A proposal to delay the WA Cares long-term care program is moving quickly through the state legislature after passing the House Wednesday.

It delays payroll tax collections for the program for 18-months, so that lawmakers can make changes after it was widely criticized.

House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan (D-Covington) sponsored the delay, but remains committed to the overall long-term care program.

"Let's get this trust in place so that those who need long term care aren't going to have to lose everything that they've earned through their life in order to stay in their home," said Sullivan.

The proposal to delay the program passed with near unanimous support (91-6), and will move to the Senate Monday. 

Republicans tried to fast track votes on bills to outright repeal the WA Cares program, but were shot down by the Democratic majority.

All but a handful of Republicans voted for the delay, but many did so reluctantly, including Representative Drew Stokesbary (R-Auburn)

"I wish there was an ability for us to vote on a delay longer than 18 months, a permanent delay," said Stokesbary. "I wish there was ability for us to engage in robust debate about alternatives."

Stokesbary sponsored a proposal to replace WA Cares with an optional long-term care program. It was one of the efforts rejected by Democrats.

The passage of the bill to delay the program comes in the second week of the 60-day legislative session.

The measure, known as House Bill 1732, would put off the payroll tax until July 1, 2023, and would also let some workers currently near retirement age claim prorated benefits.

Another proposal, House Bill 1733, passed Wednesday by a 67-29 margin.  It would let some people not likely to receive benefits (temporary workers and those who live outside Washington but work in the state), to permanently opt out of the program and the tax.

The WA Care program was approved by Democratic lawmakers and Gov. Jay Inslee as a first-of-its-kind mandatory, public, state-run, long-term care insurance program for Washington workers.

It’s payed for by a .58 percent payroll tax on workers (58 cents on every $100 earned).

As of 2025, people eligible could start claiming up to $36,500 to pay for needs such as assisted living or nursing care.

Gov. Inslee Inslee announced in late December that the state would temporarily postpone collecting the payroll tax from employers as lawmakers explored changes.