My goodness. It’s time to write about Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance (FAMLI) in Colorado again. It seems this terrible idea just won’t go away. After four failed bills and the failure to even introduce a bill in 2020, proponents have decided to put FAMLI on the ballot this coming November.
During the abbreviated 2020 legislative session, the proponents of this concept were unable to agree on a bill. Some were in favor of a “private” plan provided by employers (using government force, of course) and others held out in favor of a government-run system as had been proposed – and failed – four times before. In the end, due to the lack of agreement, vigorous opposition from the business community and the adjournment related to the COVID-19 pandemic, no bill was introduced.
On August 25, 2020 the Colorado Secretary of State announced that Proposition #118 had received sufficient signatures and was approved for the November ballot.
In the table below, I recap the salient aspects of the four bills that were proposed in 2015, 2017, 2018 and 2019 as well as Proposition #118. Note that the key provisions have remained virtually unchanged in every iteration and that one big lie permeates the whole concept. More on that later.
Previous Blogs About FAMLI
I wrote two blog posts against HB 18-1001 in 2018. One was the letter I sent to state legislators to voice my opposition. The second, titled “Twenty-One Reasons to Oppose HB 18-1001” was a more detailed look at the problems with that particular bill. (The title is derived from the 21% tax increase that this bill would have entailed.)
In 2019 I wrote “Say No to FAMLI” and “More Objections to FAMLI” in opposition to SB 19-188. In “More Objections”, and this is worth remembering, I wrote about how the Senate Democrats held hearings on this bill in the midst of a deadly “bomb cyclone” blizzard when it was too dangerous to travel to the Capitol to testify against it. Even though the committee chair promised that people who were unable to attend could email their testimony, in the end they just read names into the record of people’s opposition or support. It was yet another broken promise under the one-party rule of Democrats in Colorado.
In January of this year, I wrote a lengthy blog post called “The Case Against FAMLI”, in which I reviewed the prior FAMLI bills introduced in Colorado, FAMLI plans in other states, economic and other results in those states and the moral case against taxpayer-funded paid family and medical leave programs. I also was a guest on Kim Monson’s radio program on January 17 to talk about it.
On that day I called for FAMLI to be put to a vote of the people. I had thought that because it is a new tax, that it would have to be in all capital letters as is called for by TABOR. But since they are evading TABOR by calling it an “enterprise,” it looks like any other non-tax ballot initiative. As an interesting note, there is another proposition, #117, which would modify state law to call for voter approval for government enterprises that are expected to collect over $100,000,000 over its first five fiscal years. It too has been approved and will be on the ballot in November. I highly recommend a “Yes” vote on #117.
Once Proposition #118 fails, hopefully we can put this issue behind us forever.
Differences in Proposition #118
Proposition #118 reads very similar to the previous four bills introduced in the General Assembly. The most significant differences between #283 and its predecessors is the taxation mechanism, the cap on employer fines of $500 (previous versions allowed for higher or unlimited fines), the maximum weekly benefit and how often it is reset and who is allowed to opt-out.
One interesting change in #118, probably to make it more palatable to voters, is that the “premiums” are being paid by EMPLOYERS instead of the employee tax that was the key feature of the four failed bills. But, when you read further, you see that under #118, employers can deduct up to 50% of the “premiums” from employees’ wages, which means that in practice, this program will be funded by taxes on BOTH employers and employees. (8-13.3-407.(5))
Another interesting change is that local government employees can opt out, but self-employed people cannot unless they’ve been in the program for three years. (8-13.3-414.(2)) In all previous versions of the bill self-employment opt-out was allowed.
As with the previous versions, the FAMLI division is allowed to issue revenue bonds. Revenue bonds are a form of debt financing that costs money to issue (debt issuance costs) which can run into the millions of dollars, they require periodic interest payments to bondholders and eventually have to be repaid. They are obligations of the state government, secured by specific revenue sources and under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) have to be approved by the voters. But #118 is designed to evade the intent of TABOR anyway.
Clarification: As originally posted, I stated that the self-employed cannot opt out. This is incorrect. Under #283 they have to ELECT coverage, and can only opt out after three years.
A “Premium” vs. a “Tax”
According to www.merriam-webster.com, a “premium” is “the consideration paid for a contract of insurance”. An insurance contract is a voluntary agreement between a person (the insured) and an entity, usually a privately-owned insurance company, that provides the insurance. What is “insurance”? Again, according to Merriam-Webster, it is “coverage by contract whereby one party undertakes to indemnify or guarantee another against loss by a specified contingency or peril”.
By contrast, a “tax” is: “a charge usually of money imposed by authority on persons or property for public purposes”. Or, as I prefer to define it: “a “tax” is money taken from people BY FORCE to fund government programs”. There is nothing voluntary about this transaction, and there is no way to “opt-out” or to choose what government programs your money goes toward. While the state and the IRS are more than willing to work with taxpayers who are delinquent, if you try to evade paying taxes, government agents armed with guns (ironically, the very same government agents that radical progressives now want to defund) will come to take possession of your person and deprive you of your liberty by putting you in jail. If you resist, you can be shot and killed. This is FORCE.
When the United States government was founded through the adoption of the Constitution in 1787, the Founders gave government limited, discrete powers. Every level of government in the United States is created by the consent of the governed and has limited, discrete powers. The primary purpose of government is to protect life, liberty and property. It is not to operate business enterprises (like insurance) nor is it to forcibly take money or property from citizens to give to other citizens (or non-citizens). Operating a paid family and medical leave insurance program is NOT a proper function of Colorado’s state government.
While every single bill and Initiative #118 call the funding mechanism a “premium”, implying that it’s a voluntary transaction and to avoid the spirit and intent of the Taxpayers Bill of Rights, because it is money taken involuntarily by FORCE to fund a government program (whether they call it an “enterprise” or not is irrelevant), it is a TAX. Period. It’s that simple. Under TABOR, we Coloradans should be voting on this new tax.
The other states that have FAMLI programs are honest about how they are funded: they refer to the funding mechanism as a “payroll tax”, which is what it is.
Because this FAMLI program is involuntary and there is very limited provision for anybody to opt-out it is a MANDATORY government program. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck.
Follow the Money
The Issue Committee formed to promote Proposition #118 is called “Colorado Families First”. The Registered Agent is a staff member of a very far-left organization called United for A New Economy. As of the August 3 TRACER filing, the committee had raised $2.8 million, spending about $2.2 million of it on signature gathering. Of the $2,600,130 million cash contributions, exactly $130 of it came from 3 individuals in Colorado. The $2.6 million came from the Sixteen Thirty Fund in Washington, D.C. The Sixteen-Thirty Fund is a part of the national progressive infrastructure and this is not the first time they’ve meddled in Colorado politics. In 2016 they were among the donors for Amendment 70 which raised the minimum wage.
Proposition #118 is clearly NOT a grassroots Colorado idea. It’s part of the overall “progressive” agenda radical leftists have been promoting in our state for years.
Here’s a look at where the money came from…
And where it was spent…
The Moral Case Against FAMLI
(Note: this section is adapted from what was originally printed on www.kimmonson.com in my blog post titled “The Case Against FAMLI”)
The proponents of Proposition #118 will try to claim the moral high ground to defend this program, saying that people need help when certain life events happen, like having a new child. Or caring for an aging parent. Or recovering from an illness. They will use truly heart-wrenching stories to try to convince voters this program is not only necessary, but a moral imperative. They will say that it is government’s job to create a program so that people can get help.
Except it’s not.
Morality, in the context of public policy, is that which promotes human flourishing. Morality is the protection of our right to self-ownership, and the corollaries of that right: Life, Liberty and the protection of property.
Using the argument of “need”, anyone can walk up to anyone else, put a gun to their head, and say “Give me your money. I need it.” Is that moral? No, actually it’s aggravated robbery, which in Colorado is a class 4 felony.
In the case of paid family leave programs, proponents say that their “need” trumps everyone else’s right to keep the money they earn, which is their property. It’s simply asking the government to not only legalize armed robbery, but to act as the actual armed robber.
Under the principle of self-ownership, which is intrinsic to us as human beings, we own the product of our minds and our productive labor. Using the force of government to deprive us of what we earn is immoral and wrong. Saying your “need” gives you the right to my earnings and property is not just immoral, it’s evil.
People have been coping with life events like new babies (God bless them), sick and aging parents and family members, and others for as long as humans have lived on this planet. People cope with these events by saving money and PTO, by doing without things for periods of time, by asking friends and family (and churches and private charities) for help. Some are more able to cope than others, this is true. But nobody has a “right” to somebody else’s earnings or property based on their “need”.
Vote No on Proposition #118
This is a bad idea on so many levels: it’s premised upon a lie, it will rapidly grow out of control, it will make it harder to start and continue running small businesses, it will adversely affect the employer/employee relationship across the state.
It will give one person – the “director” of the division – incredible power, accountable to nobody but the governor.
It will adversely impact the state’s economy and the financial well-being of every person in the state. If passed, Proposition #118 will result in a significant number of people either retiring, becoming self-employed or leaving the state altogether to avoid paying this additional tax.
It is immoral.
It is not about families, it’s about power and control for the ruling party, the bureaucrats who would run the program, and related progressive interest groups.
Vote No on Proposition #118. Talk to your friends, family and network and ask them to vote No. Let’s send a resounding message once and for all that government-run paid family and medical leave insurance is wrong for Colorado.