Paid Family Medical Leave proposal dies

By Skye McMillon and Bianca Hoops / NM News Port

A controversial bill that would have established paid family medical leave died in the state House just before the end of the 30-day legislative session.

“It’s all taxpayer money and with this tax increase I cannot support [it],” Rep. Gail Armstrong, R-Magdalena, said on the floor during the debate.

Other representatives questioned how the program in the bill, SB 3, could remain solvent with so many proposed exemptions, and some prominent business groups had lobbied against it.

The bill was aimed at helping small businesses and their employees, said sponsor Christine Chandler, D-Los Alamos. “It supports small businesses because it places them closer to being on a level playing field with large businesses that have the ability to recruit and attract employees with programs such as this,” Chandler said.

If it had passed, ]the bill would have created a 12-week paid family medical leave program that would have covered nearly all workers, even those whose employers don’t have such a benefit.

But it would have required that employees contribute 0.5 percent and employers contribute of 0.4 percent of into the program fund.

New Mexico’s 161,921 small businesses represent 99% of all businesses in the state, according to the U.S. Small Buisness Administration Office of Advocacy. And although some businesses and groups championed the bill, others lobbied against it.

“While many small businesses in our state offer some form of parental and/or family leave, many struggle with workforce retention because they cannot afford to offer robust and uniform plans comparable to what large businesses can afford,” Awesta Sarkash of Small Business Majority wrote in an op-ed in January.

The program would have helped small businesses afford to give their workers time off and hire part-time employees to fill in, Sarkash wrote.

And the program wouldn’t have been expensive, he argued, citing statistics that show 87% of businesses in states with paid family medical leave didn’t incur increased costs.

Follow Skye McMillon on X.

Follow Bianca Hoops on X.