By Michael Dresser
6:00 AM EDT, March 21, 2014
With an eye toward women voters, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Heather R. Mizeur called Thursday for Maryland to provide paid leave for workers who need time off to care for children or ailing relatives.
Under her plan, state aid to those who need to take off work would be financed by a surcharge on workers’ paychecks.
Mizeur called for the ambitious program as she released a campaign proposal called “Empowering Maryland Women” that also calls for stronger efforts to ensure equal pay for equal work in Maryland.
The two-term Montgomery County delegate is the only credible woman candidate for governor in 2014. She is running in the June 24 Democratic primary against Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler and Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown.
In her paid leave proposal, Mizeur says the United States is the only industrialized nation that does not provide some form of wage replacement when workers are sick or must care for family members. She would base her system on existing programs in California, New Jersey and Rhone Island. She said the programs in New Jersey and California had no “negative economic consequences” and argued that the results would be beneficial for employers.
Among those who would benefit, she said, are workers with newborn or newly adopted children and those with aging parents.
Mizeur envisions a publicly operated fund that would not be a direct cost to employers. She estimated the cost at $82 million She said the program would be financed by surcharge on biweekly paychecks of $1.20 — to be capped at $35 a year. The pay would be 66 percent of the worker's salary up to $1,000, with benefits limited to six weeks in any 12-month period.
While Maryland has one of the smallest gender gaps in the country in salaries, Mizeur said the state should step up its efforts on laws requiring equal pay for men and women in equivalent positions. She said Maryland women still earn only 85 cents for every $1 earned by a man, compared with 77 cents nationally.
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