Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie file photo
Sen. Osten and Rep. Walker co-chair the Appropriations Committee (Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie file photo)

HARTFORD, CT — A bill that would create a Paid Family and Medical Leave program was approved Monday by the Appropriations Committee.

The bill passed 26-17 after just eight minutes of debate. It now heads to the Senate.

CLICK TO VOTE ON SB 1: An Act Concerning Paid Family And Medical Leave

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The bill, which according to legislative leaders is still being negotiated, wasn’t changed from the version that passed the Labor and the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committees. The program would use $20 million in bonding over the next two years to get off the ground, but the program would eventually pay for itself with contributions from employees.

Sen. Julie Kushner, D-Danbury, said the program is designed to pay for itself and the money will be paid back in future years.

The bill, which was one of three similar bills this year, calls for employees to contribute 0.5 percent of their paycheck to a state-run trust fund. In turn, the employees would be able to use up to 12 weeks of leave to care for a new baby or a sick family member.

Opponents are not necessarily opposed to the concept, but they don’t want the state in charge.

“We all think Paid Family Leave in some shape or form is a good idea,” Rep. Gail Lavielle, R-Wilton, said. “But this is very expensive right now today at a time where we can hardly afford anything.”

House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, said Tuesday that they are getting “fairly close” on the language of the bill and after that they have to “shop it” to the members to make sure the support is there.

There were three different versions of the bill this year. The one that made it through committee Monday was the Senate version.

The governor’s bill, SB 881, says an employee could earn 90% of their typical earnings up to $600 per week for anyone making around $15 an hour, and 67 percent up to $900 for workers earning more than that.

The bill approved Monday would offer a wage replacement level of 100 percent, up to a maximum of $1,000, which is much higher than programs in other states.

It’s unclear where the legislation will land.