Saving & Paying for Education Beyond High School

October 24th, 2019|

Olympia, Oct. 24, 2019

Dear Neighbors,

Today I’d like to take a moment to let you know about state-funded opportunities to save and pay for educational costs at college or technical school.  In the time that has passed since I was a high school student seeking scholarships, Washington taxpayers have made significant investments in creating more pathways to save and access higher education opportunities.

All of these opportunities can be hard to navigate, so I hope you find this newsletter helpful. If you do, please feel free to share it with a neighbor.

Saving for College

Watch this short video about programs our state offers to help save money for your child’s education beyond high school.

Video Screenshot, click here to open video

Find more information about these programs at https://wsac.wa.gov/get. 

Ways to Make College More Affordable

Check out these ways you can access affordable college or technical school education, regardless of family income level.

#1: In middle school, enroll in the College Bound Scholarship Program (if eligible).

Seventh and eighth grade students in low-income households or in foster care can apply for the College Bound Scholarship. They must apply by the end of their eighth grade year, commit to graduate from high school with a GPA of at least 2.0, and have no felony convictions.

This four-year scholarship covers tuition at public college rates, books, and certain fees at more than 60 eligible institutions in Washington State.

For more information, visit: https://readysetgrad.wa.gov/college/college-bound-scholarship-program.

#2: In high school, enroll in dual-credit courses.

Dual-credit courses allow you to take college-level courses while you are in high school, with free or low-cost tuition for college credit. Dual-credit opportunities offered by Seattle Public Schools and Renton Public Schools include:

  • Advanced Placement (AP)
  • International Baccalaureate (IB)
  • College in the High School
  • Tech Prep/Career & Technical Education (CTE)
  • Running Start

For more information, visit: https://www.k12.wa.us/student-success/support-programs/dual-credit-programs.

Student wearing backpack holding books

#3: Apply for need-based state scholarships/grants.

Applying for most state-funded scholarships and grants is usually as easy as completing your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or the Washington Application for State Financial Aid (WASFA) if you aren’t eligible for federal aid due to your immigration status. Always follow up with the financial aid office at the school you’re planning to attend.

This year the Legislature replaced the State Need Grant with the Washington College Grant, making more families eligible for assistance in paying for education and training beyond high school while also including more higher education programs across the state.

This grant provides financial aid to income-eligible students to study at eligible institutions, which include all public and some private colleges, universities, and career training schools statewide.

The amount of funds a student will receive will depend on income, family size, and the school or program attended.

For more information, visit: https://readysetgrad.wa.gov/college/washington-college-grant.

  • Opportunity Grant

The Opportunity Grant helps low-income adults at community colleges or technical schools earn 45 credits, receive a credential, and increase job skills and knowledge.

Eligible students on approved career pathways may receive funds to cover tuition and fees up to 45 credits, as well as an allowance for books and supplies, and individual support services that can include tutoring, career advising, college success education, emergency child care and more.

For more information, visit the website of the community college or technical school you plan to attend.

The Washington State Opportunity Scholarship is offered to eligible low- and middle-income students in Washington pursuing either:

  • a bachelor’s degree in a STEM or health care field, or
  • a certificate or degree in a high-demand trade, STEM or health care field.

These funds can be used to cover tuition and fees, or other costs like transportation, housing, food, and more.

For eligibility requirements and more information, visit: https://www.waopportunityscholarship.org/students/applicants/.

#4: Look into other scholarship opportunities.

There are several programs designed to help students in foster care, and some will soon expand to include unaccompanied homeless youth and unaccompanied refugee minors.  See more information about these programs at: https://readysetgrad.wa.gov/college/passport-foster-youth-promise-program.

The Ready, Set, Grad website can help you identify state, federal and private revenue sources to fund your education.  Check out the “Financial Aid 101” page at https://readysetgrad.wa.gov/#college/financial-aid-101.

#5: Obtain a State Work Study position.

Qualifying students from low- and middle- income households can get approved for on-campus or off-campus jobs to support higher education. Work study can build your skills, increase your earnings and reduce your reliance on student loans.

For more information, visit: https://readysetgrad.wa.gov/college/state-work-study.

Financial aid for DREAMers and other undocumented residents

 State law allows undocumented, noncitizen residents who cannot complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) due to their immigration status to instead apply for state financial aid through the Washington Application for State Financial Aid (WASFA).

Some benefits you could be eligible for include in-state tuition rates, the Washington College Grant, and the College Bound Scholarship.  Students who have DACA status (expired or unexpired) may be eligible for other state financial aid as well.

New ways to structure how students pay for higher education

 This year, we passed legislation to create the Washington Student Loan Refinancing Program, which will allow qualified borrowers to receive a below-market interest rate or partial risk coverage to cover losses on qualified student loans. This option might not fit the needs of all people with student loan debt, but it can provide relief to many. The program is just getting started, and you can check https://wsac.wa.gov/ for updates on its progress.

We also proposed—but did not pass—the creation of an income share agreement (ISA) program, which would allow students who cannot get traditional student loans to access funds to pay for postsecondary education. In these agreements, students agree to pay a percentage of their future income for a set period of time in exchange for receiving these funds.

Some other states have already started ISA programs, and I’m hopeful we can pass legislation to launch a pilot program here in Washington. In other states, ISA programs have made higher education more accessible to undocumented individuals, students from low-income backgrounds, those whose cultural beliefs discourage taking out loans, and even people experiencing incarceration. If you’d like to see an ISA program in our state, I encourage you to engage with your legislators to tell them how important this is.

What I’m up to this Fall…

10/2 to 10/4: Joint Transportation Committee Tour – Kitsap, Clallam, Jefferson Counties

10/7 and 10/8: Senate Democratic Caucus meetings and priority setting

10/10: Governor and Legislators Lunch: Clean Energy and Climate – Olympia

10/12: People of Color Legislative Summit – Yakima

10/15: Women’s Commission Panel on Increasing Women on Corporate Boards – Seattle

10/23: Communities in School Partners for Equity Breakfast – Renton

10/24: Pesticide Application Safety Committee Work Session – Olympia

10/24: Grand Opening: Sea Mar Museum of Chicano/a/Latino/a Culture – Seattle

10/28: Sound Transit Equity Summit Workshop – Seattle

10/28:  Housing Stability & Affordability Committee Tour: Sustainable Housing for Ageless Generations

10/29: Seattle PEACE Coalition Meeting on Vaping – Seattle

10/30: Tech Law Summit for Girls – Seattle

11/1: Colectiva Legal Del Pueblo Roots of Liberation Celebration – Des Moines

11/2: Keynote at Entre Hermanos Día de los Muertos Gala – Seattle

11/2: Celebration of Life for Jacqui Jones – Seattle

11/19: Joint Transportation Committee Meeting – Olympia

11/20: Senate Committee Assembly Days: Labor & Commerce, Housing Stability & Affordability, Transportation – Olympia

11/25: Planned Parenthood Sex Education Community Roundtable – Seattle

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  • Members of the Senate Members of Color Caucus stand behind a podium on the Senate floor.
    Permalink Members of the Senate Members of Color Caucus stand behind a podium on the Senate floor.Gallery

    House and Senate Members of Color Caucuses receive social justice award

House and Senate Members of Color Caucuses receive social justice award

September 23rd, 2019|

OLYMPIA – On Friday, Rep. Javier Valdez (D-Seattle) and Sen. Rebecca Saldaña (D-Seattle) accepted the Social Justice Champion Award from SEIU 775 on behalf of the Member of Color Caucuses (MOCC) of both chambers of the Washington State Legislature.

“We are thrilled to award the House and Senate Members of Color Caucuses the SEIU 775 Social Justice Champion Award for their work to transform Washington State into a more equitable and inclusive state for all,” said SEIU 775 President Sterling Harders. 

“In 2019, these legislators fought to ensure working people are paid enough to support themselves and their family and to have the opportunity to join a union, to end discrimination, and to protect the rights of immigrants and refugees to live and work in Washington,” she said. “Our state is stronger because of this work and caregivers look forward to continuing the fight for equity fighting alongside these women and men.”

In accepting the award on behalf of the Senate MOCC, Saldaña said, “It’s an honor for us to receive this award. The members of SEIU 775 have been among the first to support non-traditional politicians, and with support like this, the Members of Color Caucuses continue to grow.  Not only does this growth help us prioritize key legislation that puts people first, it also provides us with more people to help keep this legislation front and center throughout the legislative process.”

Valdez, who accepted the award on behalf of the House MOCC as its Chair said, “The 2019 session was a landmark one for social justice legislation, from prioritizing and advocating for critical bills, to fighting for budget dollars to assist underrepresented communities. The Members of Color Caucus was proud to champion these policies on behalf of all people in our state. We know the work continues, and together with allies like SEIU 775 we will keep standing up for Washington’s working families and diverse communities.”

2019 Session Recap Series: Issue 4

September 5th, 2019|

Issue 4: Expanding Education and Equity

Olympia, September 5, 2019

Dear Neighbors,

This is the fourth issue of my summer e-newsletter series, which gives an overview of some key policies we passed into law this year. This issue focuses on educational systems as well as equity legislation.

Remember, you can also find information about successful bills I sponsored this year in my April 19 Update from Olympia. All the bills discussed there passed and will become law.

Higher Education

House Bill 2158, the Workforce Education Investment Act, brings into reach the possibility of earning a family wage, by making college and apprenticeships accessible.  It establishes a dedicated source of funding to allow students whose household earnings fall below 55% of the state’s median family income (approximately $50,000 per year) to study at public colleges tuition-free, and provides for partial tuition scholarships for students whose households earn up to 100% of the median family income (approximately $88,000 for a family of four).

The act also expands the Guided Pathways program at state community colleges and technical schools and will grow high-demand degree programs like nursing, engineering, and computer science.

Additionally, House Bill 1303 improves access to higher education by making it easier for full-time students in certain fields to qualify for state child care benefits.

Funding K-12 Education

After the court found in the McCleary lawsuit that the state was permitting inequitable funding for basic education across different school districts, lawmakers in 2017 raised property taxes to fund school districts more evenly. To limit the cost to taxpayers, the amount districts could raise locally through levies was reduced, but this shift created budget shortfalls in some districts.

This year, the state’s budget increased funding for K-12 education by $4.5 billion dollars over the last biennial budget. At the same time, Senate Bill 5313 increased the amount local districts can raise through voter-approved levies for public education, relieving some — but not all — of the shortfalls in local districts.

Gender Equity in Schools

Senate Bill 5689 requires school districts to adopt policies and procedures that protect transgender students from discrimination, harassment, intimidation and bullying.

House Bill 1577 will help close the gender gap in tech jobs by ensuring that our public schools identify and track how female-identified students are doing in computer science courses in order to identify inequities and successes. This will shed light on what’s working, what isn’t working, and what changes are needed.

Race and Gender Equity Statewide

SB 5356 establishes the Washington State LGBTQ Commission in the Office of the Governor to monitor relevant legislation and state policies to eliminate barriers to economic and health equity for LGBTQ people.

I-1000, an important ballot initiative that voters put before the Legislature, was passed this year. It creates the Governor’s Commission on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and allows the state to remedy discrimination and underrepresentation of disadvantaged groups with affirmative action policies that do not use quotas and do not constitute preferential treatment.

What I’m up to this month

9/9 Labor & Commerce Committee CannaBusiness Facility Tour, Renton

9/11 Transportation Committee Tour, Shoreline

9/16 Labor & Commerce Committee Work Session

9/18 Filipino Community Village Groundbreaking

9/19 Joint Transportation Committee Meeting

9/24 National Voter Registration Day Event

9/25 Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee Meeting

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2019 Session Recap Series: Issue 3

August 1st, 2019|

Issue 3: Providing Housing Accessibility and Stability

Olympia, August 1, 2019

Dear Neighbors,

This is Issue 3 of my summer e-newsletter series, which gives an overview of some key policies we worked to pass into law this year. This issue focuses on legislation that will address our ongoing crisis involving housing accessibility and stability.

Remember, you can also find information about successful bills I sponsored this year in my April 19th Update from Olympia. All of the bills discussed there passed and will become law.

Access to Housing

We took action to increase access to housing services and to build up the supply of accessible and affordable housing.

Housing assistance

We expanded services for homeless youth and unaccompanied young adults (HB 1657) and approved a pilot program to provide housing vouchers to families in the child welfare system whose main barrier to reunification is the lack of appropriate housing (SB 5718).

Increasing the supply of accessible housing

We passed legislation like HB 1219 and HB 1406, which grant authority to cities and counties to use funds from certain local taxes for affordable housing projects and to combat homelessness. Fortunately, the Seattle City Council and our mayor are leading efforts to take advantage of this authority to access more immediate funding to build local housing.

We also empowered faith communities to contribute to housing stability by adjusting zoning to allow increased density to build affordable housing on property owned by religious organizations (HB 1377).

Additionally, the capital budget added $175 million in affordable housing loans and grants through the Housing Trust Fund, including:

  • $10 million for high-quality modular housing to transition people out of homelessness quickly
  • $35 million for supportive housing and case management services for people living with behavioral health disorders
  • $10 million for competitively awarded grants for state matches on private contributions to fund affordable housing
  • $10 million for housing preservation grants
  • $5 million for housing veterans
  • $5 million for housing to serve people with disabilities

Keeping People in Their Homes

In combating homelessness, keeping people in their existing homes is just as important as building new housing. We passed several bills this session that will do just that.

Property taxes

SB 5160 gives a property tax break to seniors, people, with disabilities and veterans on limited incomes.  This will prevent people from being priced out of their homes as property taxes rise along with property values.

Tenant protections

Eviction reform legislation, SB 5600, was enacted to extend the notice time for evictions from 3 to 14 days, aligning our state with national norms and giving tenants time to find money to pay their rent.  When people are living paycheck to paycheck, this extended notice period could mean the difference between staying in their home or being out on the street. This legislation also allows judges to use their discretion in nonpayment of rent cases to consider factors beyond the tenants’ control and allows landlords to access a mitigation fund in some cases.

HB 1440 doubled the number of days in advance that landlords of non-subsidized tenancies must notify tenants of rent increases. This will help tenants prepare for rent increases and assess their options for addressing them. The notice period increased from 30 to 60 days, but remains 30 days for subsidized tenancies where rent is based on household-specific circumstances.

Manufactured/mobile homes

HB 1582 added tenant protections to the Manufactured and Mobile
Home Landlord Tenant Act, like increasing the notice to pay or vacate period from 5 to 14 days and allowing a court to limit the sharing of information about an eviction notice.

SB 5183 expanded eligibility for the Manufactured and Mobile Home Relocation Assistance program, which helps with the costs of relocating and securing other housing when a mobile home park closes.

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2019 Session Recap Series: Issue 2

June 28th, 2019|

Issue 2: Prioritizing Community Health and Wellness

Olympia, June 28, 2019

Dear Neighbors,

Welcome to Issue 2 of my summer e-newsletter series, which gives an overview of some key policies we worked to pass into law this year. This issue will focus on legislation that will promote health and wellness in our communities.

Remember, you can also find information about successful bills I sponsored this year in my April 19th Update from Olympia. All of the bills discussed there passed and will become law.

Health Care Equity

This year, the Legislature continued to demonstrate Washington’s commitment to protect and expand access to quality, affordable health care.

HB 1870 protects the gains we’ve made in access to healthcare coverage in recent years thanks to the Affordable Care Act, such as prohibiting pre-existing condition exemptions and the lifetime benefits caps. At the same time, we’re expanding options for healthcare coverage for those who are struggling in our current system.

SB 5526 creates Cascade Care, the first public healthcare option in the country, which will decrease the cost of premiums, copays, and other out-of-pocket expenses for those who purchase coverage on the individual health insurance market. This will be available to all Washingtonians who are not covered through an employer, regardless of income.

The budget we passed this year even includes funding for a Pathway to Universal Coverage, which will join stakeholder groups to prepare a plan for implementing a universal healthcare system in Washington.

HB 1087 establishes the first long term care benefit in the nation. This will help families mitigate the high costs of the care our aging community members need.

SB 5602 removes barriers to reproductive health care on the basis of gender identity and expands access for our trans neighbors. The operating budget takes that one step further by funding a program to provide access to reproductive health care for immigrants, regardless of their immigration or citizenship status.

We also took steps to reverse health disparities and expand access to health care for Native Americans (SB 5415), Pacific Islanders (SB 5274), immigrant communities (SB 5846) and underrepresented communities at risk of maternal mortality (SB 5425).

Advancing Public Health in Community & Workplace

Nurse Rest Breaks

After many years of trying, this year we finally passed HB 1155, adding new requirements for uninterrupted rest periods for nurses and techs, and closing the loophole that employers previously used to get around the ban on mandatory overtime by regularly relying on prescheduled on-call shifts. Frontline workers doing patient care deserve regular and consistent breaks. This is essential to patient safety, and it’s a matter of respect for a workforce that has historically been and continues to be predominantly women. I’m proud that this year we worked with both healthcare workers and their employers to develop a policy that will ensure protections for patients and workers in a manner that is feasible for employers, too.


The recent measles outbreak in our state caused a lot of concern, and we heard from constituents about the risks posed by the growing number of unvaccinated children attending our schools. Children too young to be vaccinated and individuals with compromised immune systems will be better protected from serious preventable diseases thanks to HB 1638, which removes the personal belief exemption from the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccination requirements. The measure still allows for medical and religious exemptions to the MMR requirement.

Environmental Justice

My HEAL Act bill (SB 5489) did not become law, but with a bi-partisan effort led by women of color in the House and Senate, we obtained a budget proviso that funds an environmental justice task force, which will be co-chaired by environmental justice community leadership. The purpose will be to identify health disparities from environmental impacts and determine how state agencies can incorporate environmental justice principles into their work.

Worker Health and Safety

HB 1817 ensures the workforce in our high hazard facilities is skilled and properly trained.

HB 1756 adds heightened protections for the safety and security of adult entertainers and requires that workers receive worker rights and safety training.

SB 5550 will establish a Pesticide Application Safety Committee to help us use new technology and farming methods to promote best practices and training to achieve as close to zero pesticide drift as possible, protecting workers and surrounding communities from exposure.

SB 5258 requires employers of certain isolated workers, such as janitors, housekeepers, and security guards, to provide extra protection to prevent sexual assault, harassment, and discrimination in the workplace.

SB 5035 provides workers on public works contracts protections against violations of prevailing wage laws and wage theft.

HB 1568 expands opportunities for port district worker development and occupational programs.

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2019 Session Recap Series: Issue 1

May 28th, 2019|

Issue 1: Protecting Our Environment from Climate Change

Olympia, May 28, 2019

Dear Neighbors,

Welcome to my summer e-newsletter series. Now that the 2019 legislative session has come to a close, I’ll give you an overview of some key policies we worked to get passed into law this year, spread over several segments in this series.

You can also find information about successful bills I sponsored this year in my April 19th Update from Olympia. I’m happy to report that all of the bills discussed there made the final passage deadline and will become law.

It has been an honor to serve you by representing the 37th Legislative District in the Senate. I’ll be reporting back to the district this Saturday, and you’re invited!

Green Transportation

House Bill 2042 facilitates the transition to vehicles with cleaner fuels with. It increases access to electric vehicle (EV) incentives, creates an EV car share program, and improves incentives for commercial fleet conversion, making it a more viable option. Importantly, this legislation makes incentives accessible even to lower-income drivers and riders.

We can’t make the transition to green transportation without addressing other modes of transportation, such as buses, trucks, ferries and ships. That’s why House Bill 1512 provides for assistance in the electrification of these vehicles and vessels, aiding the collaboration of ports with utilities to create the infrastructure necessary for the transition.

Moving forward, green transportation legislation should focus on relieving the harm caused by our existing system, such as salmon-blocking culverts under our roads and stormwater runoff pollution.

Reducing Emissions

Legislation we passed this year makes our state one of the first to commit broadly to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from electricity while adopting a precise action plan to do so. It will take innovation and cooperation from all sectors throughout Washington to make this transition possible.

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  • Sen. Rebecca Saldaña receives the Joaquin G. Avila award.
    Permalink Sen. Rebecca Saldaña receives the Joaquin G. Avila award.Gallery

    Saldaña receives Municipal League award for voting rights legislation

Saldaña receives Municipal League award for voting rights legislation

May 21st, 2019|

OLYMPIA – Today Gov. Jay Inslee signed legislation that will implement the 2018 Washington Voting Rights Act by requiring timely elections for governing body positions after districting plans are modified.

This comes shortly after the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Rebecca Saldaña (D-Seattle), was awarded the King County Municipal League’s Joaquin G. Avila award, which honors those who have made significant contributions toward full and fair civic engagement.

Last year, Saldaña sponsored the 2018 Washington Voting Rights Act (WVRA), which established rules to ensure the fairness of elections and removed barriers to fair representation by empowering local communities and their elected leaders to voluntarily change their election systems to ones that allow every community to be fairly represented in local government.

Today the governor signed into law Senate Bill 5266, also sponsored by Saldaña. This law will expedite implementation of the WVRA by requiring jurisdictions to hold timely elections for all positions under the new election system, rather than allowing those elected under the old system to serve out their entire terms.

“Voting rights should not wait for the convenience of those holding power,” said Saldaña. “These timely elections are needed to ensure local governments will represent every community. The new election systems under the WVRA will improve representation of our historically underrepresented communities. Fair representation is too important to wait for election schedules convenient to those in power.”

Saldaña received the Joaquin G. Avila award at the Municipal League’s 60th Annual Civic Awards, which recognize “elected officials, public employees, other citizen groups, the news media, and individual citizens who make outstanding contributions to the community and to better government.”

Over the course of his career as a civil rights attorney, Joaquin G. Avila, former president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, fought to protect voting rights from discrimination, participating in the litigation of over 70 voting rights cases.

Governor approves committee to ensure pesticide safety

May 10th, 2019|

OLYMPIA – Yesterday Gov. Jay Inslee approved the creation of a committee to address safety in the application of pesticides in Washington.

Senate Bill 5550, sponsored by Sen. Rebecca Saldaña (D-Seattle), will establish a Pesticide Application Safety Committee to examine how state agencies collect and track data related to the application of pesticides, and evaluate how the development of a shared database would improve the display of this data. The committee will also explore policy recommendations for related issues such as improving the safety of pesticide application and the communication of information to the agricultural community.

The committee established by this legislation will contain representatives from the Legislature, state agencies that oversee pesticide application, and agricultural experts from Washington State University and the University of Washington.

“This legislation is the result of a lot of hard work done during the interim by a bipartisan work group of stakeholders and legislators from both chambers,” said Saldaña. “This committee will help us to use new technology and farming methods to promote best practices and training to achieve as close to zero pesticide drift as possible, protecting workers and surrounding communities from exposure.”

The committee’s initial report to the Legislature will be submitted in January 2020, and it will subsequently submit yearly reports.

  • Governor Inslee Signs SB 5846
    Permalink Governor Inslee Signs SB 5846Gallery

    Governor signs Saldaña bill to clear barriers for international medical graduates

Governor signs Saldaña bill to clear barriers for international medical graduates

May 10th, 2019|

OLYMPIA – Yesterday Gov. Jay Inslee signed legislation establishing a work group that will develop recommendations for a program to aid international medical graduates in overcoming barriers to professional careers in Washington state.

The work group established by Senate Bill 5846 will recommend strategies to reduce barriers for graduates of medical programs at institutions outside the U.S. and Canada but then struggle to gain access to residency programs necessary for licensing in Washington.

“As we address health disparities, physician shortages, and a lack of access to culturally competent medical care, we need to eliminate the barriers for these providers,” said the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Rebecca Saldaña (D-Seattle). “This workforce is an untapped resource that could provide more accessible, quality care to our vulnerable communities.”

The work group will bring together representatives from state medical schools as well as hospitals, international medical graduate organizations, migrant health centers, the state Department of Health, and others.

“This impacts the real lives of some of our community members who have dreamed of an equal opportunity to practice medicine in the professions they spent decades pursuing,” said Ahmed Ali, executive director of the Somali Health Board. “This bill gives them a window of hope to further their practice in medicine, and the implementation of a program for international medical graduates would significantly help in addressing health disparities in low income, underserved communities throughout the state.” 

The work group must report its recommendations to the governor and the Legislature by Dec. 1, 2019.    

  • Governor Inslee signs Senate Bill 5035
    Permalink Governor Inslee signs Senate Bill 5035Gallery

    Governor signs law to crack down on prevailing wage violations

Governor signs law to crack down on prevailing wage violations

May 7th, 2019|

OLYMPIA – Gov. Jay Inslee signed into law today a bill applying stricter penalties to public works contractors who violate prevailing wage laws.

Sen. Rebecca Saldaña (D-Seattle) sponsored Senate Bill 5035 at the request of the state attorney general to combat wage theft and delay by contractors on public works contracts, all of whom are required by state law to pay workers prevailing wages. To ensure that workers receive fair wages, the Department of Labor and Industries establishes prevailing wages for each county based on the hourly wage, usual benefits, and overtime paid in that county’s largest city to the majority of workers.

This legislation increases penalties for failing to pay prevailing wages, plus interest. Notably, this is the first increase for these penalties since 1985, according to the attorney general’s office.

The new law also extends the time period for filing prevailing wage complaints, and closes a loophole that previously allowed employers to avoid penalties by returning wages prior to any action by the state.

“Wage theft and delay of pay cause real harm to workers and their families, who are often struggling to make ends meet,” said Saldaña. “This bill will protect workers, ensure a level playing field for businesses that play by the rules and pay quality wages to workers on time, and hold accountable the bad actors who fail to do so.”

Saldaña partnered with House companion bill sponsor Rep. Mike Sells (D-Everett), Attorney General Bob Ferguson, and industry stakeholders to move this legislation forward.

“This bill is about holding those responsible for wage theft accountable,” said Sells. “We give too many violators an escape route. This beefs up the enforcement, so people can expect to get the pay for which they worked.”

“This bill ensures that employers who cheat their workers out of hard-earned pay will face consequences, the same as you or I would face if we stole something,” said Ferguson.