Paid parental leave grabs national and state headlines, could it happen here?

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Fort Wayne leaders are calling a South Bend plan progressive and innovative.The Mayor there put a 100 percent, six week paid parental leave for city workers into next year’s budget.

Paid parental leave has gotten national attention this year. President Trump put it in his budget. Now, the news is just 90 miles away from home. Could Fort Wayne be next?

“I think it’s definitely possible,” City of Fort Wayne Spokesperson John Perlich said. “I think it’s something that would happen sooner rather than later.”

Mayor Tom Henry’s office said he’s joining the discussion to see if it could work with city employees here. The South Bend plan Mayor Pete Buttigieg proposed would allow parents to take the time off after a birth or adoption. They could take it all off after the event or take it just one week at a time within the six months following a birth or adoption.

“No decisions have been made on that,” Perlich said. “We’re in the early stages of discussion. Obviously it would involve discussion between the administration and city council.”

I’d want to get more information on that, but certainly it’s appealing to me,” Councilman Geoff Paddock (D-District 5) said.

Paddock said offering paid parental leave for mothers and fathers with the city has never been talked about in his six years on council. He welcomes the discussion now.

“It is good policy,” Paddock said. “The question is can we find the dollars? Can the city afford to do it?

“So far the only times I’ve heard this seriously discussed is when an elected official with aspirations of higher office is trying to score some points,” Councilman Russ Jehl (R-District 2) said.

Jehl is referring to Buttigieg potentially running for a higher office. Last year he was in the running for Democratic National Committee Chair.

Like Paddock, Jehl too welcomes the discussion, but he has his eyes off the public sector and on something else.

“When it comes to benefits for public employees I think they should be similar to what the taxpayers, the private sector’s, benefits are,” Jehl said.

Congress would have to pass the federal parental leave proposal. In South Bend, City Council members will have the final say at their meeting next month.