Asbury Park Press

Key Committee Chairman Expects Family Leave Vote

Asbury Park Press — Friday, December 7, 2007

By GREGORY J. VOLPE
GANNETT STATE BUREAU

The chairman of the Assembly Labor Committee said today he expects his committee to meet again this session to consider a bill to guarantee workers paid family leave.

The measure has not moved in the Assembly and remains before the Assembly Labor Committee, which concluded its last scheduled meeting Thursday morning. But chairman Assemblyman Joseph V. Egan, D-Middlesex, said he expects his committee to meet again. And if so, Egan said, the family leave proposal backed by incoming Senate Majority Leader Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, and Gov. Jon S. Corzine will be on the agenda.

"I believe we will have another session, barring anything, and I believe it will be on," Egan said. "I am definitely in favor of it. At some point in time in history you will see this as important as putting in Social Security."

Assembly Democrats have said they will discuss the matter privately next Thursday to see if there's support to get it approved during the lame-duck legislative session, as advocates for the plan are pushing.

After Thursday, the only date planned for Assembly committees to meet is Jan. 3.

Those advocates, who expect few workers to use the program, say the plan allows workers to be paid two-thirds of their salary, up to $502 a week, through an employee-funded program if they need to take off to care for a newborn or sick family member.

Business groups fighting the measure say it will disrupt their operations and put them at a competitive disadvantage compared with peers in other states.

Some critics are also leery of increasing a tax – not more than $50 per year – on workers.

"It's a tax increase on every worker in the state of New Jersey," Assemblyman Michael Doherty, R-Warren, said. "Every paycheck you're going to be paying this, and I oppose higher taxes."

It's unclear whether that concern is permeating through the majority's caucus.

"No one's reached out for me, so I don't know what the concerns are," Egan said.

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