Dueling bills deal with Washington state’s family leave law

Six years ago, Washington state lawmakers approved a program giving parents five weeks of paid time off to be with a new child.

But the question of how to pay for the program was never answered, and now some lawmakers are looking to remove it from the books, while the senator who introduced the bill is looking to expand the program. Its start already has been delayed until 2015.

The bill, passed with much fanfare in 2007, was supposed to start paying benefits of up to 250 dollars a week starting in October 2009. But without an agreed-upon funding source, the Legislature has postponed its implementation twice.

Republican Sen. John Braun of Centralia, who is sponsoring the measure to repeal the law, says that while the idea seemed good at the time, there is no money to fund it.

Sen. Karen Keiser, a Democrat from Kent who sponsored the initial bill, decried any effort to repeal the law. On Thursday, she introduced her own bill to expand the underlying measure to include caring for a family member or an employee’s own disability. Her bill would pay two-thirds of a worker’s pay, up to $1,000 a week, and would expand the time allowed from five weeks to 12 weeks. The program would be paid for with a 0.01 percent payroll tax on both employees and employers starting in 2014, and benefits would start in October 2015.

Keiser said she based her new measure on laws in California and New Jersey.  (AP)

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