Senate mulls updated paid family, medical leave bill that would offer 20 weeks

People could qualify for benefits July 1, 2025.
(Quinn Gorham)
Published: Mar. 23, 2023 at 7:51 PM CDT
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ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) - Paid family and medical leave, a big priority for Democrats in charge at the Minnesota State Capitol, comes with a big price tag. Lawmakers are proposing a state-run program that will cost more than $1 billion annually once it’s up and running.

The bill establishes a state-run program that pays out benefits kind of like unemployment insurance. Once it’s off the ground, a payroll tax increase will fund it.

But the bill would transfer $1.7 billion in state general funds so the account is full and ready to use. Once it’s operational in a few years, $1.5 billion in premiums from businesses will keep it going. Employers and employees would split the premiums to fund it.

The updated Senate plan offers 20 weeks paid time long-term needs -- caring for a loved one who’s got dealing with cancer or bonding with a newborn post-pregnancy.

The Senate is having another committee hearing at 5:30 p.m. Thursday.

People could qualify for benefits July 1, 2025.

Sen. Alice Mann (DFL-Edina), lead sponsor in the Senate, where Democrats hold just a one-vote majority, said that supporters are “working really hard” to address concerns and round up votes.

“When we are able to step in and help each other at one of our most vulnerable times of life, when we welcome in a baby, when our family members are sick, or our family members are even dying. That economic stability is monumental to keep families on their feet,” Mann said.

Earlier this week, supporters of the plan rallied at the capitol and lobbied their lawmakers to try to push the plan over the finish line.

“You know that anywhere else in the developed world, paid family and medical leave is the norm,” Democratic Gov. Tim Walz told a crowd in the packed rotunda. “You know that in 12 states and the District of Columbia, paid family-medical leave is being offered.”

Walz told reporters afterward that he’s feeling good about getting the proposal through both chambers this year. The bill has passed the House before, but it never got a hearing in the Senate when it was under Republican control.

The bill has evolved through the legislative process. Where the bill initially stipulated 24 weeks of leave, now the bill reflects 20.

Some businesses have voiced concern over the plan.

“What I hear from our small business members every day is that this just scares them. This is going to exacerbate their biggest challenges. They can’t find workers. They’re struggling with inflation,” John Reynolds, state director with the National Federation of Independent Business, said.