House plans vote on delaying long-term-care program and payroll tax Wednesday

Jan 18, 2022

The House Appropriations Committee approved a bill Thursday to pause implementation of the long-term-care program and payroll tax for 18 months. The bill would also allow older workers a way to receive partial benefits from the program. Another bill approved by the committee would let more people leave the program, such as Washington workers who live outside of the state and some veterans, military spouses and temporary workers. 

Votes on these two bills (HB 1732 and HB 1733) are now scheduled for tomorrow.  

Don’t get too excited, though. The bills, if passed, would delay the new payroll tax of 58 cents for every $100 of income for only 18 months.  After that, the full tax kicks in as planned.

The long-term-care law is unpopular, insolvent and inadequate. A short delay won’t change that. Letting more people out of the program and its tax also won’t help it pay for itself. As Rep. Peter Abbarno, R-Centralia, said of the law in a media availability today, “You don’t have to read far into the actuarial report that shows that it is just not a solvent fund.” Rep. Drew Stokesbary, R-Auburn, added that the law was insolvent on day one. The situation got a lot worse when more than 460,000 people opted out of the program as the law allowed for a short time.

The program is insolvent for one simple reason: It’s based on force and people don’t want it. 

This long-term-care law erroneously offers false peace of mind to Washingtonians, limits choice and adds another regressive tax to low-income wage earners in our state. And it's likely to cost workers and taxpayers even more in the future to deal with the social program's insolvency. It should be repealed.  

Despite widespread outcry, bills that would repeal the long-term-care program and payroll tax have been blocked. Instead, opponents plan to offer floor amendments to the bills that have been allowed. These amendments will no doubt be voted down, but at least elected officials will have to go on record. 

To learn more about what’s happening tomorrow with the long-term-care law, tune into the first 10 minutes of this segment  on TVW. Amendments to House Bills 1732 and 1733 can be read  here and here, respectively. A few of them would essentially repeal the law.  

Delaying a bad law is not a solution. Only repeal will cancel this unpopular program and rid Washingtonians of a regressive tax. 

Update, 1/19/22: As expected, none of the amendments that could have really brought the kind of fix that the long-term-care law and payroll tax needed were adopted, and HB 1732 and HB 17333 were passed by the House. They now move on to the Senate, where the bills are expected to be approved just as fast.

There are a few silver linings in the bills, but lawmakers missed an opportunity by blocking repeal efforts. Lawmakers should admit when they've passed a law that doesn't work for Washingtonians and switch course.