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Washington State Voters to Decide Fate of Worker’s Comp

November 1, 2010

SEATTLE - One of the decisions facing Washington State voters on Tuesday is a ballot initiative that would allow private companies to offer Workers Compensation Insurance. Proponents of Initiative 10-82 contend competition from private companies will drive down costs, but Mayor Steve Lacy of East Wenatchee says that's not likely, because he says the measure also allows private companies to set their own rates with very little, if any, oversight.

Lacy says his city of 13,000 people faces new costs that will end up being passed on to taxpayers, if the measure passes.

"This is adding $5,500 a year, and I don't see where East Wanatchee gets any additional benefit from adding that to the cost of local government."

State Labor officials estimate towns and cities across the state face $3.5 million in new costs if the measure passes. The Building Industry Association wrote the initiative because they say the state is charging too much under the current system.

Lacy says increased competition would be a good thing, but he says the initiative is a bad deal for consumers because it gives private insurers special exemptions from the Washington Insurance Fair Conduct Act.

"Once they were in charge of the "Worker's Comp" they could deny Worker's Compensation benefits to deserving workers with impunity."

The State Office of Financial Management estimates that the ballot measure could wind up costing taxpayers as much as $150 million over the next five years. It is one of six initiatives on the ballot for Election Day.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - WA