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Sununu says paid family leave bill runs afoul of N.H.’s ‘Live Free or Die’ nature



Monitor staff
Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Gov. Chris Sununu says he “cannot support” legislation to create a state-run paid family and medical leave bill in New Hampshire as currently written, likely dooming the bill’s prospects as it enters its final round of legislative scrutiny.

In a two-page letter to the Senate Finance Committee dated April 9, Sununu expressed concerns over the long-term viability of the program proposed in House Bill 628.

And he said that the state needs to commission “additional independent research” to assess the true cost and demand for the program before it can move forward.

“I cannot support HB 628 until a comprehensive actuarial analysis is conducted,” he said.

Sponsored by Rep. Mary Gile, D-Concord, the bill would create a state-run program, available to all private-sector employees, to allow for up to six weeks of paid leave for pregnancies, illnesses and other qualifying conditions. Participating employees would pay in 0.67 percent of wages and the program, administered by the Department of Employment Security, is expected to cost about $14.5 million to set up.

The bill cleared three votes on the House floor this session, but has had a harder time in the Senate, where lawmakers have inquired about its price tag and ability to sustain itself.

In his letter, Sununu singled out one particular provision that has proven contentious: the opt-out mechanism. Under the present program, all private-sector employees would be automatically enrolled in the program and they can only opt out with a notarized letter once a year.

Sununu said those rules are too onerous and could trap unaware participants into the program even if they don’t want it.

“It is not in our ‘Live Free or Die’ nature to force citizens to pay for a service they do not want,” he wrote.

And he added that without further analysis of how many people would participate – and how many of those participants would use the service – the program lacks stability.

“A paid family and medical leave insurance program makes a promise to its participants – a promise of stability and certainty in their time of need,” the governor wrote. “It is critical that as we design New Hampshire’s program, we must be sure we can keep that promise to those who would rely on it.”

The Senate Finance Committee is expected to vote on the bill within the next two weeks.

(Ethan DeWitt can be reached at edewitt@cmonitor.com, or on Twitter at @edewittNH.)