AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) - Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon on Friday kicked off a push for her proposal for paid leave for workers who contribute to a newly established fund, but Republicans and some business leaders are skeptical.
Under the proposal, the state would allow up to 12 weeks of paid family leave or 20 weeks of paid medical leave. Employees would have to pay into the fund for at least 26 weeks in the previous year to qualify.
“Whether we have a new baby, a sick parent or an injured spouse, taking time off to care for our family member or ourselves is a need almost every one of us experiences during some point in our lives. This is true no matter where people live, what their income level is, or what kind of job they do,” Gideon told the Labor and Housing Committee on Friday.
Democratic Gov. Janet Mills helped to broker a compromise on a separate bill that has bipartisan support for a paid sick leave program that would guarantee employees 40 hours of leave per year at businesses with more than 10 employees.
Business groups including the Maine State Chamber of Commerce are less enthusiastic about Gideon’s bill for a universal paid family and medical leave program that’s more generous and available to all employees who pay into the system.
The program would be funded by a tax on wages of 0.55% to 0.75% on wages over $12,000. The bill caps the maximum weekly benefit at 100% of Maine’s average weekly wage.
Gideon said that creating a universal paid leave program strikes a balance by protecting families with financial flexibility for businesses.
“Creating paid family and medical leave will create a foundation for healthier families, healthier workplaces and the chance to have a growing and thriving population of families in Maine,” she said.
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