congress.