Paid family leave proposal faces opposition from business groups

Three of Maine’s leading business groups have announced their opposition to the pending paid family leave bill in the state legislature, but have left room for compromise. The Maine Chamber of Commerce, the Portland Area Chamber of Commerce, and Hospitality Maine, a group representing tourism businesses such as restaurants and hotels, have all said they oppose the paid family leave bill, but have also said they are open to seeking compromises. The bill is before Congress’s Work and Housing Committee, which will hold hearings in the state legislature on Thursday.

The current bill would impose a payroll tax of 0.7% to 1% on wages, split 50/50 between employers and employees. The bill sets the top rate at 1%, but the actual tax rate could be lower depending on how much revenue is flowing into the program. Companies with 15 or fewer employees are exempt from paying for the program, but most employees, including part-time workers and the self-employed, can claim benefits. The program will replace up to 90% of an individual’s wages if they take up to 12 weeks off for reasons such as caring for a new baby or sick family member.

The business groups have not proposed specific changes to the bill, but plan to make their case later this week. In a joint statement, the legislators who proposed the bill, Senator Matty Daughtry (D-Brunswick) and Rep. Teresa Pierce, said they have been trying to get support from businesses over the past few months and are optimistic that the effort will result in the most supportive and comprehensive paid family and medical leave policies in the United States.

If Maine passes the bill, it would join 11 other states, including Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and the District of Columbia, which currently have paid vacation laws. If the bill is defeated, liberal advocacy groups Maine People’s League and Maine Women’s Lobby are collecting enough signatures to put the bill on the ballot.

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