Will family leave repeal get crammed into budget deal?

marilyn watkins
Marilyn Watkins, Policy Director at the Economic Opportunity Institute

Washington’s legislature is moving into its final phase focused on reconciling 3 different versions of the 2013-2015 budget before the April 28 adjournment date. And there’s still a threat that the Senate majority will try to cram repeal of family and medical leave insurance into the take home deal.

The House and Governor should stand firm in rejecting repeal or any other action rolling back our family leave insurance law.

Earlier in the session, the Senate majority tried to pass three bills that would have rolled back protections for Washington’s working families – repealing family and medical leave insurance, prohibiting local paid sick leave laws, and limiting the scope of local sick leave laws. Thanks to a strong showing of public support for expanding access to paid leave, rather than restricting it, all three anti-family bills died.

Then last week, Senators Braun and Holmquist-Newbry reintroduced the family leave repeal bill with a new number, Senate Bill 5903. That bill quickly passed through the Ways and Means Committee, and on April 16 was passed by the Rules Committee. The fiscal note for SB 5903 claims savings in the 2013-2015 biennium of $13.6 million. That’s the amount the Employment Security Department has projected it would need to prepare for paying family leave benefits now slated to begin during the 2015-2017 biennium.

But no legislation is necessary this year in order to “save” that money. The legislature can simply not make the appropriation.

Back in 2007, the legislature passed family and medical leave insurance policy, but because of the recession and budget crisis, postponed implementation until 2015. Next year, the legislature should adopt the improved policy and funding plan put forward by Senator Keiser and Representative Green (and 22 of their colleagues) and supported by a broad coalition of community members, workers, health professionals, and business owners.

Meanwhile, the Senate majority should keep its hands off family leave.

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