A number of bills our members care deeply about are coming in fast. Last week, I mentioned Senate Bill 181, a bill that significantly changes how the energy industry works in Colorado, but with very little input from the industry. As we continue to work hard on that bill, we have a number of bills being considered that impact employers and employees greatly.
This week, we will update you on the one that is causing our members the greatest concern. It’s a bill that creates a government-run family medical leave and insurance program (Senate Bill 188).This is a nearly $1 billion payroll tax that impacts all sectors of employers and employees. Below is a summary of how this bill impacts all of us:
- As employers, we ensure our employees know how their wages will be covered and for how long. This bill won’t cover the full salary of employees, so many employees can’t count on this financially.
- In addition to confusion about how benefits will be paid, leave eligibility does not align with the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and is incredibly broad – allowing for leave in increments as low as one hour and for any individual with which they have a “significant personal bond.” It’s unclear how the state will ensure that people do not take advantage of this system.
- Our employers currently cover much of the cost when employees need to take time off work for their families, yet this plan requires both employers and employees to pay into the state to cover the cost of this plan even though those employees won’t get their salaries covered in full.
- And, for many of us as employees, this would be a reduction in benefit compared to what we currently receive from our employers.
- If that’s not enough, we are extremely concerned that this program won’t be fiscally sound, meaning the money won’t be there to pay our salaries when we need it. Other states have introduced or passed family leave bills. In Washington, the cost just to create the technology infrastructure and staffing was $80 million, and will continue to cost more than $100 million each year, before any benefits are paid out. As we look at estimates here in Colorado, we’re deeply concerned that costs are being underestimated to start and maintain this program. Currently, legislators are setting aside $50 million to start this program. But once its in its first full year of operations, the cost to run and pay benefits will approach $1 billion. Meanwhile, Washington is allowing employers who offer leave to opt out — something not provided to Colorado companies with the bill proposed here.
We know this is a critical issue for organizations like yours. We invite you to join our coalition and raise your voice on this issue. Join us.
Please also help ensure your elected representatives know you strongly support paid leave for your employees and ask that at a minimum they would allow employers who offer paid leave to their employees to opt out of this one.
Our workforce is everything to us — we can’t take chances that they won’t have their leave when they need it most. Email your legislators.
Kelly Brough is the president and CEO of the Denver Metro Chamber