House Republicans attempt to vote on workers’ compensation reform

‘We missed a great opportunity to help our struggling employers’

With time running out for meaningful workers’ compensation reform to be passed in the 2011 legislative session, House Republicans yesterday attempted a procedural motion to bring Senate Bill 5566 directly to the House floor for a vote.

Despite the motion failing, Rep. Paul Harris felt he and his colleagues in the House Republican caucus had to try and shake things up.

“This bill has been sitting in the House Labor Workforce and Development Committee since the Senate passed it in early March. This is a no-brainer. This bill will create jobs – lots of them. I get businesses clamoring for help, forced to lay more people off, and the House Democrats are twiddling their thumbs,” said Harris, R-Vancouver. “As a small business owner, I know what this bill would mean. This would mean jobs. But the anti-business majority is so ideological and so afraid, they won’t even let this bill come to a vote.”

Employers in Washington faced workers’ compensation tax rates increases of $117 million in 2010 and $196 million in 2011. Total workers’ compensation benefits paid in Washington grew from $1.3 billion in 1998 to $2.2 billion in 2008, an increase of over 70 percent, while all other states grew about 34 percent.

“I’m disappointed Sharon Wylie, the newly sworn-in legislator from Clark County, voted to block this bill. Our employment in Clark County is crippling, and it only took one day for her to be swallowed by her party leaders. Consequently, our unemployment rate will remain high and this vote is probably going to compound the problem. House leadership’s decision will allow an inefficient, hemorrhaging system to continue,” said Harris.

Last year, State Auditor Brian Sonntag sent a letter to Labor and Industries Director Judy Schurke addressing the $360 million deficit in the workers’ compensation accident fund that read in part, “Our report is a warning that if this condition continues, the future liabilities may exceed assets within a few years, creating a financial hole difficult to recover from.” He also pointed out the fund has greater than a 70 percent chance of insolvency.

The motion failed by a vote of 54-43.

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Kurt Hammond, Public Information Officer, (360) 786-7794

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Washington State House Republican Communications
houserepublicans.wa.gov