Roger Sevigny: Sununu made right call on paid family leave legislation

  • Gov. Chris Sununu AP

For the Monitor
Published: 9/19/2018 12:10:20 AM

As election season gets underway, there will be no shortage of political differences surrounding important issues. One such debate that has bubbled up in recent weeks is the discussion around paid family medical leave. Gov. Chris Sununu has faced criticism from some for opposing the plan that went before the Legislature during the last session, but he was right to oppose it.

As the immediate past commissioner of the New Hampshire Insurance Department, I hope to shed some light on Gov. Sununu and the debate surrounding paid family medical leave. From day one, Gov. Sununu stressed his support for the concept of paid family medical leave – but he believed it needed to be done right.

In my role as the N.H. Department of Insurance commissioner, I participated in many of the discussions that took place, and Gov. Sununu was right. As commissioner of the Insurance Department, my duty was to advise and serve our governors and citizens of New Hampshire, regardless of politics. In fact, I worked successfully with Gov. Sununu as well as former governors Maggie Hassan, John Lynch and Craig Benson. Solvency certification is important to the citizens of New Hampshire so as to not cause harm to those who come to rely on it. In this case, I’m the one who advised Gov. Sununu that the state could not certify the program’s solvency.

The governor worked hard with state agencies and advocates to explore a number of different potential options with the goal of constructing a workable, viable and sustainable paid family medical leave plan. The governor and his staff met many times with advocates and department officials to try and achieve a plan that would work financially. Several financial models were created to test solvency. Unfortunately, neither the Department of Employment Security nor the Department of Insurance could certify that the proposed paid family medical leave program would be solvent. In the end, we couldn’t get there within the legislative timeframe we were given to work with.

Ultimately, the Department of Insurance – led by me – concluded that an independent actuarial analysis would be needed to certify that any optional paid medical leave program would be solvent. The governor did not try to hide his opposition. He was steadfast in his belief that any state program should not be created if it’s solvency is in doubt.

Gov. Sununu supported a true independent actuarial analysis of an optional paid medical leave program for New Hampshire so that the state could ensure that any program created would be there for those who would come to rely on it. The governor was right to oppose this bill. His own experts could not guarantee that the program would not collapse.

Gov. Sununu’s support for a paid family medical leave program is genuine. He truly believes it can be a tremendous opportunity. But he, like many across the state, are firm in their belief that any program must be done right. There is no doubt that Gov. Sununu is passionate about this idea. He pushed us consistently to bring new ideas to the table so we could find a path forward.

This year’s bill was not the right plan for New Hampshire. Gov. Sununu is committed to supporting the working men and women of New Hampshire. Above all else, he believes the foundational purpose of government is to guarantee equal opportunity for all, regardless of ZIP code. That is why he supports the concept of paid family medical leave, but would never support a plan that could collapse, causing harm to those who would have come to rely on it. In the end, I agreed with him. As state leaders, we cannot put a program into place that might collapse financially. Whatever your politics might be, it would not be responsible. There is nothing political about doing the right thing, and I am thankful we have a governor who puts the people of this state ahead of politics.

(Roger Sevigny is former commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Insurance.)

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