Workers’ compensation procedural vote fails, Condotta says huge opportunity missed
'We had a chance to help employers, the economy and protect jobs'
In an effort to pass workers' compensation reform legislation, House Republicans today attempted a procedural motion to bring Senate Bill 5566 directly to the House floor for a vote. The motion failed by a vote of 54-43.
The bill has languished in the House Labor and Workforce Development Committee since it was passed by the Senate with strong bipartisan support in early March.
Rep. Cary Condotta, the ranking Republican on the House Labor and Workforce Development Committee, said the House failed in its opportunity to provide real workers' compensation system reforms and much-needed options for union and non-union employees alike.
“To say I am disappointed is an understatement,” said Condotta, R-East Wenatchee. “I knew the bill would be challenged in the House by labor and their allies, but I hoped common sense would prevail. The Senate figured it out, the governor is on board, and I believe we have the votes in the House to pass it if we could take an actual vote on the bill.
“This bill is much-needed for employers, workers and our workers' compensation system. It would have provided a new, flexible option for workers to voluntarily settle claims, would not reduce benefits, provide a wage subsidy to encourage workers a faster return to work, and provide a cost study for occupational disease reforms.”
If Senate Bill 5566 were passed, it is projected to save the state about $1.2 billion over the next two years. Two of the funds under the workers' compensation program are facing insolvency if reforms are not made soon. The accident fund, which is 100 percent employer-funded, faces a $360 million deficit despite an almost 30 percent rate increase in 2011.
“I think we have done a great job of laying out the benefits of workers' compensation reform. The other side will tell you they are concerned about voluntary settlement agreements, but the bottom line is 44 other states are using them. We have offered the most stringent sideboards in the nation to offer workers protections and yet labor has refused every offer,” said Condotta. “We have to look no further than Oregon as to what these 'voluntary' agreements and workers' compensation reforms can do. It has been 20 years since their historic workers' compensation reforms. Premium rates have not increased down there in that time, equaling about $17.4 billion in costs savings for employers. And it was actually labor that wanted the settlement agreements in their reforms.”
Employers in Washington faced workers' compensation tax increases $117 million in 2010 and $196 million in 2011. Condotta says in his nine years in Olympia he has yet to see any significant workers' compensation reforms despite the public knowledge the system has been headed for insolvency for quite some time.
Kurt Hammond, Public Information Officer, (360) 786-7794
###Washington State House Republican Communications