Senate passes paid family leave

The Minnesota Senate passed a paid family leave plan Wednesday, but it appears unlikely to reach Gov. Mark Dayton's desk.

The proposal was approved as part of a tax bill that passed 37-30. It would provide partial replacement wages for up to 12 weeks for after the birth of a child or to assist with a family member's extended illness.

Sen. Melisa Franzen, DFL-Edina, said while some workers get paid parental benefits now, it's hit or miss.

"Not a lot of people in our state have that decision. A lot of people have to go back to work. They should be spending time with their child," she said. "This is about families. This is about the benefits of having that bonding between mom, dad and new baby."

Senate Republicans questioned whether the money behind the proposal covers the program's cost. They also said it could put a damper on hiring by companies worried about exceeding a head count.

But Republicans didn't try to remove it from the bill.

Sen. Julianne Ortman, R-Chanhassen said the family leave plan is more of a burden than a benefit.

"You're making it hard for Minnesotans to make ends meet. Making it harder to make it to the next paycheck," she said. "Have you never been in the situation where you had five bucks left in your pocket waiting for the next paycheck?"

As examples, Democrats said employees and employers would both pay 43 cents per week ($22.5/yr.) for an employee earning $25,000 per year and 87 cents per week ($45/yr.) for an employee earning $50,000 per year.

Two Democrats joined all Republicans in opposing the bill, Minnetonka’s Terri Bonoff and Owatonna’s Vicki Jensen.

The bill also contains a tax break to aid construction of a new professional soccer stadium in St. Paul and for a siding manufacturing plant for a company that is considering a Minnesota expansion. There is also assistance to help fire-damaged Madelia rebuild.

There is no similar family leave measure moving in the House, which makes it unlikely the plan will become law this year.

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