Senate passes Worker Recovery Act and other job-creation bills
Rep. Matt Manweller: (360) 786-7808
Senate passes Worker Recovery Act and other job-creation bills
Legislators follow votes with announcement of 'Jobs Now!' plan to create, save jobs
OLYMPIA… Today the Senate approved several bills aimed at making it easier for Washington employers to create and maintain jobs, led by the Worker Recovery Act, which would significantly improve the state-run industrial-insurance program for injured workers.
“The Senate passed these critical reforms to give workers a choice about their care, bring stability and predictability to employers, and avoid a looming annual increase in workers' compensation premiums – projected at a whopping $110 million per year for the next ten years statewide,” said Sen. Janéa Holmquist Newbry, R-Moses Lake and sponsor of the Worker Recovery Act. “This measure will increase the options available to our injured workers, while also reducing costs to the workers' compensation system. Ultimately, this will make the system more fair and sustainable, keeping employers in business, and preserving jobs.”
Calling it an opportunity for the Legislature to pro-actively support job creation and workers, Republicans from the House of Representatives and members of the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus followed today's votes with the formal announcement of their “Jobs Now!” plan – a package of bills aimed at helping private-sector employers create and retain jobs.
“We helped Boeing a couple months ago and now it is time to provide some assistance to the little guy. What's good for the large companies should also be good for our smaller employers,” said Rep. Matt Manweller, ranking Republican on the House Labor and Workforce Development Committee and prime sponsor of a measure aimed at aiding rural job growth.
“We have too many families struggling to get by in this fragile economy. They need to know state government is working for them – not against them. There are things the Legislature can do to stimulate job growth and provide employers with certainty moving forward – and now is the time to do them.”
According to CNBC's Best States for Business Survey 2013, Washington ranks fifth-worst when it comes to the cost of doing business. The state's high workers' compensation taxes are a major factor in its poor ranking.
To address this concern and make the system fairer for injured workers, the Worker Recovery Act would increase the choices available to injured workers by expanding eligibility for structured-settlement agreements to all workers, regardless of age. It would also correct a misinterpretation by the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals (in the Zimmerman case), which has slowed the approval of settlement agreements for eligible workers with legal counsel. Similar common-sense and even less restrictive settlement options are currently available to injured workers – without age restrictions – in 44 other states.
“Washington's workers' compensation system is failing both employers and employees,” said Holmquist Newbry, chair of the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee. “It takes nearly twice the national average to return an injured worker to work in Washington. Rather than focusing on getting well so they can go back to their job, too many injured workers get trapped in an unresponsive system. In the worst cases, many workers are left with no option but a lifetime disability pension, which prohibits them from ever returning to work, even if they would choose to do so.
“Injured workers deserve more options to pursue gainful employment upon recovery if they are willing and able.”
In addition to the Worker Recovery Act, the House Republican Caucus and Senate Majority Caucus “Jobs Now!” plan also includes many other bills. Today they highlighted:
· Senate Bill 6045/ House Bill 2192 (Sen. Sharon Brown /Rep. Norma Smith) – Promoting economic development through enhancing transparency and predictability of state agency permitting and review processes. The bill reflects the state auditor's recommendations, published in December, on improving the timeliness and predictability of state agencies' permitting. Its goal is to provide improved customer service and predictability for Washington job creators. Providing businesses with better information early in the permitting process and improving overall timelines means cost savings for both the state agencies and the businesses they serve.
· Senate Bill 6495 (Sen. Holmquist Newbry) Establishing a temporary teen training wage and Senate Bill 6471 (Sen. Michael Baumgartner) – Creating a teen summer employment wage. During the past decade, Washington has consistently ranked among the top 10 states with the highest teen unemployment rate. The inability for teens to secure work experience results in decreased job opportunities in the future and harms an individual's lifetime earning potential. SB 6495 would help combat teen unemployment by expanding the Department of Labor and Industries' current sub-minimum wage for workers aged 16 to 19. SB 6471 would focus on incentivizing summer employment for teens.
· House Bill 2204 (Rep. Manweller) – Reestablishing the rural county sales and use tax exemption program. Manufacturers in counties with a population density of fewer than 100 residents per square mile (plus Island County) – meaning 31 of 39 Washington counties – would be eligible for the tax relief. The bill specifies that the public-policy objective is to encourage private-sector investment, diversify state employment opportunities and create jobs in rural counties by reinstating the program for 10 years. These changes would take effect July 1.
· House Bill 2693 (Rep. Ed Orcutt) – Amending the definition of “commercial airplane” for specific tax preferences to include other types of commercial aircraft to encourage the migration of good-wage jobs in the state. The bill expands aerospace tax preferences to include engineering, manufacturing, and repairing of commercial rotorcraft as well as research and design pertaining to them.
“The Legislature now has an opportunity to prove that Olympia finally gets it,” said Holmquist Newbry. “Jobs have to be priority number one.”
###Washington State House Republican Communications