Will paid family leave get funded this session?

This story is crossposted on State of Reform, a health policy news site. 

GOP leaders said work on the bill to fund paid family leave in Washington is still in the “initial” stages at a press conference Tuesday.

There’s been growing bipartisan support for funding family leave. Sen. Joe Fain, R-Auburn, introduced a bill that would require certain employers to offer benefits capped at 50 percent of the average weekly wage for up to 12 weeks. Democrats proposed companion bills in the Senate and House that would provide 26 weeks of paid leave based on an individual’s wages and capped at $1,000 a week.

So, though lawmakers agree on providing paid leave, they tend to disagree on how to pay for leave, how much to pay and which organizations or businesses ought to be exempt from providing paid family leave.

Rep. Matt Manweller, R-Ellensburg, said that though there’s bipartisan support, Republicans are wary about how to properly fund it, while so many other funding issues are on the table this session.

“Were having some initial meetings. There’s obviously been a variety of drafts of paid family leave bills,” he said.  “One of the major sticking points is that according to (the Employment Security Department) there is an $80 million start-up cost which is hard to put in anybody’s budget,” he said.

The up-front price tag isn’t all that keeps Republicans hesitating, he said.

“There is some discussion about using some of the revenue collected to bear those costs in the long run,” he said. “But we’re still pretty far apart about who it would apply to. Would there be small business exemptions? Would there be tax exemptions? Although it’s late in the session, I’d have to say these are still some initial conversations on paid family leave.”

While the issue is debated in the Legislature, municipalities are addressing it directly. According to a KUOW report by Austin Jenkins, Seattle City Councilmember Lorena González will introduce a paid family leave policy for the city.

Erin Fenner: erin@washingtonstatewire.com, @erinfenner

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