Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We have officially entered the third week of the 2022 legislative session. As you might expect, several legislative agenda items have been fast-tracked by the majority party that create more problems than solutions — including the latest installment in WA Cares Fund saga.
Delaying the long-term care payroll tax
The WA Cares Fund has been a problem since being created in 2019. The program, and its accompanying, controversial long-term care payroll tax, is deeply unpopular. Just months after its passage, nearly 63% of voters said the bill should be repealed through Advisory Vote No. 20. Over two years later, 450,000 workers have purchased a qualified private plan in order to opt-out of the program.
Here's the reality that, unfortunately, some policymakers refuse to recognize: The WA Cares Fund is not simply unpopular, it's insolvent and wholly inadequate for its stated purpose. Why? Because the numbers do not add up. As my colleague Rep. Peter Abbarno from the 20th District noted during House floor debate, “You don't have to read far into the actuarial report to see that it is just not a solvent fund.” Delaying implementation won't change that.
This bad policy needs to be repealed. Unfortunately, any bills that would repeal the Long-Term Care Act have been blocked by the majority party. Instead, they decided to kick the can down the road by voting on a bill that delays implementing the program another 18 months.
House Bill 1732, aka the “delay, deflect and divert bill,” was approved by the House last week. Several amendments were offered on the bill, including one that would require voter approval of the program in order for the payroll tax to take effect in July 2023.
I also sponsored an amendment that would allow individuals born before 1968 to receive the maximum benefit if they paid into the program for at least a year. Like the others, my amendment was far too reasonable to be accepted. The majority party rejected or ruled out of scope every amendment offered by Republicans and blocked all attempts to bring a repeal bill forward.
Good intentions do not always make good policy. The WA Cares Fund won't be good for a majority of the workers stuck paying into it. That's why I voted against House Bill 1732. I also voted no on House Bill 1733, which seeks to create more exemptions for the program. The Long-Term Care “Act” is just that — an act. The program offers a slick media campaign, but little substance.
Putting limits on state spending | House Bill 1999
Our state does not just have a tax problem. It has a spending problem. That's why I've introduced a bill that would re-establish the rational state government spending limits in place during Washington state's years of its greatest economic expansion, the 1990s.
It was in 1993 that — by a law that the people made — Washington state implemented fiscal discipline and restraint by placing limits on government expenditures. Voters approved Initiative 601, which included effective state spending limits. That initiative was eventually ruled unconstitutional because of tax-policy elements separate from the spending limits; but the budgeting practice associated with it never should have been abandoned.
Our state is at a point of great economic uncertainty. For the first time in two generations, Washingtonians believe we're heading in the wrong direction economically. Bad policies and poor management have gummed up our great economic engine. House Bill 1999 puts Olympia back on a fiscal diet. It's a critical part of getting Washington back into good financial shape.
Join me for a weekly legislative briefing! | Every Saturday at 4 p.m.
Several big public policy debates will take place in the coming weeks, including state budgets, emergency powers reform, transportation spending, and K-12 educational policy. That's why I'm inviting 19th District constituents to join me for a weekly legislative briefing to discuss the happenings in Olympia.
Join me every Saturday at 4 p.m. for a Zoom-hosted meeting to ask your questions live and discuss topics relevant to the current legislative session. You only have to register once to get a Zoom link that gives you access to this weekly meeting.
Please contact me if you have questions about bills being introduced, bills that are scheduled for a hearing, or other state government-related issues.
Thank you for allowing me to serve you in the state House of Representatives.