Republican Legislative Leaders Say Inslee’s Reversal of State Employee Vaccine Requirement ‘Behind The Times’


Senate Republican Leader John Braun, R-Centralia, and House Republican Leader Drew Stokesbary, R-Auburn, released a statement after Gov. Jay Inslee announced he would rescind requirements related to COVID-19 vaccination for state employees last Wednesday.

“Just as Governor Inslee was slow to end his COVID state of emergency, he’s been equally behind the times in ending this discriminatory vaccination mandate. Republican legislative leaders called on the governor to take this step more than 14 months ago. It’s as though he finally made the connection between his vaccine requirement and the great difficulty our state agencies are having with filling vacancies,” the leaders said. “This mandate went too far from the start. It cost many state employees their careers and livelihoods. Republicans warned there could be problems and recommended a more pragmatic approach. The governor went ahead anyway with one of the most extreme policies in the nation.”

The leaders argued the policy had resulted in staffing shortages, especially at the Washington State Ferries and the Washington State Patrol. Braun and Stokesbary claimed around 1,900 state employees were either terminated or left their jobs because of the policy, with over 1,550 state positions open today. 

“If any of these experienced former public servants are still willing to return to state government, after Governor Inslee showed them the door, they should receive priority when applying and should receive pension service credit for the months when they were barred from their prior employment,” the leaders said.

Braun and Stokesbary also claimed the rescinding of the vaccine requirement “calls into question” Inslee’s decision to offer $1,000 vaccine-booster incentive payments for state employees. 

“Those could cost taxpayers $50 million — money that would be better put toward something like helping K-12 students recover from the pandemic-related learning loss so many have suffered. It’s fiscally irresponsible and shows how misguided his priorities are,” Braun and Stokesbary said.