Association of Washington Business President Don Brunell recently praised Democratic and Republican leaders in the Senate for crafting a bipartisan and even-handed approach to meaningful workers’ compensation reform.
“The passage of Senate Bill 5566 is a positive step forward for job creation, economic development, employers ― public, private and non-profits ― and workers. The debate over workers’ compensation has gone on far too long and it is time to enact meaningful reforms that have been the subject of exhaustive studies,” said Brunell. “We encourage the House to quickly approve this legislation as well.”
“This is a balanced bill that is good for workers and employers alike. Both sides win under this legislation. Costs continue to go up, yet injured worker claims are actually down, and our workers’ compensation system is on the verge of collapse. That’s why we need reform now, and this is a great step toward that goal.”
The evidence is compelling. Washington’s workers’ compensation is heading toward failure if the legislature doesn’t enact meaningful reforms this year. The State Auditor has issued insolvency warnings for the medical aid and accident funds in the next five years, and the pension rate has doubled in the last 10 years. Consider that in 2009, the state awarded 1,542 permanent disability pensions, yet nearby Oregon awarded just 13.
Senate Bill 5566 would go a long way toward resolving claims in a more timely fashion while still maintaining benefit levels, Brunell said. The measure provides a new, flexible benefit option for workers to voluntarily settle workers’ comp claims, as is done in 44 other states.
“We’re halfway through the legislative session. Lawmakers are already grappling with a multi-billion dollar deficit that will consume their full attention between now and the end of session. They should do what it takes to put this issue to rest now, and save the remainder of session to iron out differences on the budget,” said Brunell.
“Workers’ compensation reform is vital to the overall health of the state and its citizens. It deserves to be a stand-alone issue and not wrapped up in the end-of-session mechanics,” concluded Brunell. “This is a good bill for workers and employers. We need to keep it moving forward.”
About the Association of Washington Business
Formed in 1904, the Association of Washington Business is Washington’s oldest and largest statewide business association, and includes more than 7,350+ members representing 650,000 employees. AWB serves as both the state’s chamber of commerce and the manufacturing and technology association. While its membership includes major employers like Boeing, Microsoft and Weyerhaeuser, 90 percent of AWB members employ fewer than 100 people. More than half of AWB’s members employ fewer than 10. For more about AWB, visit www.awb.org.