Employee education savings accounts earn governor's signature
March 10, 2012 · 11:40 AM
By Maida Suljevic
WNPA Olympia News Bureau
An education savings account program intended to help low-wage workers gain training and work skills earned the governor's signature of approval.
Gov. Chris Gregoire signed Engrossed Senate Bill 6141 on Wednesday.
The measure establishes the Lifelong Learning Program that allows workers to create and own education savings accounts. Employers who choose to participate in the program match, to a determined limit, what their employees invest. Workers can use the savings to fund educational or training programs.
Workers who participate in the program must also participate in career counseling as well as create career plans.
According to the new law, the Lifelong Learning Program is created under the direction of the Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board, a nine-member body appointed by the governor, which represents business, labor, industry and government. The board oversees education and training programs targeted at Washington's work force.
The board intends to provide financial as well as educational resources to assist in the development of the program and ensure its success. The measure grants the board the authority to work with financial institutions to set up the savings accounts and to market the program across the state.
The program is entirely voluntary for both employers and employees. The Legislature recognizes the program as an employee benefit. Sen. Derek Kilmer (D – 26th District, Gig Harbor) compared the program to a 401(k) retirement plan. Businesses that are registered with the state are eligible to participate in the education savings program.
Implementing the program has no fiscal impact on the state. The new program is effective June 7.