Few of us need to see a study to recognize the clear benefit from new parents and their newborns spending more time together, bonding, strengthening family ties. They are strengthening their communities as well.
So Gov. Mark Dayton’s proposal to give six weeks of parental leave to Minnesota state employees can be welcomed — if it weren’t for the needling questions. First, the pitch.
“You cannot put a value on the time parents spend with their babies during the first few weeks of their child’s life — time every parent and child deserve,” Lt. Gov. Tina Smith said, as reported by Forum Communications.
Dayton was able to put a cost on his proposal : $6 million annually with an estimated 500 of the state’s 35,000 workers taking advantage every year. But Dayton didn’t say where that money might come from — through more tax collections or by cutting other spending from the state budget. And he didn’t address the resulting need to make state government bigger so the work of people on leave still would get done.
Aren’t such benefits usually negotiated at contract time — and “with the state (taxpayers, actually) getting something in return,” as the Fairmont Sentinel agreed with its own editorial last week? The proposal instead is following an unusual, curious path.
And who knows where that path will end? Already, Democratic lawmakers are talking about wanting to go beyond Dayton’s proposal — by reaching into the business practices of private employers and requiring them also to offer the benefit. And not only for newborns and after adoptions, but to care for elderly family members, too.
Businesses in Minnesota already are among the most heavily taxed in the nation. Many already offer parental leave among other benefits, often as a way of holding onto good employees. But how many other companies might go out of business or reduce payrolls if the benefit were mandated?
Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said parental leave legislation would be a priority for Senate Democrats this session. Suddenly, it’s a priority? What about last year’s priority of expanding education for preschoolers? And this year, weren’t a bonding bill and a transportation bill the top priorities? If more spending is added, other needs have to be set aside — or so responsible, fiscally minded Minnesotans might assume. Does this mean another year without a comprehensive long-term fix for our aging highways and bridges? That’d be unacceptable.
FROM AN EDITORIAL IN THE DULUTH NEWS TRIBUNE