By: Holly Ramer

Gov. Chris Sununu vetoed a paid family medical leave bill Thursday, repeating his claim that it amounts to an income tax and promoting his own plan as representing the “New Hampshire way.”

The plan that passed the Senate in February and the House in March calls for up to 12 weeks of paid leave for the birth, adoption or fostering of a child, a serious illness not related to employment, or the serious illness of a spouse or certain other relatives. It would require businesses to provide insurance or send 0.5 percent of employees’ weekly wages to the state.

Sununu and fellow Republican Gov. Phil Scott of Vermont have proposed their own plan in which both states would cover the cost of up to six week of leave.

“Senate Bill 1 is an income tax that neither I nor the people of New Hampshire will ever support,” Sununu said in his veto message. “I have proposed a paid family medical leave plan that will work — one that is voluntary, affordable and income tax free. That is the New Hampshire way.”

Democrats argue their plan better ensures that workers won’t have to choose between caring for loved ones and financial security. Senate Majority Leader Dan Feltes, of Concord, called it a critical tool to attract a strong workforce, care for an aging population and combat the state’s opioid epidemic.

“This is why people don’t like politics. Politicians — regardless of their last name or where they come from — should actually work for the people, should keep their campaign promises, and should tell the truth,” he said in a statement. “Governor Sununu has done none of that on paid family and medical leave, and he’s left working families and small businesses to fall further and further behind.”

Judging by the previous votes, it’s unlikely lawmakers could override the veto, however. Republicans praised Sununu for vetoing the bill, which they cast as an expensive, one-size-fits-all government mandate.

“Ninety-nine percent of House Republicans voted against this legislation in March, and I will be working hard to guarantee 100 percent of House Republicans vote to sustain the governor’s veto of this flawed plan,” said House Minority Leader Dick Hinch, of Merrimack. “We will have the governor’s back.”

Four states — California, New Jersey, Rhode Island and New York — have public paid family and medical leave programs, according to the Carsey School of Public Policy at the University of New Hampshire. Several other states are in the process of implementing similar legislation, and more than a dozen are debating the issue.

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