With the support of City Council members, labor groups and community leaders, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman on Wednesday rolled out his plan to provide paid parental leave to city employees.
If the council adopts the plan next week as expected, St. Paul would become the state's second city to offer the benefit, considered increasingly critical to drawing and keeping good young talent on the public payroll as more city workers retire. The policy would take effect in January.
The Brooklyn Park City Council last week approved paid parental leave for its employees, also starting in January.
Coleman announced the St. Paul proposal in his budget address in August. His plan would offer four weeks of paid leave to an employee who is giving birth, and two weeks of paid leave to an employee who is the other parent or partner.
The mayor has allocated $200,000 to pay for the benefit in his proposed budget for 2015, which the City Council is currently reviewing. The mayor said that the dollar amount, which is based on past leave rates, may go up in the future but probably not by much.
The council last month approved a 2.4 percent hike in next year's property tax levy. Many St. Paul homeowners can expect to see higher tax bills next year, mainly as a result of shifts in property values from commercial to residential properties.
St. Paul, which has a workforce of 2,850 people, currently follows the federal Family Medical Leave Act. That provides up to 12 weeks on unpaid leave for the birth and care of an employee's child.
At a news conference Wednesday morning, Coleman said the city needs to do all it can to compete for the best workers as more baby boomers retire in coming years. But he said the new policy also will be good for families, especially since both parents typically work.
"This is, I think, a giant leap forward … I think we are in the vanguard" of most large cities across the country, he said.
All seven City Council members back the policy, which was introduced at the council's Wednesday meeting. The council is expected to vote on it next week.
Council Member Dai Thao, whose wife recently had a baby, called paid parental leave long overdue. "As a father, there is something about holding a baby in your arms that turns a grown man soft," he said.
The Brooklyn Park City Council approved paid parental leave at its Oct. 6 meeting. The city will offer one week of paid leave for new parents of either gender, and has budgeted $13,200 for it in 2015. Officials estimate that eight employees will use the benefit next year.
"We're going to have 20 percent of our workforce retire in five years," said Mike Sable, Brooklyn Park's assistant city manager. "They're going to be replaced by younger workers, and we want to get the best of the best."
Other major U.S. cities to offer their employees paid parental leave include Chicago, San Francisco and Austin, Texas. White House employees get six weeks of paid leave. Google gives biological mothers 18 to 22 weeks of paid leave, and other parents get seven weeks.