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Plan to give all MN workers paid family, sick leave unveiled by DFLers

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Democratic lawmakers are bidding to make Minnesota only the 4th state to offer all workers paid family or medical leave.

DFL senators and representatives are wasting no time in revealing their plans for the legislative session – which gets underway Tuesday – by pushing to make paid family and sick leave more than a privilege.

If approved, it would see workers receive up to 80 percent of their salary for up to 12 weeks to care for a newborn or a family member, or to recover from serious illness.

Rather than coming from state coffers, the cost of $461 million program would be met by a tax on workers and employers themselves, with workers contributing a certain amount each week depending on how much they earn, which employers would match.

Someone on the median Minnesota salary of $44,000 would contribute $1.70 a week – $88.40 per year – to the program.

Sen. Katie Sieben, who will propose the bill in the Minnesota Senate, said the program would benefit 136,000 Minnesota workers who currently don't have access to paid medical or family leave – many of them women.

"Women in Minnesota are workers. We have one of the highest female labor participation rates in the country," she said in a press conference Monday.

"Our workforce is aging and we need women in the workforce." she added. "The lack of paid family leave program reflects a time when the majority of women did not work. The program will give workers some degree of security when a major life event occurs."

Currently just 13 percent of workers in Minnesota get access to paid family leave and those companies that do offer the benefit would be exempt from the new tax.

However, there's likely to be some opposition to the DFL proposal, with Cam Winton of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce telling the Star Tribune it would deprive employers of flexibility.

"The best way to foster greater access to leave is with flexible, voluntary approaches rather than with a one-size-fits-all mandate from government paid for with a brand-new tax," Winton told the newspaper in a statement.

The Pioneer Press reports GOP lawmakers are expected to put their own proposal before the House when the legislative session opens on Tuesday, with Rep. Sarah Anderson working on a bill to provide leave to more workers after the birth or adoption of a child.

BringMeTheNews has this guide on what state lawmakers will discuss when they return for the 2016 legislative session starting Tuesday.

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