Jan. 21 – Washington state Democrats on Wednesday passed a pair of bills delaying the WA Cares employee collection tax by about 18 months, while changing the program to include exemptions for workers who might not seeing the benefits or who already have existing coverage.
House Bill 1732, which delays the program, passed the House with a floor vote of 91-6. Representatives Peter Abbarno, R-Centralia, and Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama, both of the 20th Legislative District, voted to postpone, while 19th Legislative District Representatives Jim Walsh, R-Aberdeen, and Joel McEntire, R -Cathlamet, voted against the bill.
“I voted ‘no’ because the 18 month timeline doesn’t go far enough,” Walsh wrote on Facebook. “We should have repealed the rotten long term care tax system. This is a bad deal for WA workers.”
Orcutt was the only local lawmaker to vote in favor of House Bill 1733, which deals with four exemptions, in a floor vote. Abbarno, McEntire and Walsh all voted against the bill, which passed by a closer vote of 67 to 29.
Abbarno, in a press release this week, compared the Democrats’ fixes to the WA Cares program to “playing music on the sinking Titanic.”
“HB 1773 offers more opt-outs, but does not address regressive tax, restrictive investment strategy, or limited benefit. And all three must work for this program to succeed. account, as the ship sinks faster and faster because of these so-called fixes, it will become more likely that higher taxes must be imposed on all Washingtonians, in and out of the program, to keep this ship afloat.” Abbarno said in a statement, “If these opt-outs in HB 1773 were truly a solution, the House would not have needed to suspend the program for 18 months in HB 1772.
Abbarno earlier this session introduced HB 1594, which would completely repeal the WA Cares program and its 58-cent tax on every $100 earned by Washington workers. Democrats have yet to give his hearing, or any other Republican solution.
“Suspending the program is one option. Repealing an insolvent program is another option that should be considered,” he said in a statement.
(c)2022 The Chronicle (Centralia, Washington)