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New Jersey family leave bill 'means more money every week out of everyone's paycheck'

NJ Legislators Want More of Your Hard Earned Money

(The Center Square) – A legislative proposal to increase paid family leave adds more burdens to every worker and business in New Jersey when both are struggling, Garden State Initiative President Regina Egea told The Center Square.

Senate Bill 508, sponsored by Sen. Joseph P. Cryan, D-Union Township, would increase the maximum weekly benefit rate for temporary disability and family leave, according to a bill summary.

Family leave benefits are funded in what Egea called a unique way. Every worker has a fee deducted from every paycheck to fund all payments to anyone who takes family leave.

“This benefit was most recently enhanced in 2020 to extend eligible leave from their jobs up to 12 weeks and broadened the definition of who qualifies as a 'family' member,” she said.

The consequence has meant every worker for the last two years has had less buying power as they saw their paycheck deductions almost double between 2020 and 2021, she said.

“It's disingenuous to say there is no ‘cost’ to the employer. The loss of any employee for 12 weeks, typically unexpectedly, disrupts any business organization and severely diminishes its ability to deliver service or a product in some way,” Egea said.

The latest proposed enhancement to increase payments made while workers are on leave will worsen both pressures.

“[That means] more money every week out of everyone’s paycheck while inflation is raging, and higher financial incentive for employees to exercise this benefit when businesses are still recovering from the pandemic,” she said.

Most head-to-head comparisons of state business climates put New Jersey in the bottom 5% to 10%, she said.

While other states used federal relief funds to replenish unemployment funds that were exhausted, New Jersey chose a different path, Egea said.

“Businesses that survived COVID instead received a higher tax bill to do this, all while there remains over $3 billion of federal relief funds on the sidelines,” she said. “So no, NJ businesses cannot afford to add another negative to how attractive we are for free enterprise.”

Taxpayers know every new or increased benefit comes at a price, she said. A Garden State Initiative social media follower documented his own tax deductions, which skyrocketed by 1,003% since the last expansion of benefits in 2020, increasing from $125 in 2019 to $1,254 in 2020.

“With fewer and fewer individuals able to absorb this lowering of their wages, and fewer businesses able to operate with elongated absences, yes, taxes will go up on those who are left to turn out the lights in New Jersey,” Egea said.