Family Leave Bill Needs Reality Check

Because HB 3087 seeks to raise revenue, it needs a three-fifths vote in both the House and Senate to pass, and, therefore, faces uncertain prospects. However, the bill remains one worth tracking, both because of its content and the priority that has been attached to it by labor advocates and Democratic leadership in the Legislature.

Last week’s public hearing in the House Committee on Early Childhood and Family Supports drew a crowd, largely recruited by advocates, that spilled into two overflow rooms. If the discussion moves forward, it’s important that the business community ensure that the true scope and impact of HB 3087 is understood. These points are important:

  • Contrary to testimony from Family Forward Oregon Executive Director Andrea Paluso, HB 3087 in many ways is more generous than similar legislation elsewhere. There are so many ways to structure leave that it’s hard to make direct comparisons. But if you consider the generosity of benefits, number of workers eligible and number of businesses required to participate, Oregon’s proposed law offers more to workers and requires more of employers than is the case is most states and cities that have mandated paid family leave. To see a comparison, click here.
  • The bill would have a significant fiscal impact on cities, counties and school districts. Some of the most effective testimony against the bill came from representatives of the Association of Oregon Counties, League of Oregon Cities and Oregon School Boards Association. The payroll tax imposed by the bill would cost a city the size of Springfield about $165,000 annually, said Scott Winkels of the League of Oregon Cities. “Cities can absorb this cost, but it’s going to come out of the service level,” Winkels said. Cumulatively, the bill would add $160 million in payroll costs to Oregon school districts in its first year, said Lori Sattenspiel of the Oregon School Boards Association.
  • Employers would be required to file annual reports to the Department of Revenue on employee hours worked and amounts due to the family leave fund. These administrative burdens come right on the heels of other paperwork that businesses have had to absorb after the adoption of paid sick leave, the new state-sponsored retirement program and environmental mandates.

Combined with paid sick leave, HB 3087 could create situations where small businesses are short-staffed, or operating with temporary employees, for much of the year.

HB 3087 could force businesses that are already offering paid time off that can be used for extended family leave to alter their programs to meet the bill’s specific requirements.

No one at the hearing argued against the value of family leave. Businesses understand its importance as well as anyone, and many work with employees to make accommodations. But HB 3087 is too expensive and too intrusive to be considered reasonable. Oregon needs an approach to family leave that balances the needs of employers and employees.

To see a video of the hearing, click here.