By Gene Mills, Louisiana Family Forum president
BATON ROUGE, La. (LBM) — After working my entire career to promote principled family policy and protect human life, I am still moved with emotion by the gigantic shift which occurred on June 24, 2022, when the U.S. Supreme Court announced its correct decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. I am privileged to be in Washington D.C. on the anniversary of this historic moment leading a delegation of the next generation of Louisiana leaders. In many respects, the work is just beginning as we forge a path forward in crafting family policy. One issue provides an opportunity for agreement across the political spectrum.
Most Americans agree that there is a need for paid leave after the birth or adoption of a new baby. Seventy-one percent of registered voters support paid gamily leave for parents, crossing party, gender, and ideological lines (65% of conservatives, 68% of moderates, 83% of liberals).1 Parents need time to bond with their newborns. Mothers need time to recuperate physically after childbirth. Both fathers and babies benefit from the connection established in those first weeks.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 23% of workers (9% of low-wage workers) have access to paid family leave after the birth or adoption of a child. Many mothers return to work as early as two weeks after delivering a baby. Many fathers take no time off at all. For these families, the choice is between putting food on the table and paying the bills versus focusing on connecting with their newest family member. For single mothers, the situation can be even worse. Sometimes, families end up on public assistance. Keeping new parents in the workforce is the goal. The inherent value and dignity of work helps families flourish.
After the Dobbs decision, solving this problem is even more imperative. Women who might have once considered abortion the only way out of a difficult financial situation now need assurance so they can continue working and caring for their babies.
Is there a solution that adheres to conservative principles? One that doesn’t involve mandates, increased taxes, or new government programs? It’s time for a meaningful conversation on ways to fund parental leave that doesn’t involve more government mandates.
The Strong Families Act created a five-year, 25 percent tax credit for employers who voluntarily offer up to 12 weeks of paid family leave to employees. This measure was incorporated in President Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act for a two-year pilot and expanded for 5 years in the 2020 year-end COVID-relief package.
In 2019, Senators Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona introduced the first bi-partisan plan called the Advancing Support for Working Families Act. This approach allows new parents to essentially receive a $5000 advance on their child tax credit and pay it back through a $500 reduction in the credit over the next ten years. Enrollment would be optional.
Another option for consideration is The Providing for Life Act2 which was introduced by Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) following the Dobbs decision. This legislation combines his previous paid leave legislation, The New Parents Act, and other existing Rubio legislation with new, pro-family proposals to provide comprehensive support for pregnant and new moms, and their young children.
In this post-Roe America, parents need a way to fund a necessary leave that is not based on tax increases or increased government mandates. It will take hard work and commitment to come to the table on the part of all stakeholders in this issue. It starts with a conversation and exploring creative solutions.
I commend the work which has begun and look forward to expanding this conversation.