As expected, Gov. Inslee signed the high-priority fixes to Washington’s long-term care program, delaying the tax and making other changes to the controversial legislation. The Seattle Times reports,
Gov. Jay Inslee signed bills Thursday to delay the WA Cares payroll tax on Washington workers and expand the number of people who can seek permanent exemptions to avoid paying into the first-of-its-kind long-term care program.
The governor signed House Bills 1732 and 1733 just one day after Senate lawmakers voted them out of that chamber. The bills passed the House last week.
“By pausing and improving this important program, we’ve really made progress here in just the last few days in Olympia,” Inslee said Thursday in a regularly scheduled news conference. “We do have to get this right, because this is so important to so many people.”
As we wrote yesterday, other changes are being contemplated. The ST continues,
Passed by Democratic lawmakers and Inslee in 2019, WA Cares is styled to be a social insurance program to help people pay for needs in sickness and old age. That could include things like transportation and meal preparation, and nursing care, assisted living and respite for those giving care to family members.
Under the bills, eligible beneficiaries in July 2026 could begin claiming up to $36,500 to pay for those needs. The benefits were originally designed to start in January 2025.
But as the program got underway, a slew of concerns emerged from people who would have paid into the program but will never be eligible to receive benefits or get care under other programs.
That includes about 150,000 people who work in Washington but live in another state, like Idaho or Oregon; military families rotating through Washington; and some disabled veterans.
Under the legislation signed Thursday, people in those categories will have the opportunity to get a permanent exemption from the program.
Meanwhile, about 477,000 Washingtonians are near retirement age and may not become fully vested in the program as it is currently structured and claim full benefits.
While some concerns remain, the legislation signed yesterday marks significant progress.
In a statement Thursday, Kris Johnson, president of the Association of Washington Business, cheered the delay. But lawmakers and the governor must look at other issues with the program, he said, such as its long-term solvency.“Delaying the start of the program and allowing for some additional populations to opt out is a good start, but it’s not the full solution,” Johnson said in prepared remarks.