Serving Franklin County, WA

House bill only delays payroll tax

Last week, I wrote that two bills addressing the state’s flawed and controversial long-term care program (nicknamed the “short-term care program”) and the costly payroll tax (dubbed the “long-term tax”) funding it had come over to the Senate after being passed by the House.

The Senate fast-tracked these two measures this week, as the Ways and Means Committee held public hearings on them Monday and then approved them Tuesday. The full Senate yesterday passed the two bills, sending them to Gov. Jay Inslee for his likely signature.

The “solution” offered by the Democrats through these two bills (you can read more about them below) isn’t nearly good enough to really address the problems caused by the LTC program. And I really detest that the titles for these two bills, written by House Democrats, are worded in a way that made it impossible for House members to offer bipartisan amendments to improve either proposal.

House Bill 1732, which was passed by the Senate on a 46-3 vote, would delay the payroll tax that funds the WA Cares program until July 1, 2023, and would allow some workers who are currently near retirement age to claim prorated benefits.

I ended up voting for this bill, because a delay is a step in the right direction (a repeal is the better choice). But by passing it, the Legislature is just kicking this problem down the road for 18 months without really fixing it.

Under House Bill 1733, about 150,000 people working in Washington but living in other states (which applies to many people employed in the 9th District) could opt out of the long-term care program, as well as temporary workers with nonimmigrant visas, partners or spouses of members of active military and some disabled veterans.

The Senate passed HB 1733 on a 38-11 vote. I was one of the senators who voted “no.”

While this proposal addresses some problems with the LTC program, it still fails to address the issue of “portability” for people who would later leave the state and thus would not be able to receive any of the benefits provided by this program, even though they’ve paid taxes to fund it.

Unfortunately, for low- and middle-income Washingtonians, there are no better options available at the moment than this costly and limited state program. The long-term care program is expected to run out of money 20 years early, even with the improvements that HB 1733 makes to this program by addressing portability. The end result could be a doubling of premiums with no increase in benefits.

The proponents of this “short-term care” program leave these facts out.

Worst bill of the week

This week, I bring you Senate Bill 5843, a proposal requested by Inslee that would make it a gross misdemeanor (with a penalty of up to 364 days in jail) for public officials and candidates to knowingly make false statements and claims regarding the election process or results of elections conducted within the state.

The bill was scheduled for a public hearing this morning in the Senate State Government and Elections Committee. Not only does the governor’s proposal runs contrary to the First Amendment, it’s important to remember our state Supreme Court ruled on false political speech in 2007, when it struck down a 1999 state law barring political candidates from deliberately making false claims about their opponents.

If you spot a bad bill, please contact my office and let me know.

— Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, represents the 9th Legislative District, including Whitman County. Email him at [email protected].


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