Building an Economy that Works for Everyone

Family leave op-ed misses the mark – 7 times

A few corrections and clarifications to the January 28th op-ed in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer by Carl Gipson of the Washington Policy Center:

1) “The committee failed to find a funding mechanism, even though benefits kick in Oct. 1, 2009.”

The Joint Legislative Task Force on Family Leave recommended using the state general fund for start-up and initial benefits (four years) of family leave insurance. Governor Gregoire has included that funding in her supplemental budget this year.

2) “During the task force hearings it became clear that none of the state agencies considered thought it could set up and implement the program in the timeline stipulated by the legislation.”

At a House Labor and Commerce hearing on January 18th, the Employment Security Department (recommended by the task force to administer the program) stated that it can be ready to administer family leave benefits in time, and that it is already taking initial steps to do so.

3) “Some legislators are now saying that a 1 cent per hour payroll tax on every worker will pay for the program. But every previous funding proposal was geared toward a 2 cents per hour per worker payroll tax.”

Previous proposals included broader coverage for other family members, such as a spouse or ailing parent, hence 2 cents vs. 1 cent per hour. But funding for the current proposal does not include a payroll tax of any kind.

4) “…no way to pay for the administration or benefits past the first four years…”

There are numerous ways to pay for it, they just aren’t decided on yet. Four years is plenty of time to come up with a permanent funding source. And in the meantime, our children, families and economy will be stronger and healthier thanks to family leave insurance.

5) “…no opt-out for small businesses…”

Washington’s family leave insurance law includes 10 specific protections for employers, such as requiring that family leave run concurrently with Family and Medical Leave Act benefits.

6) “…no political will to implement a new payroll tax…”

A March 2007 poll of Washington voters pegged support for family leave insurance (with a payroll tax to support it) at 73%, with strong support evident in virtually every demographic group and geographic region.

7) “…no one knows yet just how the paid family leave program will affect other complex government programs such as unemployment insurance that rate businesses on their past employment history.”

The task force made specific recommendations to protect employers from unintended effects on Unemployment Insurance premiums. Those recommendations are part of House Bill 3305 and Senate Bill 6280.

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