A Tale Of Two Andrews

By Jimmy McCarthy

jmmccarthy@post-journal.com

The numbers don’t add up for Assemblyman Andy Goodell when it comes to a proposed statewide paid family leave program in which employees would pay a mere 40 cents a week.

Through work with the state Business Council and a California agency, Goodell found that a paid family leave program proposed in the Assembly would likely cost employees more than originally suggested. Goodell said the Assembly has only addressed a fraction of the costs.

Under the Assembly’s proposal, employees would be able to take 12 weeks of paid leave and receive up to 67 percent of their salary when fully implemented. Employees would contribute a penny an hour to the program. In total, employees would pay $20.80 annually to a program that provides more than half their salary when on paid family leave.

“It flew in the face of common sense. Forty cents a week won’t pay the costs. It won’t come anywhere close,” he said. “It will bankrupt thousands of small businesses and cost hundreds of thousands of jobs.”

Last week, the Business Council issued a report that summarized key provisions of three state family leave programs, one of which included California. Through an inquiry to the California Employment Development Department, Goodell verified that employees in the state pay .9 percent of their yearly wages for six weeks of paid leave. Employees in California receive 55 percent of their salary through the program.

Goodell took California’s annual employee contribution figure of .9 percent and applied it to New York’s proposed program. As a result, New York’s program would cost 2.16 percent of an employee’s weekly wage based on the California model. Taking the state Labor Department’s reported average weekly wage of $1,266, Goodell realized that the proposed program wouldn’t cost 40 cents a week. It would cost around $27.35 a week for a full-time worker, or 68 cents per hour.

“If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true,” Goodell said. “When you look at a state that actually runs the program, that has actual financial experience going back 10 years, you quickly realize that the cost of this program isn’t 40 cents a week or $4 a week. The cost that we’re talking about for the program is only about 2 percent of the total cost. Who’s paying the rest of the 98 percent?”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said his proposal wouldn’t cost employers anything as it would be financed through a payroll deduction assessed against employees. The governor said during a recent rally that employees would pay around 70 cents a week into a fund. On average, employees would pay 1-2 cents an hour and around $36.40 per year through his proposal. Goodell said the governor’s proposal would result in a take-home pay drop for employees.

“Paid family leave says really, workers deserve a decent relationship,” Cuomo said. “It’s about celebrating and being there for those special moments in life. That’s what paid family leave is all about.”

California’s program is stricter compared to proposals in New York state. Employees in California must use two weeks of vacation before taking family leave. The first week is unpaid and job security isn’t guaranteed, whereas proposals by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Assembly grant job security and do not require employees to use their personal, vacation and sick time first. New York employees would begin to receive the benefit after four weeks on the job.

“This proposal, coupled with a minimum wage increase to $15, would result in over 200,000 jobs being lost in New York state,” Goodell said, adding there are no appropriations in the governor’s budget for the family leave program. “A weekly cost averaging $27 and an employee contribution of 2 percent explains why the Business Council and almost every business owner are so opposed.”

The Assembly proposal passed earlier this month by a 97-48 vote. Legislation is up for consideration in the Senate. The governor’s proposal within his executive budget is subject to the state Legislature’s approval.

Cuomo’s office didn’t respond to The Post Journal’s inquiry on the details surrounding the costs of his paid family leave plan.