Baker: State workers should pay leave costs

Other Beacon Hill officials are having Mass. pick up the tab

STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

WITH A NEW TAX to fund the state’s paid family and medical leave program set to take effect Tuesday, Gov. Charlie Baker rejected calls by the state’s largest public union to relieve state employees of the obligation to pay into the system.

The National Association of Government Employees, which has more than 22,000 members in Massachusetts government, slammed the Baker administration this month for not covering employees’ share of the new payroll tax as other public employers, including both the House and Senate, reportedly did.

Baker said Monday that he disagrees with their criticism and believes all state employees should contribute to the program.

“Our view is that state government, like everybody else, should comply with the law,” Baker told reporters after a groundbreaking event in Quincy. “The law was basically the part of a bargain between advocates and labor unions and the Legislature, and I think it’s important for state government to abide by the law that is going to apply to everybody else. I think that’s only fair.”

The $800 million program — outlined in the “grand bargain” law that Baker signed last summer to avert several ballot questions — will allow employees to take up to 12 weeks of paid leave to care for a new child, tend to an ill family member, or cope with a loved one’s active military deployment. Workers can also take up to 20 weeks to recover from a serious illness or injury or to care for a service member who is ill or injured.

Benefits to care for a new child or sick service member or to manage a health issue become available on Jan. 1, 2021, while paid leave to care for ill family members will become available on July 1, 2021. Employees would be capped at receiving $850 per week in pay while on leave.

The job-protected benefits will be funded by a new 0.75 percent payroll tax that goes into effect Tuesday. Specific deductions will vary by employers, but they can require workers to contribute up to 40 percent of their total medical leave contribution and up to 100 percent of their total family leave contribution.

State officials say affected employees will see a maximum of 38 cents taken out of every $100 earned.

NAGE sparred with the Baker administration this month as it and other unions negotiated over what rates employees and public employers will pay.

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Chris Lisinski

Reporter, State House News Service
In a September 19 press release, the union said that Treasurer Deborah Goldberg, Auditor Suzanne Bump, House Speaker Robert DeLeo, Senate President Karen Spilka, and county sheriffs had all agreed to use state resources to cover the entirety of their staffs’ paid family and medical leave assessment costs.

NAGE criticized the administration — which covers the entire executive branch and has far more employees — for not agreeing to similar terms.

“When you look at what the Constitutional officers, the Speaker, and the Senate President have decided to do versus what the Governor is doing, the difference is stark. Their actions speak volumes about them not only as leaders but even more importantly, as employers,” NAGE National President David Holway said in the release. “Now they continue to walk the walk by setting an example for employers around the state. It’s too bad that Governor Baker continues to be so consumed by the scandals in his administration that he has completely failed to do the right thing for his employees.”