LITTLETON, New Hampshire — Republican governors in New Hampshire and Vermont rolled out a plan Wednesday for a voluntary two-state paid family and medical leave program, but Democratic lawmakers attacked the proposal, one calling it “useless.”
The plan comes in the wake of failed efforts last year by the two state legislatures to enact such proposals.
The latest proposal would provide 60 percent of a person’s wage for up to six weeks for a number of qualifying events, including the birth of a child or caring for a close relative with a serious health condition. The two states would cover the cost of the program.
“There is a border, there is a river that separates the two of us, but at the end of the day, we are all part of the same community,” New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu said at the joint meeting in the border town of Littleton, New Hampshire.
If successful, Vermont Gov. Phil Scott predicted the program could be “a model and standard for the rest of the country that meets the calls for greater work-life balance.”
The National Conference of State Legislatures says that only four states — California, New Jersey, Rhode Island and New York — offer paid family and medical leave. Unlike the voluntary New Hampshire-Vermont proposal, they are funded through employee-paid payroll taxes and managed by their disability programs.
But the unusual approach isn’t sitting well with Democrats in New Hampshire, who took control this year of the House and Senate. They are working on their own proposals.
New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley called the plan “nothing but a desperate and useless attempt” to make New Hampshire residents forget that Sununu once called paid leave “a vacation.”
New Hampshire Democratic House Majority Leader Doug Ley said Sununu didn’t get input from any businesses, employees or any other lawmakers.
Vermont Senate President Pro Tem Tim Ashe, a Democrat and progressive, declined comment.
The two states would cover the full cost of the program. Businesses with more than 20 employees and 100 percent employee participation would receive the state rate.
It is expected that smaller businesses with fewer than 20 employees would pay slightly higher rates. The costs for businesses that do not have 100 percent employee participation would pay premiums. Individuals whose employer does not offer a paid family leave plan would have the option of purchasing coverage.
Scott said the estimated cost to Vermont would be about $2.5 million per year, which would be paid by the state.
Associated Press writers Holly Ramer and Mike Casey contributed to this report.