Injured workers age 40 and older could have the additional option of taking a voluntary settlement and returning to work under a bill passed by the Washington State Senate today. Senate Bill 5127 would also retain protections offered to older injured workers who already are allowed to pursue such settlements; those include waiting periods, cooling-off periods and administrative review, and access to medical benefits.
“Businesses are in the business of creating jobs and state government should do what it can to facilitate that. As long as our state remains uncompetitive we will have companies relocating their businesses to other states,” said Sen. Sharon Brown, R-Kennewick, who was among the bipartisan group of senators supporting the bill. “We know that our employers are facing a devastating increase in liability payments, and without this bill there’s no telling how many businesses will close up shop or move out of state rather than face that enormous tax hike.”
A $720 million shortfall in current workers’ compensation reserves, coupled with an expected increase in liabilities by nearly $1.1 billion over the next decade, puts the long-term shortfall in the state-run industrial-insurance system closer to $1.8 billion. Brown says that breaks down to an average cost to Washington employers of $180 million per year for the next ten years.
“According to the state Department of Labor and Industries, SB 5127 would produce a one-time savings of $232 million on existing claims and $90 million in near-term annual savings from new claims,” Brown added. “The combined savings in just three years is estimated at nearly half a billion dollars. That’s a huge relief to our state’s job-creating employers.”
Brown added that SB 5127 is just one of several bills proposed in this legislative session intended to help businesses in Washington. She noted two of her job-promoting proposals have become law already: one to improve the regulatory environment for businesses in Washington by conducting regulatory-streamlining projects that impact the state’s manufacturing sector, and another to promote economic development by reforming the Business Licensing Service, the state’s primary business-licensing portal.
“Anything we do to help businesses in Washington will bolster our economy, put people back to work and get this state moving in the right direction,” Brown said. “Workers’ comp reform, regulatory streamlining, economic development…these are all things we need to focus on to get Washington back on the right track.”