April 2, 2019

Poll: 88% of CT voters support paid-leave program

Photo | Connecticut Network (CT-N)
Photo | Connecticut Network (CT-N)
Catherine Bailey, deputy director of CWEALF, is joined by other paid-leave advocates Tuesday at a press conference noting the latest poll released by the Campaign for Paid Family & Medical Leave.

A new poll from a coalition that supports implementing a paid family and medical leave program found that 88 percent of Connecticut registered voters support the idea.

That includes 78 percent of Republicans who back the proposed state-mandated program, according to a poll released Tuesday by the Campaign for Paid Family & Medical Leave.

Led by the Connecticut Women's Education and Legal Fund (CWEALF), the coalition includes over 100 small businesses and approximately 70 organizations, including AARP Connecticut and the Working Families Organization.

There are several bills moving through the state legislature aiming to provide up to 12 weeks of paid leave to workers who are healing from an illness or caring for a sick family member. The benefit would provide workers as much as $1,000 per week. However, some of the proposals call for full wage replacement, while Gov. Ned Lamont's calls for partial replacement.

The paid leave program would be funded by a 0.5 percent payroll tax on employee salaries up to the Social Security limit of approximately $132,000.

Employers would not have to contribute, under the current proposals, though some have complained that the program would cost them time and resources, and that it could be difficult to find temporary replacements for workers on leave.

"In November, Governor Lamont and many legislative candidates pledged to pass paid family leave, and the voters responded with support at the ballot box," said Lindsay Farrell, executive director of CT Working Families Party. "No one wants to have to choose between the paycheck they need to survive and the health of themselves or their family. Policymakers should take notice."

According to the poll, 54 percent of 602 registered voters surveyed in March said they "strongly" favor a paid leave program, while just 3 percent of respondents said they "strongly" oppose it.

Also, more than two-thirds reported that they would be more likely to back a candidate who supports paid family leave.

Andrew Markowski, Connecticut director of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), on Tuesday said his organization opposes the paid-leave program, adding that public polls don't adequately "reflect a reality small businesses would face if one or more employees are off the job for up to 12 weeks."

"Maybe large companies with many employees could handle it, but this will become an impossible circumstance for most small businesses," said Markowski, whose organization represents thousands of businesses in Connecticut.

However, the coalition said the poll results mirror national and state polling on paid leave programs.

An earlier coalition poll, released in May 2018, found that 77 percent of small business owners in Connecticut favored the program, which included 79 percent support among owners who are members of the state's largest lobby -- the Connecticut Business & Industry Association (CBIA).

Paid leave advocates last month cited last year's poll to the Hartford Business Journal in response to CBIA's new data that claimed 63 percent of business leaders expect their operations to be impacted if the program is adopted by the General Assembly.

States including New York, Rhode Island, New Jersey and California have passed paid-leave programs, but their programs do not provide full wage replacement.

The campaign's latest poll, conducted by New York-based BLS Research & Consulting, has a margin of error of +/- 4 percent.

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