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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Ben Lien (DFL)

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Legislative Update - March 6, 2020

Friday, March 06, 2020

Rep. Lien

Greetings from the Floor,

 

We had the following two bills on the floor this week:

 

HF5: Paid Family and Medical Leave

  • It would create a paid family and medical leave program for all Minnesota workers. The benefits would allow up to 12 weeks of wage replacement based on a sliding scale depending on an employee’s wages against the state average.  The leave couldn’t be taken twice in one year for a worker’s own illness, and an employer can decide that paid leave under this bill runs concurrently with leave taken under the federal Family Medical Leave Act.  The benefits would be funded through a .6% payroll tax that employers can opt to split with their employees.  Employers can opt out of these benefits if they offer their own benefits that are comparable to this program or purchase short-term disability insurance for their employees.  Those that opt out would have to pay a sliding fee per employee, with smaller businesses paying lower fees.  These fees would be paid when the employer applies for the opt out.  Employers can also opt in and out of specific parts of the program and pay lower payroll taxes. 

HF2959: Funding for the Rural Finance Authority (RFA)

  • $50 million from General Obligation Bond sales to finance the various RFA loan programs. These loan programs help the farm economy.

 

I voted for both bills.  HF5 was the most controversial, and I supported it to set a benefits floor for all Minnesota workers.  People shouldn’t have to make choices between caring for sick loved ones, spending time with newborn babies, staying home when they’re sick themselves or earning a paycheck.  Many employers offer good benefits for their employees, including some form of paid family or medical leave.  For what it’s worth, I thank them for that.  However, not all workers have access to these benefits, and those most often impacted are people who earn lower wages and can’t afford not to work.  HF2959 was a non-controversial, non-partisan bill that both caucuses have championed in the past. 

I introduced one bill this week that opens income eligibility for tax credits folks can use to offset the costs of school supplies or after school activities (HF4066).  This is a continuation of work I started last year on a bill to address the same issue.  The bill this year would base the income eligibility on Adjusted Gross Income in the year previous to the year for which people want to claim the credit.  Income eligibility under current law is based on household income in the year for which people are filing their taxes.  HF4066 was written to bring down the cost of the changes.

 

Thank You for the Opportunity to Serve,

Ben

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