Why I’m Supporting Paid Family Leave

June 30, 2023

Hello, this is Governor Janet Mills, and thank you for listening.

I know the challenges of providing care to loved ones while trying to manage all the unexpected ups and downs of life. After all, I raised five stepdaughters, helped look after my two aging parents, and cared for my late husband, Stan, after his stroke until his death – all while working full time. I deeply understand the value of a paid family and medical leave policy for Maine.

But crafting a statewide leave policy that balances the needs of our diverse workforce and employment base, and limits, to the greatest extent possible, increased costs on Maine businesses and workers is a challenge, particularly in our state.

From family farms to corner stores to large companies, national retailers, nursing homes, research and educational institutions, from people working in office spaces in Portland, to those working remotely in Aroostook County, Maine’s workplace is as varied as our weather. And while a growing number of states have enacted paid family and medical leave bills, no two have enacted the same law.

So, while we could look to other states to learn from their experiences, I urged the Legislature to craft a policy that is tailored to Maine – one that balances the unique and disparate needs of Maine families and businesses.

I asked lawmakers to provide greater flexibility so that businesses could accommodate as many different situations as practical.

My goal was to achieve a bill that provides the best help to working people in Maine, while avoiding the inevitable law of unintended consequences.

To their great credit, the sponsors of the bill, Senator Mattie Daughtry and Representative Kristen Cloutier, did revise the bill to address many of my concerns.

There are now accommodations for seasonal employers, and for businesses that already provide similar benefits, and for employers who would encounter serious hardship from employee absences.

Of course, I’m still concerned about our workforce shortage in general and about the added costs this bill will create. After all, I have repeatedly said I am opposed to increasing taxes. But, I live in the real world – and I have to measure my concerns against the prospect of a referendum that would likely result in a payroll tax – a referendum that is not responsive to the interests of Maine’s economy, Maine’s workforce, or our small businesses in particular.

So, is this bill perfect? No. But no compromise legislation ever is. With the changes adopted by the Legislature, I believe the bill—which is now included in the budget—does strike a balance that guarantees benefits for working families while avoiding significant hardship on the co-employees, employers, customers, and clients who depend on continuity and stability in our economy.

Recognizing all of that, and recognizing that a referendum is not the way we should consider complicated policy proposals, I will sign the budget agreement that includes paid family and medical leave.

And while there are details to iron out over the next few years during implementation, this bill is an historic victory for working people and families across Maine.

It is my hope that implementing a paid family and medical leave policy in Maine that accommodates potential hardships for employers will make it easier for people of all sorts to balance work with life’s unexpected challenges, like caring for a sick child or an aging parent, change that will support our workforce and strengthen our economy in the long-term.

This is Governor Janet Mills. Thank you for listening.