Plan to raise workers' compensation criticized

The Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday criticized a plan to raise worker's compensation premiums an average of 12 percent beginning in January.

The decision by the state Department of Labor & Industries will have a negative effect on the state's struggling economy, the chamber said in a news release.

"Again, this couldn't have come at a worse time for businesses in our region," said Colin Hastings, Tri-City regional chamber vice president. "It's a triple whammy next year, from workers' comp, a 40 percent increase in unemployment taxes and a hike in the state minimum wage that will give Washington the highest state rate in the country. All of it during the most sluggish economic situation since the Great Depression."

Labor & Industries determines what premiums Washington employers will pay. L&I didn't announce the increase until after the election, saying technical difficulties caused the delay.

But some critics questioned whether L&I was playing politics because Initiative 1082 was on the ballot and would have reformed how worker's compensation insurance is run in this state.

All companies, with exception of a few large self-insured businesses, must buy worker's compensation insurance through Labor & Industries.