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Democrats Divided On DC’s Expensive Paid Family Leave Proposal

REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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The chairman of the D.C. Council said he will not delay a vote on its expensive paid family leave proposal despite lingering concerns over the bill’s details.

Mayor Muriel Bowser continues to express her concerns over the legislation, particularly because the official language of the bill has not been made public. The legislation would create the most generous paid family leave program in the country.

The proposal grants anyone living or working in the District 11-weeks of paid family leave for the birth or adoption of a child funded entirely through a tax hike on D.C. businesses, reports Washington Business Journal.

Mendelson plans on holding the first of two votes Dec. 6.

“I believe the votes are in the council and it will go for two readings before the end of the year,” Mendelson told Washington Business Journal Tuesday. “My sense is that they did not expect the tax rate to be as low as .62 percent and that kind of set them back in terms of what they were expecting and how they were expecting to react to the bill.”

Mendelson said business leaders in the District he spoke with responded well to the details he revealed during a hearing Monday. The Council previously proposed funding the initiative through a 1 percent increase in the payroll tax, but that was rolled back to a 0.62 percent hike.

Bowser remains wary over the lack of specifics and the fact that much of the money raised off the backs of District businesses will go to out of state residents.

“I don’t think anybody has seen the bill,” Bowser told WTOP. “I would be concerned about anybody saying that they supported something that cost $250 million without actually reading the legislation.”

The proposal allows workers to collect 90 percent of their salaries while on leave, capping the weekly benefits at $1,000. Each spouse in a marriage can request the paid leave within a year of childbirth or adoption. Workers are also eligible under the plan for eight weeks of paid leave to care for a sick relative.

Many in the District’s business community did not react positively to the bill Monday.

“There’s nobody on the D.C. Council who has ever signed the front of a paycheck, and they have no clue about the challenges that local, small businesses confront as a result of their actions,” Mark Lee, executive director of the D.C. Nightlife Hospitality Association, told WJLA. “Quite honestly, most of the time we don’t think they even care.”

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