2022 legislative session •
The big news in the House this week was legislation relating to the Democrats’ controversial long-term care insurance program and payroll tax — also called the WA Cares Fund. While this issue has been around since 2019, only in the last few months has it been in the headlines.
Democrats started realizing their program was deeply unpopular last summer. One state senator candidly said she hadn’t heard from any constituents who were excited about the program. By fall, they knew there were major problems that needed addressed. The governor and Democrats then took the unusual step in December of asking for a delay of premium assessments, which only caused more confusion. It has been a mess.
Unpopular, insolvent and regressive
No House Republican voted for this legislation in 2019. And the fact it is unpopular comes as no surprise to us. Nearly 63% of voters said the legislation should be repealed through Advisory Vote No. 20 in 2019. It is also revealing that more than 450,000 workers made the decision to purchase a qualified private plan and seek an exemption. Many other people wanted to opt out but could not find a private plan in time.
Another reality is the program is insolvent. It is clear the numbers don’t work. This means premiums will likely have to be increased in the future. You can read what our State Actuary had to say here.
The payroll tax is also regressive. Someone could pay into the system for several years and either not need or not be able to access the modest benefit. This website allows you to estimate your payments.
Real solutions: Repeal and replace
We also understand long-term care is an important need for many people. With this in mind, House Republicans have also proposed legislation that would repeal the program and replace it with an optional and affordable alternative. You can learn more about House Bill 1913, sponsored by Rep. Drew Stokesbary, in this news release.
Unfortunately, House Democrats refused to give either one of these measures a public hearing.
House floor action on Wednesday
The House debated and voted out two bills relating to this issue on Wednesday. The first, House Bill 1732, would delay implementation of the program by 18 months and move premium collections out to July 1, 2023. The second, House Bill 1733, would create four new voluntary exemptions from the program. Democrats have these measures on the fast track to the governor’s desk.
Prior to the debate on these bills, House Republicans made two procedural motions in attempt to bring our solutions to the House floor for consideration. House Democrats voted them down. You can watch the House floor motions and speeches in the links below:
I don’t know how much Democrats will want to talk about this issue moving forward. House Republicans will continue to. When we revisit this issue next year, perhaps a wiser Legislature will have an opportunity to implement the voluntary, private-sector solution put forward by Rep. Drew Stokesbary this year.
We have updated this web page to provide you all of the latest and relevant information:
Every 60-day legislative session moves quickly. This one is no exception. This cutoff calendar gives you an idea of the self-imposed deadlines set by state lawmakers.
Several important issues are on the horizon, including state budgets, public safety, transportation, environment, and maybe even emergency powers reform. We’ll see. House Republicans will be offering real solutions every step of the way. You can learn more about our priorities here.
Rep. J.T. Wilcox
House Republican Leader