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Originally published Monday, February 11, 2013 at 4:00 PM

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Editorial: Repeal paid family leave insurance

Washington legislators passed but never funded a paid-family-leave insurance program. The responsible action is to end it.

Seattle Times Editorial

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WASHINGTON lawmakers should repeal the never-implemented paid-family-leave law.

After the Legislature passed the measure in 2007, the program was never set up, in part because the economy, and state revenues, took a nose dive.

Two times, lawmakers delayed implementation.

Today, paid-family-leave insurance is an empty, disingenuous promise to new parents. The program was intended to impose a payroll tax on workers that would provide $250 per week for up to five weeks for eligible workers taking time off to care for newborns or newly adopted children.

Seven years later, as the Legislature faces another deficit and likely more years of stagnant economic recovery, the law should be repealed.

The state should focus its limited resources on higher priorities, such as the state Supreme Court mandate for more education funding. That’s the objective of state Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia, who has proposed repeal.

Paying employees to take time off is a decision best left to individual companies. Mandating a one-size-fits-all approach takes flexibility away from employers and their workers.

Oddly, a few Democrats are proposing the exact opposite. State Sen. Karen Keiser of Kent and state Rep. Tami Green of Lakewood are trying to expand paid family leave to include those caring for themselves or for family members with serious health conditions.

HB 1457 would also increase wages by as much as $1,000 per week for up to 12 weeks.

The state should not obligate itself to grow something it cannot get to work in the first place.

Employers need consistency to make sound business decisions. Wondering whether the state might impose — or punt — a new tax creates uncertainty rather than jobs.

Washington workers already receive benefits under several state and federal family-leave laws, including up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave.

That’s a commitment the government and employers can keep.

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