Workers' compensation rates to rise
Emergency rule drafted in wake of initiative's failure
By STEVE BROWN
Workers' compensation insurance premiums will increase Jan. 1 an average of 12 percent in Washington state.
Average premiums will rise 6.5 cents per hour worked, according to the state's Department of Labor and Industries.
The new rates will take effect under an emergency rule effective for 120 days. Labor and Industries will hold public hearings Jan. 4 in Tacoma and Spokane before it enacts the permanent rates.
Labor and Industries officials said the emergency measure was necessary after changes were delayed due to the election. Voters, asked whether they wanted to change the existing workers' compensation system, voted down Initiative 1082, which would have allowed employers to purchase private industrial insurance.
Some industries will pay more for insurance premiums than others. Building construction and trades will see a 16 percent increase; restaurants, 6 percent.
Elaine Fischer, Labor and Industries spokeswoman, said the proposed increases for agricultural industries average 7 percent across the board.
"They are as low as 5 percent for dairy, 11 percent for field crops and 4 percent for orchards," she said.
Fresh fruit and vegetables processors will see a 2 percent increase in premiums; canneries, 7 percent.
Fischer said a complete list of proposed increases is available at her agency's website.
Scott Dilley, public policy analyst with the Washington State Farm Bureau, said the proposed increases were less than the earlier indicated rates.
"L&I tried to keep the increases as low as they possibly could, but it's still a pretty substantial increase," he said. "It's just another indication that a couple of the funds haven't been managed well in the past."
Dilley said the Farm Bureau will urge legislators during their upcoming session to reform the system.
Labor and Industries: www.lni.wa.gov
Farm Bureau: www.wsfb.com