Elizabeth Hovde of the Washington Policy Center believes lawmakers just passed over the real solution to this long-term-care mess
Washington Policy Center
Repealing the state’s long-term-care program and tax was a proposal embodied in House Bill 1011. The bill tried, unsuccessfully, to get the state out of a bad policy decision that will have a harmful impact on workers. It didn’t even receive a hearing from House leadership for discussion, despite having 31 lawmakers signed onto the legislation wanting to talk. Instead, it has waited for attention this entire legislative session, before dying what I hope won’t be a quiet death.
I think the next audible outcry will be this summer when workers start seeing 58 cents of every $100 they earn taken from their paychecks for a paltry long-term-care benefit they may never need, qualify for or receive. Many workers won’t appreciate the pay cut or their financial options surrounding long-term care taken away.
The social program and tax are unpopular with the public, which is part of the reason the state now has an aggressive marketing campaign for WA Cares.
That marketing campaign fails to communicate that you might pay into this program for all of your working years and never receive the WA Cares benefit — a benefit that won’t even cover many people’s long-term-care needs. Nor does it mention that the regressive tax means some low-income workers will be forced to hand over a portion of their income to benefit others with higher incomes and who may not need assistance. This program expands a safety net far too wide. Read more about the misguided payroll tax and program in my policy brief, “New state-run program will not fix long-term care crisis, nor should it offer peace of mind to workers forced to fund it.”
While the legislative majority’s leadership doesn’t seem to want to talk about the trouble with the long-term-care program being mandated, the Association of Washington Business does. On February 27, it sent a letter to Gov. Jay Inslee and legislative leaders listing WA Cares’ shortcomings and saying the program “is unclear, insolvent, and does not address the actual long-term care needs of all Washington state residents.” The letter was signed by a long list of businesses and organizations representing industry and labor across the state. It asks the lawmakers to delay the tax or address WA Cares’ many problems before implementation.
Public and business outcry over the long-term-care program had the governor asking lawmakers to delay the new payroll tax once before. And they did. The tax was originally supposed to begin in January 2022. An 18-month delay passed by the Legislature set July 2023 as the new date for the payroll takings. But during the delay, WA Cares has not become more likable or a convincing solution for Washington’s coming long-term-care crisis.
Rep. Peter Abbarno, R-Centralia, is the lawmaker who proposed House Bill 1011. He is disappointed his bill was ignored. Of the letter from AWB, he said, “The letter does highlight all the problems which should lead everyone to believe repeal is the only solution.”
Agreed. Lawmakers just passed over the real solution to this long-term-care mess.
Elizabeth Hovde is a policy analyst and the director of the Centers for Health Care and Workers Rights at the Washington Policy Center. She is a Clark County resident.
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