Opinion: SB 5639 would prohibit recertification of exemptions from WA Cares’ payroll tax

Elizabeth Hovde of the Washington Policy Center reminds lawmakers that voters have told the Legislature more than once, and in different ways, that WA Cares is not a good solution.

Elizabeth Hovde of the Washington Policy Center reminds lawmakers that voters have told the Legislature more than once, and in different ways, that WA Cares is not a good solution

Elizabeth Hovde
Washington Policy Center

A Washington state commission overseeing the implementation of a long-term-care law that will tax workers for a benefit they may never receive, despite intense marketing that suggests otherwise, made a list of suggestions for this year’s state Legislature. One of the suggestions is to require hundreds of thousands of people who received exemptions from a payroll tax that begins in July for WA Cares to recertify, at frequent intervals, that they still have the private long-term-care insurance (LTCI) they attested to having when seeking their exemptions. 

Elizabeth Hovde
Elizabeth Hovde

SB 5639, sponsored by Sen. Ron Muzzall, R-Oak Harbor, would put the kibosh on that idea.

Many people decided that having 58 cents of every $100 they earned, for a benefit they might not ever need or receive, was not a good investment. Others disliked a social program that will give money to people in need and people not in need. These people played by the state’s rules for opting out of the WA Cares tax and attested to having private LTCI as required. Lawmakers should not be able to change rules in the middle of a game. We all learned that in kindergarten. 

The bill is being co-sponsored by Sen. Kevin Van De Wege, D-Sequim. More lawmakers should hop onto the bipartisan legislation. The preemptive strike is a good one. Not only does it prohibit the state from calling foul on people who followed lawmakers’ instructions for the 2019 long-term-care law, but it can also save the state from having more costly administration of a problematic and unpopular program. 

Repeal of WA Cares is another effort lawmakers should warm to: House Bill 1011 would stop this long-term mess before it even begins. It’s awaiting a hearing that I’m told it won’t likely receive. Read more about the legislation that lawmakers should be discussing in my legislative memo here

SB 5639 and HB 1011 offer sound public policy. They could help restore some of the public’s trust. Voters have told the Legislature more than once, and in different ways, that WA Cares is not a good solution. 

Elizabeth Hovde is a policy analyst and the director of the Centers for Health Care and Worker Rights at the Washington Policy Center. She is a Clark County resident.


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