RICHLAND -- About 30 people attended a hearing Friday in Richland about a state proposal that would raise workers' compensation premiums for employers by about four cents an hour in 2010.
Representatives from the state Department of Labor and Industries conducted the hearing to inform the public and receive comments about the proposed increase. It was the last of several hearings held across the state and the only one in the Mid-Columbia.
Colin Hastings of the Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce opposed the proposed increase, which would equal a 7.6 percent raise in the rates paid by state employers.
"(This would come) at a time when economic recovery is difficult," Hastings said in an e-mail to the Herald Friday.
The chamber has more than 1,350 member businesses.
The proposed increase is less than half of what had been forecast earlier this summer by Labor and Industry officials.
Agency officials advised the Workers' Compensation Advisory Committee in June that an increase of 15 percent to 20 percent might be needed to keep up with worker compensation costs in 2010.
Judy Schurke, director of Labor and Industries, said in September that reduced investment returns and job losses in the state have brought reduced premiums and fewer jobs for injured workers to return to.
The proposed increase that would tag four cents an hour on the premiums would generate about $120 million, officials said.
Individual employers could see rates go up or down, depending on their recent claims history and factors relating to cost of claims in their industry, Schurke noted in a prepared statement.
The workers' compensation system covers about 171,000 employers, and information about the proposed rates can be found at www.Rates.Lni.wa.gov. Click on the link for rates for workers' compensation.
Written comments about the proposed increase will be accepted through Nov. 7 at the Department of Labor and Industries in Olympia. They can be directed to Ronald Moore, program manager at employer services, mooa235@Lni.wa.gov. They also can be faxed to 360-902-4729.
-- John Trumbo: 582-1529; firstname.lastname@example.org