NAIFA’s Washington state chapter strongly supports proposed legislation, HB 1732, that would delay the implementation of the Washington Cares long-term care insurance program. NAIFA-WA President Chris Wertenberger, loyal NAIFA member since 2002, asked legislators to fast-track the bill during a hearing before the Washington House of Representatives Appropriations Committee on January 11.
“NAIFA-Washington represents insurance agents as business owners and their clients that occupy every district of the state of Washington,” Wertenberger said. “Business owners like myself need the legislature to have the time to review the Washington Cares Trust program and to make adjustments.”
The Washington Cares legislation imposes a 0.58% payroll tax deduction on Washington state workers to fund a state-run long-term care insurance program. The taxes were set to begin on January 1 of this year, but the rollout of the program has been hindered by administrative and logistical issues.
Gov. Jay Inslee and legislative leaders announced in December that enforcement of the payroll tax would be paused. Inslee later said, however, that his administration determined that it lacks the authority to pause the collection of the tax.
Democratic lawmakers proposed the current legislation, which would pause the collection of the tax until July 2023. The delay would give lawmakers an opportunity to reassess the program and make needed changes. Wertenberger described for the committee the confusion and difficulty employers currently face.
“If HB 1732 isn’t passed quickly, I’m struggling as a business owner to know whether to collect the tax and if so where to set the money aside,” he said. “Should I collect the taxes on employees who have not opted out or not? Where would I put the money if I do? My employees who have not opted out do not want me to take money or taxes from their paychecks at this time, because they’ve heard the program is being delayed. I need the certainty that HB 1732 provides: A clear 18-month delay in the program and the relief from payroll taxes would help.”
NAIFA's advocacy efforts on the issue are ongoing. Wertenberger and members of NAIFA-WA will continue working with elected officials in the state to make necessary changes to the Washington Cares program.
A recording of the hearing is viewable online. (Wertenberger's testimony begins at the 45:00 mark.)