Vail Valley Partnership opposes SB-188

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  • Vail Valley Partnership opposes SB-188

Vail Valley Partnership is the regional chamber of commerce, with over 880 members throughout Eagle County who collectively represent over 80% of the local workforce. We are dedicated to the economic vitality of the valley, and as such our board of governors – which includes residents & business operators throughout Eagle County – believes SB-188 is detrimental to local businesses.

We write today to express opposition to Senate Bill 188. Vail Valley Partnership supports family and medical leave, and we agree that we have better outcomes for employees and employers when it is available. However, we have concerns about:

* The scope of the program, which is among the most generous family leave programs in the country, and the sheer cost to operate it. In just four years, the program will cost close to $900 million. Under Senate Bill 188, employees could be eligible for up to 16 weeks of leave after only 17 weeks of full-time employment, which concerns all businesses, but in particular organizations that employ seasonal and short-term workers.

* The potential loss of richer benefits when companies are forced to forgo their programs because this bill would create a mandatory program. Other states have allowed employers who already offer leave to opt out — something not provided to Colorado companies with the bill proposed here. And, this bill won’t cover the full salary of employees, so many employees can’t count on this financially. Rather than incenting companies to do more, this bill punishes companies that already offer generous leave programs, forcing them to administer multiple programs and weave together benefits.

* The current bill does not conform with the federal FMLA program. This will create eligibility inconsistencies and confusion as well as increase the administrative burden for businesses and nonprofits, many of which don’t qualify for FMLA today due to their size and therefore have no experience with government leave requirements.

If that’s not enough, we are extremely concerned that this program won’t be fiscally sound, meaning the money won’t be there to pay our salaries when we need it. As noted by the Denver Chamber, other states have introduced or passed family leave bills. In Washington, the cost just to create the technology infrastructure and staffing was $80 million, and will continue to cost more than $100 million each year, before any benefits are paid out. As we look at estimates here in Colorado, we’re deeply concerned that costs are being underestimated to start and maintain this program. Currently, legislators are setting aside $50 million to start this program. But once its in its first full year of operations, the cost to run and pay benefits will approach $1 billion. Meanwhile,  Washington is allowing employers who offer leave to opt out — something not provided to Colorado companies with the bill proposed here.

Let’s incent employers to do more, rather than mandate a one-size-fits-all approach that punishes those that have already taken steps to provide leave to their employees. Colorado’s employees deserve to have confidence that their family medical leave will be there when they need it.

We urge our elected officials to oppose Senate Bill 188 as it is currently drafted and encourage local businesses to express opposition: