Washington’s working families are again under attack from Republicans in the Washington state Senate, who have introduced a second bill to repeal family and medical leave insurance, and scheduled it for a hearing this afternoon. Earlier in the legislative session, Senators Braun, Holmquist-Newbry, Tom, and others introduced an identical bill, which failed to pass out of the Senate on time. This “new” bill is simply an attempt to use the health and economic security of working families as a chip in the budget negotiation process.
At this point in the legislative session, only bills necessary to the 2013-15 budget can be considered. Family and Medical Leave Insurance (FMLI), which became law in 2007, is scheduled to begin during the 2015-17 biennium. The state is under no obligation to spend money in the coming biennium, so this new bill (SB 5903) – which is not necessary to implement the 2013-15 budget – should be not be considered during this budget negotiation.
Investing in our youngest children and supporting families caring for aging parents will save the state money, improve education and health outcomes, and bolster our economy. Both employers and employees agree family and medical leave insurance is an important investment for healthy workers and thriving businesses.
Earlier this year, legislators heard testimony from small business owners like Don Orange from Vancouver and Consuelo Gomez from Bellevue whose businesses and employees would benefit from FMLI. They also heard testimony from a father whose little daughter spent the first 6 months of her life at Children’s Hospital, and from a woman whose father is postponing the surgery he needs to save his kidneys because he doesn’t have enough sick time saved up.
At the same time our legislature considers dismantling important protections for working families, President Obama has issued a budget that includes funding for state family and medical leave insurance programs. The President’s newly released 2014 budget sets aside $5 million to fund start-up of state programs. The budget also includes money to strengthen enforcement of federal family leave laws.
Washington’s legislature is moving in the wrong direction for our families and our economy. Repealing family and medical leave insurance would be a step back for all Washingtonian’s – and will not relieve any of the budget we are facing this biennium.