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State workers would get 6 weeks paid parental leave under Dayton proposal

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State employees could get six weeks of paid parental leave after they have a child, if a proposal from Gov. Mark Dayton gets approved by lawmakers.

The governor announced the plan at a forum with U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez on Tuesday, saying it would save new parents almost $6,200 in wages "at a time when they need it most," with all 35,000 state employees eligible for the benefit.

It is one of the governor's first budget proposals for the 2016 legislative session. The Star Tribune reports he had initially sought four weeks of leave until Lt. Gov Tina Smith and mothers on his staff pushed him to ask for more, telling the forum many daycares don't take kids under 6 weeks old.

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"For far too long, we have forced tens of thousands of hard-working parents to make an impossible choice: to spend time with their newborn or recently-adopted child, or earn the money they need to care for their families," he said in a press release. "Six weeks of paid parental leave should be guaranteed for all hard-working Minnesotans; not just the wealthy few."

The governor's press release notes that many public employers in Minnesota offer parental leave, including Hennepin County, the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, the University of Minnesota, and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU).

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He also referenced several of Minnesota's larger private employers that offer the same, including the Mayo Clinic, U.S. Bank, Target, Ecolab, and General Mills.

Under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), Minnesota workers at companies employing more than 21 people are currently able to take up to 12 weeks of parental leave, however this is unpaid.

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