WASHINGTON - Several new laws will be going into effect in Washington state come Jan. 1, 2022.
Here's what Washingtonians can expect in the new year:
Minimum wage increase
On the first day of the year, Washington state's minimum wage will increase to $14.49 an hour, which is up from the current minimum wage of $13.69.
The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics contributed the increase in the price index to a rise in housing, gas, household furnishings and food.
The state minimum wage applies to workers age 16 and older. Under state law, employers can pay 85% of the minimum wage to workers ages 14-15. For 2022, the wage for that younger group will be $12.32 per hour.
Seattle and SeaTac both have higher minimum wages than the state, currently at $16.69/hour and $16.57/hour, respectively.
Capital gains tax
A new capital gains tax on high-profit stocks, bonds and other assets was signed into law in April.
It's a 7% tax on the sale of stocks, bonds, and other high-end assets in excess of $250,000 for both individuals and couples, and is expected to bring in $415 million in 2023, the first year the state would see money from the tax, which would start in January 2022.
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Retirement accounts, real estate, farms and forestry are exempt from the tax. Business owners are also exempt from the tax if they are regularly involved in running the business for five of the previous 10 years before they sell, own it for at least five years, and gross $10 million or less a year before the sale.
When it takes effect, the tax would raise about $445 million per year. That money would go into the state’s Education Legacy Trust Account, intended for child care and early learning programs.
Several lawsuits, including a legal challenge, have been filed to stop the tax. In September, a Superior Court judge ruled the legal challenge could move forward. It's unclear exactly how that will impact the tax at the start of the year.
Single-use utensils and beverage lids
Starting Jan. 1, you'll have to ask for utensils or condiments whenever you get a food order to-go. Restaurants and cafeterias in the state will no longer be able to automatically include plastic knives, forks and spoons, as well as chopsticks, straws, drink lids, sauce containers or sauce packets.
The bill was passed in an effort to reduce packaging waste and to meet Washington's goal of achieving 100% recyclable, reusable, or compostable packaging in all goods sold in Washington by Jan. 1, 2025.
Ban of Native American mascots in schools
Gov. Jay Inslee has signed a bill to ban the use of Native American names, symbols and images as school mascots, logos and team names at most public schools in Washington.
"This bill will end the disrespectful use of Native American imagery in our schools," Inslee said in April.
Under the measure, school districts would have some time to phase out the mascot, team name or logo, but they were required to select a new mascot by Dec. 31 to take effect by the end of the 2021-22 school year.
Starting in 2022, they would not be able to purchase uniforms that include the old mascot or name.
The ban does not apply to schools located within Native American areas or to schools in counties adjacent to Native American areas, as long as the nearest tribe is consulted and authorizes the use of the name.
On pause: Longterm care payroll tax
One of the more controversial laws would have taken effect on Jan. 1, 2022. The mandatory tax, signed into law in 2019 through the Long Term Care Trust Act, will use a 0.58% payroll tax to pay up to a $36,500 benefit for individuals to pay for home health care and an array of services related to long-term health care including equipment, transportation and meal assistance.
However, Gov. Jay Inslee and Washington Democratic legislative leaders announced an agreement to push back the new WA Cares payroll levy as they address issues with the new long-term care program.
During the pause, employers won’t incur penalties and interest for not withholding those taxes from worker wages.
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