Editorial: Paid leave bill could give businesses near state border a reason to leave

Published 8:50 pm Friday, May 5, 2023

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The Minnesota House this week approved an 18-week paid family and medical leave program that would allow workers to access partial wages it they need to take time off for a medical purpose, take care of a loved one or welcome a new child.

While at first glance the bill may seem like a major win for employees, it could have a negative impact on small businesses that are already struggling on tight budgets and on many employees themselves, who are already feeling the effects of inflation.

Under the bill, both workers and employees would pay into the program, similar to the state’s unemployment insurance fund.

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John Reynolds, director of the National Federation of Independent Business, told Minnesota Public Radio News this week it will be “the most expensive and complicated paid family and medical leave mandate for small businesses and workers in the country.”

We believe workers can’t afford another payroll tax on top of the current inflation and believe a cookie-cutter approach is not good for small and medium businesses.

What happens to the employers who already provide a similar benefit to their employees? Could they opt out of the state’s program as long as they are offering an equivalent program to their employees?

Could workers sign up or opt out of the benefit individually if they do not want it, or would all be required to pay in automatically?

This week we had a local business owner reach out to us about her concern with the bill. She is considering moving her operation with almost 50 employees across the border into Iowa if this is approved.

She presently has 47 employees, only five of whom actually live in Albert Lea and the remainder who work remotely off site — the largest percentage actually live in northern Iowa.

Until recently, she had remained committed to Albert Lea out of legacy love for her hometown and home state but is concerned for the state and employers close enough to relocate across the border.

Add on top of that the high health premiums that businesses in this part of the state have.

If this bill becomes a reality, we are afraid this business owner will not be the only one questioning whether she should move 15 minutes south.

We ask the Senate, who will take up a similar bill soon, to take these thoughts into consideration.

While all businesses will be impacted by this bill, those communities who will undoubtedly be impacted at a higher level will be those along the state’s borders.

We encourage legislators to think about expanding from a one-size-fits-all approach and to consider some alternatives.

The state’s prosperity — and the prosperity of our business climate — depends on it.