Editorial Board, Albuquerque Journal

It is sobering, though not surprising, that in 2016 just half of the private employers in a poor state like New Mexico provide sick leave for their employees.

Granted, private employers aren’t exactly the big dogs here. Nine of the top 10 in the state are public ones. Historically New Mexico has relied heavily on its government for jobs, and that lack of economic diversity has contributed to a less than robust private sector in which many firms either don’t need to offer benefits packages to compete for workers or are struggling just to keep their doors open.

Yet some paid sick leave is a basic workplace benefit – it means an employee doesn’t have to go to work sick to keep a job or, worse, leave a sick child with a random shack-up honey who causes injury or worse.

In the next legislative session, New Mexico Voices for Children plans to lobby lawmakers for a bill requiring paid sick leave for all private sector workers in the state. (The group says nearly all public sector workers have paid sick leave.) Executive director Veronica C. García says “no parent should ever have to make the terrible choice between paying their bills and caring for a sick child.”

She’s right, and providing some basic amount of paid sick leave is an important conversation for the state and the business community to have. The devil will be in providing some relief without creating such a burden that it discourages new private sector businesses from coming here or pushes many struggling businesses to go ahead and shut their doors – as the federal government is doing with its proposed new overtime rules for managers. In recent years these enterprises already have had to comply with and manage the increased costs dictated by the Affordable Care Act, rising local minimum wages and ever-increasing regulation at almost every level. One thing we have plenty of here is bureaucrats.

This is a tough balancing act. Paid sick leave is an important piece of a safety net, one that in the end keeps people working. But one more government mandate, no matter how well-intentioned, could mean even fewer private employers in the Land of Enchantment. And that’s not healthy for New Mexico’s current or prospective employees.

Copyright 2016, Albuquerque Journal