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Eye On Olympia

Paid family leave: How to pay?

One key thing that remains unsettled as lawmakers pack for a two month stay in Olympia: how to pay for the family leave program that would pay a $250-a-week stipend to help parents of new children stay home for a few weeks to bond with them?

Gov. Gregoire said she's willing to tap the state general fund to pay the administrative startup costs of the program, slated to begin next year. But she doesn't want it to pay the benefits.

Sen. Lisa Brown -- a prime mover and strong advocate of the leave proposal -- says Senate Democrats like the idea of a 1-cent-per-hour "payroll charge," paid by all employees. If critics don't like the idea, the onus is on them to come up with a better one, Brown added, because lawmakers fully intend to move forward with the program as planned. Early bonding with an infant or adopted child is key to reducing abuse and neglect later, she said.

"I think once it's in place, many people will say `Of course,'" Brown said, citing the fact that most other industrialized nations have such a policy.

Asked about a task force that's been unable to recommend an ongoing funding strategy, Brown said she's not worried.

"I'm not so concerned that they didn't come to a consensus," she said. "That's our job."

House Speaker Frank Chopp also said that lawmakers would find a solution.

"We've still got some work to do, frankly, in terms of how to fund it," he said. "We're going to work that out."

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