Workers' comp reform could save billions

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Sen. Mark Schoesler

OLYMPIA - The state Senate passed Sunday key workers' compensation reform that could save employers more than a billion dollars in the next 10 years.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Janéa Holmquist Newbry, would also make the it easier for employers in the state to create jobs. The bill passed the Senate with a bipartisan majority of 27-18.

"The Senate's passage of this bill is a real victory for both employers and workers," said Holmquist Newbry, R-Moses Lake. "Without this bill, there would be a $2.2 billion dollar tax increase on employers over the next 10 years."

Senate Republican leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, applauded the passing of the reform, estimated to produce $232 million on one-time savings and annual savings at about $90 million each year, according to the state Department of Labor and Industries.

"One of the biggest barriers to creating and keeping jobs here is our costly workers' compensation system; most employers have no choice but to buy industrial-insurance coverage from what is a state-run monopoly," Schoesler said.

The reform would increase the choices for injured workers, including the option of workers age 40 and older to negotiate a voluntary settlement and getting back to work.

"Workers' comp tax rates have gone up by more than 70 percent in the past decade alone," Schoesler said. "We must get control of these costs if we hope to get people back to work and free up more money so those who are working can receive better salaries."

Washington has the highest benefit cost per covered employee in the nation at $857 and the longest average time loss duration of 289 days.

"Washington continues to have the highest pension rate in the nation and it takes more than twice the national average to return an injured worker to the job," Holmquist Newbry said. "Our working families, and those Washingtonians looking for work, deserve better."

The bill now moved to the House for vote.

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