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2023 Legislative Agenda
The COVID pandemic has left lasting scars on communities across Washington. Many of our state’s workers, families, and small businesses struggle every day to afford basic needs like housing, health care, and childcare amid rising costs and skyrocketing inflation brought on by corporate consolidation and greed. All the while, our state’s wealthiest individuals and corporations continue to reap record profits.
It is possible to reverse the economic effects of the COVID pandemic and build healthy, resilient communities here in Washington. Stimulus payments and the Child Tax Credit provided vital support to many and reduced child poverty on a national scale. Washington’s Paid Family & Medical Leave program, health care for childcare workers, and the Working Families Tax Credit are recent policy wins that help mitigate the growing gap between the rich and poor and address the racism and sexism that has been undermining economic stability for generations. However, this work is not over yet. Our government must continue to prioritize programs that invest in the public good because they work!
We can ensure Washington families have the supports and services they need to thrive. Work, health, family, and finances are inextricably linked in our society – we must invest now in critical programs and structures that will begin to right our course, and shrink income and wealth inequality.
These are our top priorities for Washington’s 2023 Legislative Session:
Fair Taxes that Provide Ample Funding
Stable and Dignified Work for All People
Affordable and Accessible Health Care
Economic Stability Through Meaningful Investment
Fair Taxes that Provide Ample Funding
Washington is home to some of the wealthiest people in the world, and poverty is common in every country across the state. Despite this unacceptable inequality, our outdated and unfair tax code taxes everyday wealth and consumption while leaving the wealth of multi-millionaires and billionaires free to grow untaxed. A just tax system will raise revenue from those with the most wealth, fully fund programs and services that make a difference in our lives and create more opportunities for economic stability.
Learn more about the progressive revenue policies we are advancing this session:
Wealth Tax on Billionaires (HB 1473/SB 5486): A state wealth tax will close a major loophole in our tax code and will ensure that the very wealthiest, such as our state’s 100 or so billionaires, pay more of their fair share so everyone in Washington can thrive. This tax is structured as a property tax on financial property, such as corporate stocks and bonds, of multi-millionaires and billionaires. This policy will bring in billions in progressive revenue per year.
Estate Tax Reform: The estate tax is the most progressive tool in our tax code toolbox. Commonsense reforms will improve the tax to make it fairer. These reforms will be focused on excluding small estates from the tax by raising the threshold to file as well as updating the tax rates such that the very largest estates pay their fair share.
Working Families Tax Credit (HB 1075): The Working Families Tax Credit, which will be sending cash to around 400,000 households across Washington state in 2023, helps make our tax code fairer. The coalition that came together to get this policy passed in 2021 will be advocating for expanding the credit to reach more households by expanding the eligible age for receiving the credit to 18.
A tax on extreme wealth is the missing link in Washington’s tax code. Read our latest report, Share the Wealth, Washington, to learn more about the billionaire wealth tax.
Wealth Tax on Billionaires (HB 1473/SB 5486): The state wealth tax would raise a 1% property tax on the financial property of multi-millionaires and billionaires, exempting the first quarter billion in value from taxation. The bill was heard in the House Finance Committee in February, with 2200 constituents signing in to support the bill and more testifiers than the committee made time to hear. The Senate companion was heard in the Senate Ways & Means committee on March 9th with over 2500 Washingtonians, representing over 128 organizations statewide, signed in support of the legislation.
The Wealth Tax did not move forward this session. Instead, the budget includes $300,000 in funding for a wealth tax study. This study is to be led by the Department of Revenue, and will be on a two-year timeline, with a final report to the legislature in late 2024. The Department will research and analyze wealth taxes in other countries and proposals in other states, including administrative and compliance issues. Did not pass
Estate Tax Reform (HB 1795): HB 1795 would reform the state Estate Tax in a few ways, including by tying the exclusion amount to the Seattle area inflation index; increasing the tax rates on the biggest estates; and closing a loophole involving deductions for contributions to family foundations. Since the bill would have raised revenue it was considered “Necessary to implement the budget” (NTIB) and so it was not subject to cutoff rules. It had a hearing in House Finance on February 14th but did not move forward this session. Did not advance
Working Families Tax Credit Expansion (HB 1075): The Working Families Tax Credit, which will be sending cash to around 400,000 households across Washington state in 2023, helps make our tax code fairer. This bill would have expanded the credit to reach more households by expanding the eligible age for receiving the credit to 18. This bill successfully moved out of the Finance Committee, but did not get voted on in Appropriations because of its large fiscal note. At this time it’s considered “dormant” not “dead” because it will carry over into the 2024 session. Did not advance
Working Families Tax Credit Technical Fixes (HB 1477): Although the WFTC Expansion bill did not make it across the finish line this session, this WFTC bill, which included several important technical fixes that extend the time people have to claim their credit to three years, and allows for people married filing separately to access the program, which is often a safer filing status for survivors of domestic violence. Passed!
Stable and Dignified Work for All People
Every worker deserves job security, living wages, predictable schedules, equitable treatment, and time to care for ourselves and our loved ones. We must strengthen Paid Family & Medical Leave and ensure that essential childcare and healthcare workers have good pay and safe and secure workplaces.
Learn more about the healthy workplace policies we are advancing this session:
Paid Family & Medical Leave Sustained and Adequate Funding (SB 5286): Washington has been at forefront of historic paid leave legislation. During COVID, paid sick days and paid leave programs gave workers vital economic security and time to heal. The high usage rate of the program demonstrates its necessity for Washington workers. As a result, the program structure is not keeping up with demand. We will support legislation to ensure long-term stability and provide a road map for the program's wellbeing for years to come.
Childcare Compensation (SB 5423/5225): Childcare workers make poverty wages and often do not receive benefits like health care and retirement plans. Childcare workers are leaving the industry for higher paying jobs and providers struggle to retain and attract qualified teachers. We support increasing the reimbursement rate for working connections and support paying licensed child care programs based on enrollment rather than attendance. These changes can ensure revenue is more predictable and support long-term livable wages for Washington’s childcare workforce.
Paid Family & Medical Leave Language Access: This program should be accessible to all workers, yet currently, thousands of non-English speakers do not know about the program or are forced to apply with a paper application delaying approval and payments. We can create equity for monolingual users by expanding language access through outreach and improvements in the application process.
Paid Family & Medical Leave Sustained and Adequate Funding (SB 5286): SB 5286 restructures the Paid Family and Medical Leave premium formula to ensure long-term stability and provide a road map for the program’s well-being for years to come. The new formula caps the premium rate at 1.2%, removes the solvency charge, and creates a reasonable reserve for situations of higher usage. The Washington legislative task force on Paid Family and Medical leave was developed and proposed the new formula. This bill was heard and passed in the Senate in early February. The bill was passed swiftly in the House and Senate, and has been signed by Governor Inslee. Additionally, The state legislature provided $250,000 to fund a study investigating the program’s lack of job protection and its impact on families. Passed!
Childcare Compensation (SB 5225): Childcare workers make poverty wages and often do not receive benefits like health care and retirement plans. Childcare workers are leaving the industry for higher paying jobs, and providers struggle to retain and attract qualified teachers. SB 5225 expands Working Connections Child Care (WCCC) eligibility to include child care employees who have incomes up to 85 percent of the state median income and waives their copayment to the extent allowable. This will allow child care workers most in need to spend less on care for their families and help providers retain professional staff. This bill also expands eligibility for families with a parent or guardian participating in specialty courses and extends eligibility to all children regardless of their immigration status. This bill passed the Senate and is expected to be signed by the Governor. Passed!
Affordable and Accessible Health Care
Everyone deserves access to quality, affordable, and culturally responsive health care. Reeling in rapidly rising costs and ensuring broad access to quality care is possible – and is particularly urgent for immigrants, people with lower incomes, and others in marginalized groups.
Many of EOI’s health policy priorities have been developed in partnership with Fair Health Prices Washington, a group of consumer and patient advocates, workers, and businesses working together to drive down health care prices with data-driven policy solutions. Read the Fair Health Prices Washington 2023 legislative proposals here.
Learn more about the health care policies EOI is advancing this legislative session below:
Reduce health care costs (SB 5519): This gives our existing Health Care Cost Transparency Board more authority to collect key affordability and hospital financial data to better understand health care spending – and the ability to bring high-priced outliers into compliance.
Learn more in Fair Health Prices Washington's latest HB 1508 factsheet.
Promote fair provider contracting (HB 1379/SB 5393): When hospitals buy up small clinics, they have outsized power to set prices with insurance companies. And sometimes they engage in anticompetitive negotiating practices that force insurers to accept higher prices. Legislators need to ensure a fair playing field and stop anticompetitive provider behavior.
Learn more in Fair Health Prices Washington's latest SB 5393 factsheet.
Ensure prescription drug affordability (HB 1269): The legislature created a new Prescription Drug Affordability Board (PDAB) in 2022 – and it’s a good start. But it was weakened by industry pressure last year, which limits the number of drugs that can be reviewed for excessive price increases and delays upper payment limits for several years. Improving the PDAB is crucial to lowering drug prices.
Learn more in Fair Health Prices Washington's latest HB 1269 factsheet.
Regulate health system mergers and acquisitions (SB 5241): Consolidations have been well-proven to drive up health care prices – which then result in higher premiums for workers, families, and business owners. Our Attorney General needs better oversight to review consolidations and block those that would diminish access to affordable, quality care.
Support frontline health care workers (SB 5236): While we work to ensure large health systems are charging reasonable rates, we need to make sure they’re not balancing the books on the backs of our frontline health care workers. Staffing standards are critical to ensuring both worker retention and safe patient care.
Cascade Care Savings Reauthorization: Building on the success of prior years, we must ensure that our state budget includes ongoing funding to provide health care premium subsidies to lower income people in our state. Without action, these critical subsidies will expire in 2024.
Health Equity for Immigrants: Immigrants in our state are 11 times more likely to lack health insurance than U.S. citizens. Building on the success of prior years, which created a state-funded Medicaid-equivalent program, as well as an Exchange coverage program with subsidies for lower-income immigrants, the Health Equity for Immigrants Campaign now demands a strong budget allocation to fund and implement these programs.
Read our latest health policy research, Controlling Health Care Costs in Washington.
Reduce health care costs (HB 1508/SB 5519): This bill to help drive down health care costs in Washington by strengthening our state’s Health Care Cost Transparency Board had strong hearings in the House Health Care and Appropriations Committees with several hundred people signing in in support for each hearing. A strong version of the bill passed the House 57-39 along party lines. However, after significant pushback from industry lobbyists, consumer advocates worked with the bill sponsors to proactively put the bill down to preserve the strong House version, rather than sacrifice key affordability provisions in order to advance it further. The final budget included $504,000 in ongoing funding for two staff to support the work of the Health Care Cost Transparency Board. Did not advance
Promote fair provider contracting (SB 5393): Preventing and mitigating negative consequences from health care provider consolidation is critical to driving down health care prices. The bill had strong hearings in both the Senate Health Care and Ways and Means committees. However, significant industry pressure against the bill resulted in a removal of many of the strongest provisions to control anticompetitive provider behavior. The bill made it to the final stages in the Rules committee, but did not get scheduled for a Senate floor vote before the cutoff deadline. Notably, the final budget included $600,000 for a study on health insurance affordability to evaluate price regulation strategies used in other states, the feasibility of implementing global hospital budgeting in WA, and strategies to address horizontal and vertical integration of health care entities. Did not advance
Ensure prescription drug affordability (HB 1269): The bill to strengthen prescription drug affordability received a strong House Health Care and Wellness hearing, receiving 800+ mostly “pro” sign-ins from members of the public. The road in the legislature has been challenging for the bill and it did not get brought to the House floor for a vote, despite strong efforts right up to the deadline from the bill sponsor, Representative Riccelli. The bill largely failed due to the industry stakeholder narrative that aspects regarding the Board’s authority, drug reviews, and enforcement timelines had already been sufficiently negotiated, even though these were done without sufficient patient or consumer input. Did not advance
Regulate health system mergers and acquisitions (HB 1263/SB 5241): This bill to prevent health system consolidations that would diminish access to patient care or drive up health care costs made it further than ever this session. It received a hearing in the Senate Law and Justice committee over two days with strong support from patient advocates, and, to the surprise of many supporters and challengers, the bill was voted out of the Senate Law committee. The bill was erroneously referred to Ways and Means so it was then sent on to the Rules Committee, given there would be no fiscal impact to the state budget; instead the costs would impact the Office of the Attorney General, which has its own separate fund. The bill was not brought to the Senate floor for a vote before the cutoff deadline, so did not advance further. Did not advance
Support frontline health care workers (SB 5236): Governor Inslee signed this bill to strengthen staffing standards into law on Thursday April 20th, marking an important victory for workers and patients in Washington! The bill received support from tens of thousands of workers and patient advocates throughout the legislative session. After significant negotiations between labor advocates and hospital representatives, the bill sponsor was able to bring a substitute bill containing meaningful changes to strengthen accountability for staffing plans, expand meal and rest break laws and enforcement to include all frontline staff, and to make overtime laws fully enforceable. The bill passed both chambers with bipartisan support, with a Senate vote of 35-13 and a House vote of 92-6. Passed!
Cascade Care Savings Reauthorization: The final budget included $110 million to continue funding the Cascade Care Savings program for people up to 250% of the federal poverty level who buy plans on the Health Benefit Exchange. $10 million of this funding is specifically earmarked to help undocumented immigrants under 250% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) access these subsidies starting January 2024. An additional $260,000 was included for a study in 2024 on how to expand the state’s federal 1332 waiver in order to receive federal pass-through funding to support affordability programs.
Health Equity for Immigrants: The final budget appropriated $49.5 million for a Medicaid-like program for undocumented immigrants under 138% FPL starting July 2024, marking an important step forward for health care access for immigrants in Washington and a strong foundation to build on in future years. However, with a six-month program delay, and funding far below the funding needed to sufficiently run the program, tens of thousands of immigrants will still go without coverage. A small amount of additional funding was appropriated to support program outreach and administration for the Medicaid-like program as well as the Cascade Care Savings subsidy program.
Economic Stability Through Meaningful Investment
Black, Indigenous, and People of Color have been systematically excluded from building economic stability in many ways from land theft of Indigenous people, to a GI Bill that was created to accommodate Jim Crow laws, to today’s immigrants who pay taxes but are prevented from accessing financial safety net programs. BIPOC communities owe disproportionate amounts of debt, such as medical and student loan debt and have less access to cash when they need it.
Learn more about the bill we are advancing to improve economic opportunity for Washingtonians:
Future Fund / Baby Bonds (SB 5125/SHB 1094): Years of structural and institutional racism have left Black, Indigenous, and People of Color communities from being able to build and sustain family and community wealth. The Washington Future Fund is an investment of $4,000 for newborn children born under apple health to use upon turning 18 for investments in higher education, opening a business or buying a home. An investment in low-income, predominantly BIPOC communities will begin to address historic inequality and shrink income and wealth disparities in our state.
Guaranteed Basic Income - GBI (HB 1045): For many in Washington, having a job isn’t enough to make ends meet or weather unexpected expenses. Guaranteed Basic Income is a monthly cash payment for households that meet certain eligibility criteria that can provide a necessary economic cushion and has been successful in other cities in the US as well as a variety of countries worldwide. The proposed expanded pilot program will offer access to cash payments in nine different regions and incentivize data collection to determine the feasibility of a statewide GBI program.
Tuition-Free Higher Education: As state support of public higher education institutions has decreased since the 1980s, the student share has increased to compensate. Student loan debt disproportionately impacts BIPOC students and their families. While the Washington College Grant is a significant support, tuition-free public college would mean more students would be able to graduate college free of debt.
Expanded Mental Health and Student Supports in Higher Education: The coalition that came together to pass and implement a mental health pilot program in Community and Technical Colleges in 2021 will be advocating for an expansion of this program, along with other policies that aim to support first-generation and historically underserved student populations.
Washington Future Fund (SHB 1094): HB1094 and it’s adjoining House Joint Resolution (HJR) 4204, both died in committee. These bills would have guaranteed a $4,000 bond to be invested in a high-yielding fund for children enrolled in Apple Health by their first birthday for the use of education, purchasing a home or opening a business at the age of 18. Did not advance
Guaranteed Basic Income – GBI (HB 1045): Guaranteed Basic Income is a monthly cash payment for households that meet certain eligibility criteria that can provide a necessary economic cushion and has been successful in other cities in the US as well as a variety of countries worldwide. This bill proposed an expanded pilot program that would offer access to cash payments in nine different regions and incentivize data collection to determine the feasibility of a statewide GBI program. This bill died in Appropriations because of the fiscal impact of the bill. The stakeholder group working on GBI is working on next steps for GBI bill language for the 2024 session. Did not advance
Tuition-Free Higher Education (SB 5712): This bill would expand the Washington College Grant and grants to students to cover the costs of living, as well as establish a cost-free program (College Promise) for Community and Technical Colleges, did not make it out of the committee. This bill was backed by a coalition of students and faculty. Though there was marked enthusiasm for the bill, it was heard in the Senate Higher Education committee on Policy Cutoff (February 17th). A bill that expands the College grant to a lesser extent (SB 5703) did not make it past the House of origin cut off. The legislature did modestly expand the Washington College Grant, providing funding for expanding eligibility for the maximum grant amount to students with a median family income (MFI) up to 65% of the state MFI, up from 60%. Did not advance
Expanded Mental Health and Student Supports in Higher Education (SB 5513): This bill extends a mental health pilot program in the Community and Technical Colleges. It passed out of its policy committee but did not pass out of Senate Ways & Means by the fiscal cut off. Will not advance