The “WA Cares” long term care tax will be delayed with about a week to spare, predicts a Democratic state senator.

Sen. Mark Mullet, D-Issaquah, was one of 23 senators who sent a letter to Gov. Jay Inslee in September asking him to delay the payroll tax, which was passed in 2019 and is set to go into effect Jan. 1 2022. It would take 58 cents from every $100 of a worker’s payroll income, with no upward cap, and put that toward a later entitlement for long-term in-state care.

Mullet predicted that the governor’s office will announce a suspension of the tax “just before Christmas” in a phone call with The Center Square Tuesday.

The letter pointed out that Inslee has not been shy about pushing laws to the side for the perceived greater good of Washington state residents under COVID-19, and asked him to consider doing the same thing here.

“Your actions over the last eighteen months demonstrate that you will not hesitate to suspend the law when you think it is necessary,” the state senators wrote. “Please do not hesitate here to provide tax relief to employees and give them more time to find insurance that best suits their own needs.”

Inslee was asked in a Dec. 2 press conference if he would delay the tax. The governor said that he didn’t have the unilateral authority to delay a tax.

However, he added, "I am sensitive – and empathetic – to the need for some changes in this bill, and so I am talking to legislators about other approaches that can allow them to pause, if you will, some of the actions to allow them to make refinements to the bill.”

Asked about any progress been that has been made toward a legislative pause Tuesday, Inslee director of communications Tara Lee would only say, “Conversations still happening with legislators.”

The Center Square made inquiries with several of the legislators who had signed the letter about those conversations.

Sen. John Braun, a Republican from Centralia, replied by email that he couldn’t “say whether conversations are happening between the executive and legislative branches, because if Republicans were being brought into the discussion, there would have been no need for us to send that letter to the people who own the WA Cares problem,” i.e., state Democrats.

Braun called WA Cares “just one example of how the majority has rushed legislation through, then been slow to react and acknowledge responsibility when serious flaws become obvious.”

Though Mullet didn’t agree with Braun’s partisan framing, he said that he had voted against the tax and called it “half baked.” It currently faces legal and logistical challenges, and is set to kick in on top of another hike in the payroll tax on the same day.

Mullet predicted that the governor would announce a delay and the legislature will codify that as soon as possible. He also cautioned that the problems with the program may be so nettlesome that they cannot be worked out for some time to come.