Just hours before Governor Jay Inslee holds a press conference to unveil his “Washington Jobs Agenda,” his “legislative proposals to create and sustain a thriving economic climate,” the House Labor & Workforce Development Committee this morning passed two bills that would do more to kill jobs and strangle the economy than any legislation in recent history.
HB 1313 would extend the paid sick leave ordinance passed by Seattle last year to employers across the state. The bill would require employers with 5 or more employees to pay employees for 5, 7 or 9 days of sick or safe leave per year, depending on the size of the company. Only one other state (Connecticut) mandates paid sick leave.
HB 1457 would significantly expand the current paid family leave law that was passed in 2007 but never implemented because a funding source was never agreed upon. The new bill would provide up to $1,000 per week for 12 weeks for a child’s birth or adoption or for a family member’s “serious health condition,” and another 12 weeks of paid leave for the individual’s “serious health condition.” Workers could apply for both benefits in the same year, meaning they could receive 24 weeks of paid leave in one year. Employees would be eligible for the paid leave upon working 6 months or 650 hours.
The current unimplemented and unfunded law mandates benefits of $250 per week up to five weeks only for the birth of adoption of a child, and eligibility begins at 12 months or 1,250 hours. Unlike its weaker predecessor, SHB 1457 does identify a funding source—a new payroll tax. The tax would be paid by employers with the option to charge employees half of the tax, and the program would be administered by the Employment Securities Department. Only two states (California and New Jersey) have laws mandating paid family leave.
The fiscal note for HB 1457 is staggering. According to OFM it will cost employers and workers $97 million in new taxes in 2013-15, $342 million in 2015-17 and $387 million in 2017-19.
It goes without saying that the way to encourage job growth is not to burden employers with more mandates and taxes. It also goes without saying that such mandates would make Washington’s business climate even less competitive, particularly with neighboring states Idaho and Oregon, which don't burden employers with such mandates.