As legislators, our job is to listen to the people of Wisconsin. This session, we set out to do that as we worked to pass our state’s 2023-2025 Biennial Budget. From listening sessions to public hearings, we wanted to know the issues that burden our communities and the solutions we could offer as policymakers.
Week by week, we heard that Wisconsinites are often forced to choose between taking care of a loved one and going to work. For many working families today, taking time off to care for a newborn, recover from an illness or injury, or care for a family member with a serious health condition presents a financial challenge. Concerningly, even the joyous occasion of the birth of a new child or the heartbreaking occurrence of a health emergency can lead to financial hardship and even job loss in our communities.
In light of this, our constituents here in Dane County and across the state called on us to pass Governor Tony Evers’ historic proposal to make 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave available to employees in the private and public sectors. They recognized this budget cycle as an opportunity to bridge the policy gaps that have left our working families struggling, and we, as legislators, shared in that perspective.
There are many benefits to the creation of a statewide paid leave program.
Not only is paid leave a necessity for workers juggling the unique and unforeseeable demands of their personal lives, it is also a workplace retention policy that bolsters the success of our workforce and contributes to our state’s economic growth and competitiveness.
For example, according to Wisconsin Watch, without paid leave, women are more likely to leave the workforce for longer periods after giving birth. This means that for many working women, they can lose more than $250,000 in wages after staying home for six prime working years. Paid leave would give mothers the opportunity to meet the demands of motherhood, both physical and emotional, while also advancing in their careers and earning the pay they deserve. In turn, more women in the workforce will boost our economic growth.
Just like roads and bridges, paid leave is a critical component of our infrastructure. By investing in care policies like it, we can create a comprehensive program that meets the needs of our workforce and supports it.
Unfortunately, Legislative Republicans rejected the priorities of the people of Wisconsin. And instead of working with the Governor to find common ground, they struck from consideration more than 500 items from Evers’ proposed budget, including paid leave, earlier this spring.
Our constituents were devastated. As Wisconsin’s childcare crisis loomed, it was astonishing that our state legislature would pass on a policy solution that would alleviate many of the workforce related issues plaguing our communities. After all, paid leave programs are broadly popular among voters from both parties. It is not a partisan issue. Yet Wisconsin Republicans falsely painted this critical workforce investment as divisive and took it away from the many Wisconsinites asking for it.
Ultimately, this year’s Biennial Budget passed without Governor Evers’ paid leave provision. But for us Democrats here in Dane County and across Wisconsin, the fight will continue this fall. We can’t afford to go another session without creating a comprehensive paid family and medical leave program here in Wisconsin. And that is why we are urging legislative Republicans to take up Governor Evers’ special session in September on childcare and paid leave.
Because the truth is, if we want a state that attracts and retains a competitive workforce, and a state that leads in innovation and economic development, we need to build a care economy that meets the needs of every Wisconsin worker.
Rep. Francesca Hong, 76th Assembly District
Rep. Alex Joers, 79th Assembly District
Rep. Jimmy Anderson, 47th Assembly District
Rep. Lisa Subeck, 78th Assembly District
Rep. Mike Bare, 80th Assembly District
Rep. Jenna Jacobson, 43rd Assembly District
Rep. Dave Considine, 81st Assembly District
Rep. Samba Baldeh, 48th Assembly District
Rep. Melissa Ratcliff, 46th Assembly District
Rep. Sheila Stubbs, 77th Assembly District