Workers’ Comp Issue Looms Over Washington

March 2, 2011

Washington lawmakers, business and organized labor are gearing up to take up one of the most contentious issues in the legislative session: Workers’ compensation.

State leaders say that workers’ compensation is at great risk of going bankrupt. Workers’ compensation is closed-loop insurance system in which businesses pay payroll taxes, and the state invests the money. But the state’s accident fund is in the red for $275 million.

Gov. Chris Gregoire says that lawmakers need to reform the system. She proposed limiting one of the biggest expenses of the system, which are lifetime pensions and long-term payments. Gregoire wants the state to have the option of lump sum settlements for some workers over 55.

Organized labor is opposed to the lump sum payment options, rather focusing on more medical care. Business wants to expand the lump sum payment option to workers of all ages.

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