Seven years ago, we started our K2 to help people advocate their priorities to our government leaders. Having spent years working in government and politics – Kristen in grassroots and fundraising and Kirsten in communications – we knew joining forces would be a value add for our clients.

Today, we find ourselves needing to advocate OUR priorities to the same people we work with every day.

Speeding through the Minnesota Legislature right now is a bill providing Paid Family Leave benefits to all Minnesotans. It sounds great, doesn’t it? Like almost too great, right?

It is.

The consequences of this legislation will have a substantial impact on small businesses like ours across Minnesota, stifling economic growth.

What is the saying – there’s no such thing as a free lunch? Well, there’s no such thing as free paid family leave benefits either.

Talking to small business owners and people in our circles over the past few months, we’ve come to learn the frightening consequences of this proposed legislation and why it’s being moved through the process so fast.

  • The proposal would give a single worker who has worked just 80 hours a year up to 24 weeks off for family and medical leave. Six months a year after just two weeks of work!
  • Regardless of the size of your business (15 people at K2 versus thousands at 3M, for example), employers would be required to hold these jobs for the entire duration of an employee’s leave while they continue to pay benefits that the employee enjoys as part of their job. On top of that, we then need to find temporary workers to fill in, which any employer knows right now is easier said than done. I think we’ve all seen the help wanted signs the past couple of years.
  • The State of Minnesota would create a new government program with 300 employees to manage the benefits, meaning another government agency to deal with. (Remember this Super Bowl commercial? We get a lot of hold music dancing in already dealing with various state and federal agencies.)
  • To pay for all of this, employers would pay part of a $1 billion increase in the state payroll tax. Even as the state currently has a more than $17 billion surplus – they are still raising taxes on small businesses.

None of this will foster an environment for employers like us to expand and continue making their employees and communities better.

We understand the push for more flexibility for families and employees. That flexibility is why we started K2 and why we continue to offer flexibility to our team. We’ve had team members need to take extended leave for paternity/maternity leave, death, and taking care of loved ones. This is about doing right by our employees, and providing flexibility is something we believe in. But now, state government is only going to make things harder for businesses to have that flexibility, which could force other employees to take on a significant extended workload or limit company growth because we are forced to try and find temporary help to fill those gaps.

This is the wrong approach.

But here’s the most disappointing thing of all. We’ve heard some pretty unpleasant stories from our colleagues about how this legislation is becoming reality.

  • Co-sponsors of the legislation don’t know how much the payroll tax is,
  • Business owners aren’t being told about the payroll tax when meeting with legislators
  • Legislative leaders are refusing meetings with constituents begging to tell their stories about how this will impact them, and
  • Leaders are refusing to fix obvious problems in bill language in order to push things through.

There are plenty of states where we could make more money, face fewer burdensome regulations, and pay fewer taxes than in Minnesota. But we’ve chosen to run a small business here because we love it and believe in this state and its people. We’re a small business of just 15 who help people connect with lawmakers every day about the issues important to them. Right now, our elected officials are treating small businesses like they are millionaires running large corporations and that isn’t right. One-size-fits-all approaches do not work.

There is no accountability in St. Paul right now. The only thing that might work is strength in numbers. Are you a fellow small business owner? Do you work for a small business? Please reach out to your legislators.

The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce has this Action Alert to help.

-Kristen and Kirsten