Public Assets Institute > Policy Areas > Family Economic Security > Family leave and minimum wage: Connecticut did it, why can’t Vermont?

Family leave and minimum wage: Connecticut did it, why can’t Vermont?

Connecticut was able to do what Vermont couldn’t this past legislative session: raise the minimum wage to $15 and create a paid family and medical leave insurance program. Our New England neighbor could provide some guidance for the Vermont Legislature when it reconvenes in January.

Connecticut’s minimum wage bill was signed into law by Gov. Ned Lamont on May 28th. The bill will raise Connecticut’s current wage of $10.10 to $15 an hour by 2023, a full year sooner than any of the legislation Vermont has been considering. (The Vermont House bill wouldn’t have reached $15 until 2026.)

The paid family and medical leave bill passed the Connecticut Legislature at the end of May, and Governor Lamont has publicly stated he will sign it.1 The legislation allows employees to take up to 12 weeks of paid leave annually to take care of a sick family member, for personal illness, or for a new child. The program covers 95 percent of wages for people earning minimum wage, and a declining percentage for those with higher wages.

The Connecticut insurance program also uses a broad definition of family that goes beyond blood relatives. This inclusive definition extends program benefits to people whose family relationships have not traditionally been recognized by the law.

In Vermont, the benefits in the House and Senate plans fall short of Connecticut’s. Both plans would provide only six to eight weeks of leave to care for certain family members, and the Senate’s plan did not include any leave for an employee’s personal illness. And for low income workers who take leave, Vermont would replace a smaller percentage of wages than Connecticut.

The legislatures of Connecticut and Vermont have similar political make-ups. The chambers in both states are roughly the same size—Vermont has 150 representatives and 30 senators, Connecticut has 151 representatives and 36 senators. Democrats control the Senate and House in both states with at least 60 percent of the seats.

The minimum wage increase passed easily in the Connecticut House; the vote in the Senate was close, as were the votes in both chambers on medical leave. But both bills have the support of the governor. In Vermont, Gov. Phil Scott has opposed attempts to raise the minimum wage or institute paid family leave; he vetoed both bills in 2018.

Following the 2018 election, Democrats and Progressives have enough votes in the Vermont Legislature to override a gubernatorial veto, but legislative leaders have been unable so far to muster sufficient votes on robust versions of these two bills to overpower the governor. Additionally, disagreements between the House and Senate prevented either a minimum wage or paid family leave bill from even reaching the governor’s desk in 2019.

Once the governor has signed the family leave bill, Connecticut will join six other states and the District of Columbia in enacting paid family leave and a $15 minimum wage. Vermont needs to add its name to that growing list next year.

  1. Gov. Lamont signed the bill on June 25th, 2019. []
Posted by Julie Lowell on June 25, 2019 at 3:10 pm

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