Washington state makes history with new paid family leave program
Earlier this week, Governor Inslee signed Senate Bill 5975 into law, and Washington became the fifth state in the nation to set up a paid family and medical leave program for workers. I came to Olympia to work on family-friendly policies such as this, and I was honored to speak in support of the bill on the House floor. Watch my remarks on TVW.
The bill, which passed the Legislature with strong bipartisan support on June 30, allows a worker to take paid leave to care for a newborn baby or an aging parent, without having to worry about losing a paycheck and knowing their job is secure.
Starting in 2020, the Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program will provide Washington state workers, who have worked at least 820 hours, up to 12 weeks of paid leave to care for a baby or an ailing family member, and up to 12 weeks to tend to personal illnesses. Total annual leave will be capped at 16 weeks, or 18 weeks for difficult pregnancies.
Depending on their earnings, workers can be granted up to 90 percent of their pay or up to $1,000 per week during their leave. To fund the program, both employers and employees will pay into the social insurance fund, and businesses with 50 or fewer employees can opt out.
This comprehensive, practical and affordable plan for both workers and businesses will foster stronger families and a secure middle class.
Click here for more information.
Voting against a statewide property tax increase to pay for schools
The Legislature recently passed a solution to fully fund K-12 education. With two kids in public school myself, I understand firsthand how critical it is to solve the education funding crisis. Unfortunately, I found myself unable to support the bill because of the Republican proposal to pay for public schools by increasing property taxes statewide by $4 billion over the next four years.
I knew that fully funding our schools meant raising revenue. Nearly all lawmakers agreed tax increases would be necessary to meet the state’s obligations this session. However, my Democratic colleagues and I favored closing tax loopholes and progressive revenue options that mostly targeted high-income earners and would spare seniors and lower- and middle-class households.
In the end, to avoid a government shutdown, the Legislature agreed to adopt a Republican-sponsored property tax increase that will result in every property owner seeing an increase in their property tax bill next year.
Voting against the education funding bill, which was years in the making, was a tough vote. But the impact to our taxpayers, especially seniors on fixed incomes and renters, was just too high of a price to pay.
A Democratic budget that embodies our state’s core values
A budget is a reflection of shared values. This year, Democrats fought hard against devastating cuts proposed by Senate Republicans to essential state services. Although we had to compromise in this divided government, the final budget embodies strong Democratic core values.
With this budget, we put Families First: fully funding education, taking care of children in need, keeping families healthy, fighting homelessness, and ensuring a responsive government.
- We kept our promise to Washington’s 1.1 million school kids by increasing state funding for K-12 education by $7.3 billion, making key investments in teacher salaries, professional development, paraeducators, CTE class size reduction, learning assistance, special education, highly capable, transitional bilingual instruction, and low performing schools.
- We expanded early childhood education slots for low-income families across the state, investing in our earliest learners.
- We boosted funding for the State Need Grant, adding $50 million to help nearly 1,000 more students get the financial aid they need to pursue their dreams.
- We increased funding for children’s mental health care and behavioral health care, including housing & supportive services.
- We fully funded the new Department of Children, Youth, and Families to reform our foster care system and improve social worker workloads.
- We invested in clean air & water, fully funding the Clean Air Rule & backfilling lost federal support for Puget Sound restoration efforts.
- We funded the Breast, Cervical and Colon Health Program, providing for cancer screenings for low-income patients.
I am proud to have voted for a budget that fully funds education without jeopardizing the social safety net. It wasn’t an easy process and it took far longer than I wanted, but the end result is a budget that works for all Washingtonians.
Grand openings in the 41st District
This summer, be sure to stop by the recently opened Sunset Beach at Lake Sammamish in Issaquah and Inspiration Playground in Bellevue.
These projects are the most recently completed state-funded projects in our district.
Rep. Tana Senn