New Mexico revives paid family and medical leave debate with improved proposal
SANTA FE, N.M. — The debate over paid family and medical leave will return to the Roundhouse this year.
Just like the original, the new proposal aims to give all New Mexico workers the ability to take up to 12 weeks of paid time off when they need it most – that includes after the birth of a new child, a family emergency, or a medical crisis.
Employees and their employers would be required to consistently pay a small amount of money based on their wages into a state fund, which would end up paying workers on leave. Employers would not be paying those worker’s wages.
“The bill is better, stronger, more oriented towards business in certain ways,” said Democratic state Sen. Mimi Stewart.
Stewart says they’re taking extra steps to make sure New Mexico’s business community is happy with her new paid family and medical leave proposal.
“We’ve counted 16 concessions that we’ve put in because of businesses to make it work easier for them,” Stewart said.
It’s not clear yet exactly what’s different about the new bill, but Stewart says her team spent time studying similar programs in Colorado and Tennessee. They also are working with the Department of Workforce Solutions o craft a more structurally sound program.
“I think partly this is because so many of us now understand this better,” Stewart said.
The new version still requires employees to pay $5 for every thousand in wages. Employers only have to $4 per employee, but only if they have five or more workers.
Many opponents last year criticized that mechanism as an added business tax, and noted legislative reports predicted the state fund would run out of money.
“We’ve got a really good mechanism, the funding is adequate, the fees on employees and employers are is minimal,” Stewart said.
Advocates with the Southwest Women’s Law Center say many businesses want this kind of program.
“There was a recent poll done with small business owners that show that there’s overwhelming support, I want to say 85% support for this idea,” said Tracy McDaniel, policy advocate with the Southwest Women’s Law Center.
McDaniel suggests that’s all because of the potential benefits.
“It allows those employees to have the security and also allows those employers to compete for employees with those large businesses and corporations in the state of New Mexico that offer paid parental leave, so it really levels the playing field,” McDaniel said.
Advocates say similar programs in other states have allowed more women to enter the workforce.
If approved by lawmakers, Stewart says the program would not go into effect until 2027 at the earliest.