Let's Go Washington turns in 425K signatures allowing opt-outs from WA Cares


Voter advocacy group Let’s Go Washington submitted nearly 425,000 signatures Thursday afternoon for Initiative 2124, which would allow mothers, seniors, migrant workers, caretakers, and others to opt out of WA Cares, the state’s mandatory payroll tax long-term care insurance program.

Washington workers have been paying the .58% payroll tax – 58 cents of every $100 earned – since July 1 to fund the first-of-its-kind program.

Plans call for the WA Cares Fund to eventually be used to help Washingtonians access a $36,500 benefit – adjusted for inflation – for long-term care insurance. Benefits will become available for qualified individuals in July 2026.

The WA Cares payroll tax was supposed to kick in Jan. 1, 2022, but that plan was derailed by lawmakers concerned about people paying into the program who would not be eligible to receive benefits and many people opting out of the program when they had the chance to do so.

In December 2021, Gov. Jay Inslee announced the payroll tax would be delayed until April of the next year unless the Legislature intervened to set a new date. The governor subsequently announced he had no authority to delay the tax, saying that employers were still legally obligated to pay the state.

Last year, the Washington State Legislature passed a bill delaying implementation of WA Cares until July 1 of this year. Inslee signed the legislation into law.

“Democrats in Washington state have had 40 years [of party control] to fix the damn system, but they can’t seem to get enough of your taxes to satisfy their huge greed,” Redmond’s Brian Heywood, Let’s Go Washington founder, said from in front of the Secretary of State’s Office in Tumwater where the signatures were turned in.

In a press release that came out after the signature drop-off, Heywood continued to assail WA Cares.

“This scheme is so deeply flawed, if you tried to run this program privately, you’d be investigated by the government and sued,” he said. “People in need will have money taken from their paycheck to pay for an inadequate benefit that will be paid out to people who are not in need. It’s an abusive insurance scheme that Washington workers should be able to opt out of.”

Let’s Go Washington previously turned in signatures for five initiatives to 1) repeal Washington’s cap-and-trade program; 2) provide parents and guardians with a right to review educational materials, receive certain notifications, and opt out of certain sexual health education programs; 3) remove certain restrictions on police officers’ ability to engage in vehicular pursuits; 4) repeal the capital gains tax; and 5) prohibit income taxes at the city and county level.

The deadline for filing initiatives to the Legislature was Friday.

“These initiatives are not a Republican or Democrat thing,” Rep. Jim Walsh, R-Aberdeen, who is also the chair of the Washington State Republican Party, told The Center Square. “These are people signing of all demographics.”

That’s backed up by tracking the party affiliation of those who signed all six measures, according to Walsh.

“On average with all the issues, 54% of people who have signed either identify as independent or Democrat, and it’s all races of people, too,” he said.

Walsh added, “The people of Washington, by and large, believe they are taxed too much, and the state is spending out of control. We need to prioritize things.”

Assuming the initiatives qualify with enough valid signatures, lawmakers in the Democratic-controlled Legislature have several options: pass them during the upcoming legislative session; take no action and let them go to the ballot; or pass alternative proposals, which would see both initiatives and the alternative proposals placed on the ballot at the next state general election in 2024.

The upcoming 60-day legislative session starts on Jan. 8.