Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) promised to make the state’s family leave program more flexible at a Tuesday campaign event, months after his administration came out against a law giving state workers 18 weeks of paid leave.
The paid leave program passed the Democratic-majority Maryland legislature in April with little Republican support. SB 859 expands paid leave for state workers from six weeks to 18 weeks—a move that the Hogan administration opposed in a letter to Maryland lawmakers before the governor eventually signed the bill.
The Maryland Department of Budget and Management told state lawmakers in February that the six weeks of paid leave offered by the current policy “adequately provide ‘parental’ leave protections for employees of the State.”
Hogan ultimately signed the measure in May. He insisted in a Tuesday press release announcing the paid family leave policy that he had supported SB 859 all along, despite the administration’s letter opposing the bill.
Hogan on Tuesday lauded the expansion of the paid leave program, saying rules written by his administration would make the program more flexible for new parents, the Washington Post reported. According to new rules, the 60 days of additional paid leave provided by SB 859 can be used any time within six months following the birth or adoption of a child, instead of having to be used in a block.
Hogan also said he plans to propose legislation that would provide tax credits for employers that offer paid leave benefits.
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Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous in a statement criticized Hogan’s about-face on paid family leave, calling the policy reversal “the latest example of misleading hypocrisy from a governor who has failed to deliver progress for working families.” Jealous’ campaign to unseat Hogan is backed by several labor unions representing state workers.
In May 2017, Hogan vetoed a separate Democratic law that requires employers to provide up to five days of paid sick leave to workers, the Baltimore Business Journal reported. Democrats lawmakers voted in January to override the veto, despite concerted pushback from the state’s business lobby.
Hogan, who holds a commanding lead on Jealous, is seeking a second term in a state where less than one-third of voters identify as Republicans. Hogan won the governorship in 2014 in the lowest turnout election in recent Maryland history. Voter turnout in the state returned to normal levels in 2016, and early voting dramatically increased during this year’s primaries.