Inside Opinion

What's on the minds of Tacoma News Tribune editorial writers

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Tag: workers’ compensation

March
13th

Time to move state workers comp toward sanity

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Year after year, Washington’s workers compensation system has lurched closer to financial collapse – even as the payroll taxes that fund it have escalated relentlessly. Year after year, the Legislature has done nothing about it.

This year, though, the state Senate has taken an important step toward controlling those taxes and preserving the system’s solvency. It has passed a bill – supported by Democrats and Republicans alike – that would let injured workers take lump sum settlements and also subsidize businesses willing to return them to work with lighter duties.

What happens to this bill in the state House is a test of whether its Democratic leaders are willing to step up to a crisis in the face of baffling union opposition. So far, they haven’t even given it a hearing.

There’s not much controversy over the subsidy part of the bill. But the lump sum provision, which should not be controversial, appears to be getting turned into a litmus test of loyalty to organized labor.

The fact is, the Senate – which is run by Democrats – went out of its way to make the lump sum option fair to workers.
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Oct.
7th

Yes on 1082: Tell lawmakers to work on workers’ comp

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

Citizen initiatives are generally an imperfect way to set state policy, but also sometimes a necessary backstop to inaction by the Legislature.

Such is the case with Initiative 1082, which would set a July 2012 deadline for introducing private competition to the state’s 99-year-old system for assisting injured workers.

No one disputes that workers’ compensation needs reform, yet lawmakers seem in no hurry to make needed changes. Voters will have to take the lead.

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Feb.
12th

State auditor to L&I: Workers’ comp not on “verge of collapse”

State Auditor Brian Sonntag has written to the state Department of Labor & Industries in response to concerns that the auditor’s recent review of the workers’ compensation funds had been misinterpreted. We editorialized about the audit last month, expressing concern about the findings.

From Sonntag’s letter to Judy Schurke, L&I director (who also responded to our editorial with an op-ed):

I want to assure you that, in our opinion, the funds currently are financially strong. The Workers’ Compensation System is able to pay claims and should be able to do so for many years. However, our

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Feb.
2nd

‘Final nail’ in workers’ comp reform coffin

Looks like workers’ comp reform is dead for the year. We previously criticized Tacoma’s own Rep. Steve Conway for blocking his own speaker pro tem’s bill from getting a hearing. Now, Conway’s counterpart in the Senate, Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles of Seattle, says she’s not budging either.

Kohl-Welles is backing a task force to study the issue, pointing out that a similar group helped create the state’s vocational rehabilitation program. That process took 18 months. The question is whether the workers’ comp system can wait that long. From the Seattle Weekly story:

Judy Schurke, Director of the Department

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Jan.
29th

Labor has thing or two to say about workers’ comp editorial

The Washington State Labor Council is firing back after our editorial on workers’ compensation today. No surprise there. We backed changes in the insurance program for injured workers, changes that labor adamantly opposes.

I’ll let most of the WSLC’s response speak for itself. But there are two charges that I can’t let go unanswered. The first:

We see corporate lobbying groups and certain politicians criss-crossing the state to tell business owners they are getting a raw deal, that the government doesn’t care about them, and the grass is greener across the state line. (Those politicians are having a

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Jan.
28th

Workers’ comp reform: If not now, when?

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.
Lawmakers who refuse to fix the state’s program for injured workers wouldn’t know a mandate if it hit them upside the head.
Three months ago, Boeing announced it was taking its second 787 line elsewhere, in part over concerns that Washington’s workers’ compensation system was too expensive.

The Department of Labor & Industries, as if to underscore Boeing’s point, shortly announced that premiums would be jumping an average of 7.6 percent.

The department’s message to squawking businesses: Be thankful we’re not charging you more. The rate hike was only one-third what the department’s own financial experts had advised charging.

If the specter of 20 percent rate increases isn’t enough to scare the Democratic majority into action, then the wake-up call delivered by a state audit last month should be. The audit found that L&I’s experts were overly optimistic about the fiscal soundness of workers’ compensation accounts. In one fund, L&I had underestimated the shortfall by nearly 45 percent.

The state workers’ compensation system is simply unsustainable as is. All signs point to the need for reform – all signs, that is, except the signal coming from labor. It’s threatening to run candidates against those Dems who don’t toe the line. Read more »

Jan.
5th

Workers comp audit should set off alarms

This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.

The state Department of Labor and Industries didn’t endear itself to the business community last year when it announced a 7.6 percent average increase in workers’ compensation premiums.

The rate hike – critics called it a $117 million tax on employment and a major threat to competitiveness – prompted fresh calls to reform the system that assists injured workers and their families.

Expect those calls to intensify in the wake of a state audit suggesting that Washington’s workers’ compensation fund is in worse shape than originally thought.

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