Washington Family Leave Insurance on track for October 2009

Even though Washington’s Family Leave Insurance program is on track deliver benefits to our families and businesses in October 2009, it hasn’t kept some of those opposed to the idea from trying to stop the train after it’s left the station.

A Feb. 29th column by State Rep. Cary Condotta (R-East Wenatchee) and Sen. Janea Holmquist (R-Moses Lake) in the Puget Sound Business Journal recycles Rep. Chandler’s (R-Granger) assertion – debunked here – that the program “was rushed through the Legislature.”

They refer to the work of a 13-member task force which met last fall to create recommendations for effective, low cost administration and start-up financing of the program — but gloss over the fact that not a single person on the task force, including Condotta and Holmquist, voted against those recommendations.

Also missing from their op-ed: realistic cost and budget figures. The task force’s recommendations were part of the state’s just-passed 2008 Supplemental Budget, along with $6.2 million in start-up funding – not $18 million as Condotta and Holmquist assert. And their numbers on the total cost of the program are 40% above the state’s most recent fiscal notes.

They do pay lip service to the idea of parents spending time with families:

Helping new mothers and fathers spend more time with their newborns is a worthy, not to mention politically popular, idea.

But they are notably short on concrete suggestions for helping make that happen.

By contrast, last year the Legislature launched a thoughtful, step-by-step process to create a new family leave insurance program that does far more than give parents more time with their newborn and newly adopted children.

Paid family leave reduces infant mortality, improves child health, provides economic security for working families, and improves our business climate.

There is no question that work remains to be done on long-term financing for the program. But rather than calling for the program’s repeal, now is the time to keep our eyes on the prize: healthy families, healthy businesses, and healthy communities in Washington’s 21st century economy.

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