Arizona Legislature Approves Bill to Hike Worker Benefits

June 27, 2007

Some Arizona employees hurt on the job could get higher workers’ compensation benefits under a bill approved by the Arizona House in a 57-0 vote.

The bill (HB2195), which was approved by the Senate earlier in June, is a compromise between business and labor interests and now goes to Gov. Janet Napolitano. The bill would benefit workers making more than $28,800 annually.

Under the bill, the monthly cap on how much of an injured worker’s pay can be used to calculate benefits would rise to $3,000 in 2008 and $3,600 in 2009. It then would be adjusted annually by the annual percentage increase in the mean wage paid in Arizona, up to 5 percent a year.

Workers get benefits for two-thirds of the cap amount. The current $2,400 monthly cap was set in 1999 and translates into a maximum monthly payment of $1,600. The benefits are not taxed.

The possibility of a labor-mounted campaign to put an initiative on workers’ compensation benefits on the 2008 ballot spurred business representatives to compromise on the legislation, participants in the talks said.

In exchange for business agreement on the inflation indexing, labor scaled back its demands for higher caps and also signaled a willingness to discuss medical-cost issues of concern to businesses, participants said.

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